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33 Inches of Oct. Snow Puts WYO on 2008 “Extreme Weather” List

December 8, 2008

Cheyenne, WY – Almost three feet of snow in early October has earned Wyoming a spot on a list of dubious honors: the "Top 10 Extreme Weather Events" for 2008, compiled by climate scientists and meteorologists around the country.

The weather also was analyzed to find possible links to climate change, and the Wyoming snow made that category, according to Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

"The fact there's more moisture in the atmosphere means you can actually get heavier snows as a consequence of global warming, especially at the beginning and end of the season."

He says higher evaporation rates happen with increased atmospheric temperatures, and that leads to more moisture. Hurricane Ike, the nearly 1,500 tornadoes around the country, Midwest flooding, and the California wildfires also made the list.

Extreme weather appears isolated when it happens, but when reviewed at the end of the year, Trenberth says the links to climate change shouldn't be ignored because of the danger to life, property and the environment.

"Here are ten things that we ought to be paying attention to, and we have good reason to believe that they're being affected by global warming."

Trenberth points out that climate change and links to weather aren't solid in every case. For example, he explains, tornadoes are dependent on many factors, and most have nothing to do with climate change, although more moisture in the air can play a role.

The complete "Top 10 Extreme Weather Events" list includes: Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, tornadoes, Midwest flooding (both in spring and summer), the Southeast drought, the California wildfires, Western snow, Colorado's heat wave, and the amount of Arctic Sea ice, which scientists say was measured at its second-lowest extent on record.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY