The weather it is a-changin’ and it may be part of global warming

As my spine begged for mercy after another day recently spent shoveling snow, I asked myself a simple question you may have asked, too. If the climate is changing, why do I need a snow shovel to dig out my driveway? The answer may surprise you.

  • Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:01am
  • Life

As my spine begged for mercy after another day recently spent shoveling snow, I asked myself a simple question you may have asked, too. If the climate is changing, why do I need a snow shovel to dig out my driveway? The answer may surprise you.

History shows we’ve earned our tire chains when it comes to snow. A 1916 winter blast crushed a cathedral dome in Seattle. A 1950 blizzard brought the only “zero degree” reading ever at SeaTac Airport. More than 5 feet of snow fell in the winter of 1969. Cold weather records from the 1990 Arctic Express still stand and December 1996 brought heavy snow – twice. Seems our latest “unforgettable” snow is destined to quickly melt in our memories.

I asked Cliff Mass, University of Washington professor and author of “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest,” and Ted Buehner, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, for some expert opinions on snow and climate change. “Global warming is just that – global,” Mass said. “You can’t make assumptions about a worldwide trend based on one event happening in one region.” He notes we see big swings in the weather year-round. A good example is the Pineapple Express that washed away all that snow so quickly.

Climate scientists say the Arctic is the first region of our planet to be affected by global warming, with the continents coming second and oceans third. With the Pacific Ocean being our major source of weather, the professor says climate change will be felt here more slowly than in the Arctic, which is seeing the impact now. Buehner notes that while we shivered in December, people in Barrow, Alaska (ZIP Code: Arctic Circle), saw temperatures zoom as much as 35 degrees above average. Not hard to find global warming believers there, I’d guess.

While western Washington may not be the first place the climate is changing, it is one of the first places where the energy industry is changing. Good thing, too, because on our coldest days, Puget Sound Energy set new records by delivering nearly twice as much natural gas and electricity to local homes and businesses as normal. As demand for energy is growing, so are the ways PSE can produce it cleanly. Wind power is working so well that while the snow was falling, PSE announced a new partnership to build more wind energy facilities in southeast Washington, near the towns of Dayton and Pomeroy. These new wind projects and the expansion of wind facilities already in operation, have the potential to generate enough electricity to one day power several hundred thousand homes and to create new, green jobs.

To learn more about what’s happening in wind power, and how to save energy all winter long, go to or drop me a line at We have plenty of winter left in 2009, so hang on to that snow shovel. Waiting for global warming to clear your driveway may sound tempting, but probably won’t get you to work on time.

Andy Wappler is a senior public relations manager at Puget Sound Energy. He joined PSE in February 2008 after being chief meteorologist at KIRO-TV. He looks forward to hearing from you at

More in Life

Fishing derby set for April 28, courtesy of Buckley Kiwanis

Grab your fishing rod and head down to the pond at Uncle John’s RV Park.

“W is for Welcome: A celebration of America’s diversity”

The kid down the block looks nothing like you. His parents don’t… Continue reading

The power of the powwow | Slideshow

Enumclaw High School and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe put together the 23rd annual powwow last weekend.

Past the gushing, gruesome details ‘The Trauma Cleaner’ is worth a read

Wash your hands thoroughly. That’s good advice, no matter where you are.… Continue reading

While focusing on athletic endurance, this book also relates to everyday life

You need a shave. It’s been awhile and, though you’ve been grooming… Continue reading

Explores the Civil Rights Movement with Congressman John Lewis | Pierce County READS

Congressman Lewis of Georgia is one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement and the only remaining speaker alive from the Big Six Leaders that organized the 1963 March on Washington.

We often believe bad things only happen to others

It could never happen to you. Other people have problems. They don’t… Continue reading

Take a sneak peak into summer activities | Pierce County Parks and Recreation

Learn what summer activities are available for you, your family, and your children at the Summer Camp Preview Fair.

‘The Group’ is a must-read, valuable resource

‘Til death do you part. Did those words give you pause when… Continue reading

A modern fairytale with a twist

He did it on one knee. One knee, with a nervous grin… Continue reading

Enumclaw High hosts 7th annual Empty Bowls event

The event, held at Enumclaw High School, will help fund the Enumclaw Food Bank and Plateau Outreach Ministries.