Hot Topics: Snow Cover and its Meaning

Hot Topics: Snow Cover and its Meaning


The extent of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere on Feb. 12
David Robinson, professor of geography in the School of Arts and Sciences, wears many hats. He is director of the Global Snow Laboratory at Rutgers, and is also the New Jersey State Climatologist. His lab’s recent announcement that 49 of the 50 United States had some snow cover has generated considerable reaction in the conventional media and the blogosphere.  

Rutgers Today: Is it just us, or is this winter a lot snowier than usual? 

Robinson: We've run some numbers on our satellite-based hemispheric snow extent database, and last week (ending on Monday, Feb. 15) had the second most extensive Northern Hemisphere snow cover of any week since mapping began in 1967.  No doubt this February will be up near the top of snowy months in the past 40-plus years. 

Rutgers Today: Is it true that 49 of the 50 states have some snow on the ground? 

Robinson: Someone found a patch of snow cover on Mauna Loa. So all 50 states had at least a tad of snow cover as of Friday, Feb. 12. Of course, most of the South lost it within a few hours to a day or two. 

Rutgers Today: Some bloggers and columnists have cited these observations of yours in support of arguments against global warming. What’s going on here? 

Robinson: The climate system has always varied. Today, however, the preponderance of evidence from observations, sophisticated climate models and basic greenhouse theory suggests that in recent decades humans have begun playing a dominant role in influencing that variability.

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