Snows of Mount Hamilton

Mount Hamilton 20 March 2012 low res

Mount Hamilton 20 March 2012 low res

Taken today, by me. c E.M.Smith (Permission to use non-commercially provided photo credit given. Higher res available).

There is this rather interesting “barometer” of local weather. Mount Hamilton. It has an observatory on top of it, that includes a weather station or two. It sometimes gets snow. During the ’80s and ’90s, snow had become a ‘sometimes’ thing. During the ’60s and ’70s it was more of a frequent thing. In the last couple of years, we’ve gone back to frequent.

Folks sometimes would go ‘up the hill’ to play in the snow. Then in the early ’80s the area became subject to ‘snow closures’. Too many folks on a very narrow road to please the ‘locals’ who pressured their local politicians who decided to keep everyone else out. So you get to show your license to the poor cop who ends up stuck at the bottom of the hill every time it snows…

During the ’90s and even the “oughties” this wasn’t all that often, and, IMHO, folks forgot about playing in the snows of Mount Hamilton. Now we’ve had a few years of ‘snow frequently’. I suspect that a record of snows on Mount Hamilton would be a very useful measure of ‘warming or not?’.

In the last few decades, the only snow would come during the dead of winter. It was typically freezing here in the valley, so any rain fell as snow on the mountain. Then it would rapidly melt and be gone, even at elevation. What makes this picture special, for me, is that this is just a bit before the official start of spring. I have peas, kale, and potatoes already growing in the garden along with some early beans set out. Turnips and lima beans being started. So far this year we’ve had little rain and less snow in the mountains. Finally the rains came last weekend. Thus this snow on Mount Hamilton…

Wunderground reports it as about 70 F “near me”

San Jose Flea Market, San Jose, CA 68.4 °F – 46 °F 45% NW at 5.8 mph 0.00 in / hr 80 ft 1 sec ago Rapid Fire
Berryessa, San Jose, CA 69.0 °F – 47 °F 45% NW at 7.0 mph 0.00 in / hr 131 ft 1 min 30 sec ago Normal
Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA 70.2 °F – 30 °F 23% South at 3.1 mph 0.00 in / hr 203 ft 33 sec ago Normal
SJSU-ATN, San Jose, CA 69.8 °F 77 °F 47 °F 42% NW at 8.0 mph 0.00 in / hr 79 ft 1 sec ago Rapid Fire

What this says to me is that the “shortened atmospheric height” we’ve seen from the reduced UV level has a more pronounced effect on mountain tops.

I would expect that looking at higher elevations would show their temperatures dropping faster than those of us at low elevations. I would also expect that places which had been losing high elevation snows and glaciers will start to build.

IMHO, the emphasis on “Grids” and “Boxes” ignores this very important point: It isn’t just the box perimeter that matters, it’s the elevations inside that box as well.

During the times I was looking at GIStemp, I’d noticed that GHCN had reduced the high altitude coverage. Thermometers had fled the mountains for lower elevations. This “locked in” a cold baseline and warming trend. Now those places can not be filled in with the correct temperatures, as the vertical atmospheric height has changed. The Four on the beach in California can not inform us about the recent changes in Mount Hamilton. Nor can the Andes be properly reported

This is a structural bias that is now locked into the GHCN. The only way to fix it is to put back in the thermometers at altitude. Until that is done, the GHCN is useless for describing what is really happening in the world. As all three major temperatures series (HADCrut, GIStemp, NCDC) are based on the GHCN in large part; they too are useless.

But the snow is still on the mountain for everyone to see. Even in springtime in the valley…

Some Links

The observatory weather stations:

An article about this last snow:

From the 17th, before the snow:

Snow possible on Bay Area peaks this weekend

Will Kane

Saturday, March 17, 2012
(03-16) 12:23 PDT MOUNT DIABLO STATE PARK — A frigid mass of Alaskan air blowing south will bring a chance of snow to Bay Area peaks this weekend, forecasters said today.

