EPA’s "Climate Change Indicators in the US" report: What’s Happening with Snow and Ice?

Continuing our coverage of the EPA’s new Climate Change Indicators in the US report, below are key summary findings regarding snow and ice.

Despite what you may have heard in false science circles, we definitely have less snow cover, snowpack and ice than in the past these days.

The following text comes directly from the US EPA’s “Summary of Key Findings” [PDF]:


Snow and Ice

Arctic Sea Ice. Part of the Arctic Ocean stays frozen year-round. The area covered by ice is typically smallest in September, after the summer melting season. September 2007 had the least ice of any year on record, followed by 2008 and 2009. The extent of Arctic sea ice in 2009 was 24 percent below the 1979 to 2000 historical average.

Glaciers. Glaciers in the United States and around the world have generally shrunk since the 1960s, and the rate at which glaciers are melting appears to have accelerated over the last decade. Overall, glaciers worldwide have lost more than 2,000 cubic miles of water since 1960, which has contributed to the observed rise in sea level.

Lake Ice. Lakes in the northern United States generally appear to be freezing later and thawing earlier than they did in the 1800s and early 1900s. The length of time that lakes stay frozen has decreased at an average rate of one to two days per decade.

Snow Cover. The portion of North America covered by snow has generally decreased since 1972, although there has been much year-to-year variability. Snow covered an average of 3.18 million square miles of North America during the years 2000 to 2008, compared with 3.43 million square miles during the 1970s.

Snowpack. Between 1950 and 2000, the depth of snow on the ground in early spring decreased at most measurement sites in the western United States and Canada. Spring snowpack declined by more than 75 percent in some areas, but increased in a few others.

For more detailed information on snow and ice, visit the EPA’s Snow and Ice PDF.

For info on weather and climate, the oceans or greenhouse gases, visit our other posts in this series.

Image Credit: dave_apple via flickr/CC license
Graph Credits: EPA’s Snow and Ice PDF

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