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We are in the strongest cycle of weather 'extremes' in at least 1,000 years

| April 19, 2010 9:00 PM

I've had several people ask me lately about the advancing Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Here is what Frank 'Skip' Ryman reported to me on April 9:

"The Glacier is advancing as it normally does this time of year and hasn't displayed any indication of deviating from its predictable routine. Unless something unexpected occurs, it will probably halt its advance sometime in late September about 150 meters short of closing off the fjord and then begin its retreat.

We are expecting geologists and associated academics from around the world to meet in Yakutat and hold a symposium on glacial activity and climate change. The meeting is scheduled for August, although I haven't been given the actual dates. If you are interested in attending, let me know and I will send you the details."

While we're on the subject of glaciers, let me say that I agree that most mid-latitude glaciers have shrunk in size since the end of the 'Little Ice Age' in 1850.

In 1850, Glacier National Park had about 150 glaciers, of which approximately 37 were named in later years.

Today, in 2010, only 25 of those glaciers are large enough, 25 acres or more, to be still considered as glaciers. Of the dozen glaciers that have shrunk, 11 have done so since 1966.

The last two glaciers to dip below the 25-acre threshold were the Miche Wabun and the Shepard. In the past 45 years since the mid-1960s, they have lost roughly 55 percent of their volume.

The largest glacier in Glacier National Park is the Harrison Glacier, not the 'Harris Glacier,' as some have called it, because I said that it grew in size between 2007 and 2009 during a period of record snowfalls in the region. Remember, a glacier can't grow, if there is little snow during an 'open winter' like 2009-10.

In the spring of 2009, the Harrison Glacier reached 475 acres following an extremely snowy two winter seasons back-to-back in 2007-08 and 2008-09. It has now shrunk in size a bit to approximately 465 acres, according to recent reports following the warmer and drier El Nino sea-surface temperature event in the waters of the Pacific Ocean that affected the Inland Northwest glaciers adversely in the past 10 to 12 months.

But, things may soon change weatherwise, if the stubborn El Nino finally dies later this spring and summer as predicted.

I'm still looking for the return of colder and snowier winter seasons in our part of the country by 2010-11 and 2011-12.

If the sun returns to a 'silent cycle' at the same time that we see a new cooler and wetter La Nina sea-surface temperature event, glaciers could begin growing again in the Northern Hemisphere as they have in southern Chile and southern Argentina in South America.

We must also keep in mind that the past winter of 2009-10 was the snowiest season on record along parts of the Atlantic coastline of the U.S. Hard freezes in Florida in Texas destroyed fruit and vegetable crops in January.

Western China lost its entire winter corn crop due to an eight-month drought. It was the coldest winter in at least 800 years in parts of northern China, Mongolia and Siberia, where ice in many rivers and lakes remains "several meters thick" and threatens to flood thousands of towns and villages later this spring as it melts. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is still predicting "CATASTROPHIC FLOODS" across much of eastern Russia leading to food shortages.

The worst winter ever in Mongolia killed up to 90 percent of the nation's livestock, mainly sheep and goats, which are used as currency by the herders. Starvation is rampant.

As of this mid-April writing, conditions across much of Mongolia are more like those normally seen in mid-February. More moderate snows fell early this week in the primary livestock regions. Temperatures were in the frigid teens.

As one can easily see, we are certainly in a cycle of WIDE WEATHER 'EXTREMES,' perhaps the wildest period since the days of Leif Ericsson, the mighty Viking Chieftain, around 1,000 A.D.

Somewhere, a PENGUIN IS DANCING ...

NORTH IDAHO WEATHER REVIEW AND LONG-RANGE UPDATES

The first two weeks of April were cooler across much of the Inland Empire, including North Idaho, than during the same period in March. On Saturday, April 10, we dipped to a near-record low of 23 degrees, just a degree warmer than the 22 degrees set back in 1952 on the same day.

We likewise gauged 0.6 inches of snow during the first two weeks of April, 0.3 inches more than the total snowfall for February and March combined.

The Dec. 31, 2009, through April 15, 2010, snowfall of just 3.3 inches remains less than half of the previous record low total of 7.7 inches in the same period during the 'open' winter of 1943-44.

The snows have probably ended as we see warmer days ahead, perhaps topping the 70-degree mark for the first time since last Sept. 28, when the mercury soared to a near-record 80 degrees in town.

Longer-term, I still see a slightly cooler mid-April through mid-June period across North Idaho. But, I won't complain. We need the moisture. Overall, it's been very dry since last October.

Things should turn much warmer by late June, July and August and at least the first 10 days of September should be generally hot and dry under a strong stationary ridge of high pressure.

There will be as many as 25 afternoons this blistering summer of 2010 with maximum readings in the 'Sholeh Ranges,' near or above 90 degrees. (Remember, get that air conditioner serviced early!)

This hot and dry weather, if it lasts, will be GREAT for the late August North Idaho Fair and Rodeo, but it may spark some forest and brush fires as I mentioned last week.

SPECIAL NOTE

Despite rumors to the contrary, I'm NOT running for political office. I have no agendas. In fact, I'm disgusted, as are millions of Americans, with all of the partisan 'bickering' in this country. I see a lot of TALK, but little ACTION.

P.S.: Thanks Dr. Terry Riske for your moral support, a calm voice for troubled times.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. E-mail sfharris@roadrunner.com

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