The snow level could fall to 2,000 feet late Saturday, meaning there’s a chance flakes will stick on the peaks of Mount Diablo, Mount Tamalpais and Mount Hamilton, said Chris Stumpf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Looks like they were right…
Though it looks like a bit more than “flakes” sticking here and there…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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16 Responses to Snows of Mount Hamilton

  1. Ian W says:

    I always find that this passion for ‘averaging’ even variables like atmospheric temperature is almost designed to hide information. I was involved in some data gathering for research and had a student recording global wind-fields. The student was using a large grid (very little disk space in those days) and the software was loading the average for each grid box at each level. It was found that a nice ‘tight’ hurricane was actually inside a box that was averaged. There were no apparent hurricane strength winds when the hurricane was in a grid box as they all averaged out.
    In the same way GISS and the other ‘climate science’ sites would average out the temperatures around mount Hamilton and the preponderance of 60s and 70s would swamp the few 20s and 30s leading to a slightly lowered ‘average’. (I will not run off into enthalpy again ;-) )

    This is why ‘average global atmospheric temperature’ is a totally meaningless figure biased by site position and numbers and using the incorrect variable. One wonders why these ‘expert peer reviewing climate scientists’ use such a poor metric.

  2. cm says:

    Hi e.m , Give this site a look.I’ve been buying my fruit and veg seeds from these guys for a while.They have some old heirloom varieties that are hard to find nowadays.I particularly recommend the “Gardeners Delight Super-Sweet Irish” Tomato seeds.The best Tomato i’ve ever eaten. :-)

  3. kakatoa says:

    EM says- …..”IMHO, the emphasis on “Grids” and “Boxes” ignores this very important point: It isn’t just the box perimeter that matters, it’s the elevations inside that box as well.”….
    “This is a structural bias that is now locked into the GHCN. The only way to fix it is to put back in the thermometers at altitude. Until that is done, the GHCN is useless for describing what is really happening in the world. As all three major temperatures series (HADCrut, GIStemp, NCDC) are based on the GHCN in large part; they too are useless.”

    But the snow is still on the mountain for everyone to see. Even in springtime in the valley…”

    +1 to the 100th power!

    I still have snow on my roof- although I did clear the snow off of my solar panels for the 1/4 day of sun we had today at my elevation- the first sun in the last 8 days. My location is at 2400 feet. Our local official weather station is down the valley (at about 1600 ft- about 6 miles due west) – which got no snow at all during the last storm…… That particular weather station and my temperature readings are pretty close for the high temperature in the summer. My min temperature is lower then the official summer time min temperature recorded at 1600 (thank goodness). My winter time low is usually two to three degrees cooler then the official station as well and occasionally it’s a full 5 degrees cooler.

    PS Three inches of snow on PV panels= 0 output! My wife and I used to visit the observatory once a year when we lived in the Bay Area.

  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    Nice photo! I’ve been up there. I think in the summer of ’63.

    It has been snowing here in WA State; in the daylight you can check the DOT web cams. Here is Snoqualmie Summit on I-90, 50 miles west of me.

  5. Reblogged this on The GOLDEN RULE and commented:
    The mountain shall come to the aid of the righteous!
    The mountain of evidence that the ‘global warming’ trend is unsupportable, builds surely and steadily. The authorites are defensive. Censorship is becoming an issue. I wonder why? (sarc)

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: That´s the kind of “correlations” self named “intelligent” scientists never see. You are a very sensible guy.
    Wasn´t it that Al Baby said that all snow would disappear? His “church” will have its next jamboree/”council” at Rio de Janeiro:
    The only requisite for assistance is having a personal jet and no principles whatsoever.

  7. Pingback: Climate Data and Elevation « sunshine hours

  8. “So I thought I would take a quick and dirty snapshot of the BEST data elevation. I looked at all stations that had an elevation and had 12 months of data at the decade rollover (1900, 1910 … 2010).

    It looks like the Cheefio was right, with the peak year being near 1940 and then dropping for the next 60 years . (Of course the Elevation may have peaked slightly higher before or after 1940 … I didn’t do every year).”

  9. TGSG says:

    Drove home in a snowstorm in SW Wa. state tonight. Very late snow for us.

  10. Pascvaks says:

    Europe ‘assumes’ the United States will defend her against all enemies. The United States ‘assumes’ it can rise from it’s own ashes like the Phoenix of ages past. The West ‘assumes’ that China and India will be kind and play by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules. Scientists ‘assume’ that their compadres in other fields will provide adequate warning of any danger ahead. Voters ‘assume’ that their Congressman/woman and two Senators are the best they can have based upon the quality of who is running for those offices in their district/state. Everyone ‘assumes’ that their tap water is as safe and sound as a dollar. This is the Age of Assumption, the apex of that time in human history when everyone thought the other guys were looking out for their back. We’re toast!

    PS: There’s something very chilling in the lessons of MT Hamilton, can’t quite put my fingers on their full significance, but they are right there for all to see. If I can see them from Huntsville, Alabama, they just gotta’ be bigger than they appear at first glance. Have to be!!! Right?;-)

  11. Andrew says:

    We have been getting on and off snow showers here in the Puget Sound region as mentioned by others. At various stages in my life I have been extremely passionate about different outdoor activities. Hiking, mountain climbing, snow skiing, steelhead fishing and gardening. All activities in which being able to somewhat predict the weather provides an advantage, if not save your life.

    I can tell you which years I was able to ski before Thanksgiving or which years had big returns of salmon and steelhead in certain rivers. The fish counts are based on the natal streams flows during incubation, hatching through smolting. The ocean temps of the north Pacific play a major role in the food chain, but this has not been studied much.

    My gardening efforts this year are challenging. I have big plans, tons of space, great sun…but minimal topsoil. If you are familiar with the term “Glacial Till” you will understand, lol. I believe I have a solution…and it will result in a great garden and a cool fish pond (irrigation holding facility). Extra bonus…I think I found a tooth! It is well worn, not human and based on where I found it I think it was deposited during the last ice age…kinda cool!

    My rant…people do not know what it means to be self sufficient. This will bite us BIG time.


    It bothers me that I agree with your comments. But what really bothers me is that it reminds me of what Ben Franklin said:

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    @ E.M.

    Your comments on the weather stations…the other night my outdoor thermometer said 31 degrees and the raindrops had frozen solid by 10 pm. The local weather station which is further from the Sound than I am put the official temp at 32 degrees, thus not breaking the record low for the day of 30 degrees. My place hit 27, go figure.

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  13. dearieme says:

    ” the official start of spring”: why does the US have official starts to seasons? I can’t see it making any sense for a country the size of, oh, Luxemburg: for a country the size of a continent it’s surely loopy?

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    Because if we didn’t, it would always be time for Christmas Shopping Season. (As it is, they start advertising Christmas sales before Halloween… it used to just be before Thanksgiving. I refuse to every buy ANYTHING Christmas prior to December 1, just because of that.)

    So this tells all the merchants to start hawking Spring Sporting Goods and Easter Junk. And tells all the consumers what to go buy now.


    I’ve noticed mine runs a degree or two lower than the local “official” airport. I’ve also noticed that Wundergound has now partly hidden the list of ‘nearby’ stations (that had been a convenient way to see the offset) so you have to go fishing to find it…

    For poor soil, I suggest a truck load of steer manure and a long weekend away from the house ;-)

    FWIW, there’s an interesting process in one of my gardening books. They put down a layer of newspapers (fairly thick) and then bag soil over that. IIRC. The newspapers breakdown over time, but also stop weed emergence. So you could nick a local recycle pile and dump some bag-o-soil / compost / leaf litter on it… And add a box of fish worms ;-)

    I’m planting a cold garden this year, not even bothering with tomatoes. Sticking with peas, kale, beets, etc. until things warm up. Favas doing great, green beans are sulking…


    And everyone assumes the grocery store will have food in it tomorrow. Most folks don’t have even on week worth of food storage. One big rock in a major ocean will sink all the ships in it, then no bulk food shipments until new ships are built. Folks forget about that… We’re one rock away from ‘no food’ for most of the world. (And one big ass volcano away from not enough food for the whole planet as, on a planet wide basis, we have about 6 weeks of food and depend on consistent harvests from each hemisphere…)

    Yeah, we’re toast. It’s just a question of when and which completely predictable natural disaster comes first.


    We’re running “late” too. It’s the “Loopy Jet Stream”. The folks on the East Coast are warm, so not noticing we’re frozen and not spring yet.


    That’s the sneaky thing about diddling the official thermometers of record, it impacts ALL systems that use the GHCN set…


    Glad you liked this one… It’s one of my regular “what kind of year is it?” reference points. Been watching for snow vs no-snow years for a few decades now. Last few years you had to catch it early in the morning mid-winter or it would be melted (if it fell at all). This “is different”…

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