Global Warming Update: Snow Blocks Key Road in Montana Park

Due to record snowfalls in Montana this year, Glacier National Park's famous Going-to-the-Sun Road was finally opened to tourists Wednesday -- much later than normal.

With the exception of 1943 when park officials chose to let the white stuff thaw naturally due to the nation being in the middle of World War II, this is the latest opening in the history of this thoroughfare which connects both sides of the park.

As reported by the Missoulian Wednesday (emphasis added, picture courtesy Missoulian via AP and NYT):

The entire Going-to-the Sun Road will open Wednesday morning, providing visitors with access to the heights of Glacier National Park.

The opening of the Sun Road has been a particular challenge this year because of a snowy winter, late-spring storms and avalanche activity. [...]

Trails in the Logan Pass area are currently covered by several feet of snow. Visitors are urged to use caution and know their own personal limits when considering travel on snowy terrain. Snowpack in the Logan Pass area is double what is typical for this time of year. This includes the popular Highline Trail, which is under considerable amounts of snow. Crews are working to make the Highline and other trails passable to hikers in the coming weeks.

This is one of the latest openings of the entire Sun Road. The latest opening on record is July 10, 1943, when the snow was allowed to melt out. The earliest Logan Pass opening to motorized traffic occurred on May 16, 1987.

As the New York Times reported on this issue Wednesday, record snowfalls throughout the Rockies this year have thankfully diminished drought conditions (emphasis added):

“Snow in the mountains is money in the bank,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana said. “The snow will melt and run into the streams through September. It’s good for the fisheries and good for irrigation.”

Mr. Schweitzer cited more good news from the state climatologist, who, he said, has forecast a cooler and wetter July than normal. Still, the governor said, even though things are better, “no matter what the weather is, we’re never more than two weeks from a drought.”

For now, residents feel they have some breathing room. “We got so much moisture in June, it released a pressure valve,” said Lisa Bay, a rancher near Wolf Creek, Mont. “It was a grand sense of relief.”

The situation is similar in Wyoming. Snowpack in the Bighorn Mountains, in the north central part of the state, is 79 percent higher than the 30-year average, and 112 percent above the average in the area drained by the Powder and Tongue Rivers.

“Everything is up from average,” said Leanne Stevenson, manager of natural resources and policy for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “A lot of what makes a difference is not how much, but how long it stays cool, and we actually had spring this year.” [...]

In Yellowstone National Park, some backcountry areas are blocked by snow and some rivers are high and muddy. “Our ongoing challenge is backcountry access,” Al Nash, a park spokesman, said. “We have high flowing water, mud and, in shady areas, snow. It just isn’t accessible right now. It could easily be another month before we have access.”

But the snows will help the park recover from a drought that has caused ponds and wetlands to dry up, killed fish, reduced vegetation and even lengthened the period between eruptions of the famous geysers.

“One good year doesn’t overcome a drought,” Mr. Nash said. “But it’s sure welcome and helpful.”

Rivers that in the last eight years usually retreated to their normal levels in May or early June are still running up to their banks. Many people who came to the Northern Rockies to fly fish in June found their favorite rivers the color of chocolate milk. [...]

On the Yellowstone River near Livingston, Mont., record high flows forced local officials to close a bridge that appeared to be collapsing because of high waters, stranding 24 people on an island for a few days until a temporary one was installed. Farmers and ranchers, though, are happy. “We were way behind in moisture, and we caught up and got an extra five or six inches” of rain in June, said Mr. Schweitzer, a farmer and a soil scientist. “Every extra inch of rain above average means seven more bushels per acre, and we got six inches,” he said. “We’ll get 40 more bushels per acre this year. That makes it a billion-dollar storm.”

Oddly -- or maybe not not-so! -- the terms "climate change" and "global warming" were nowhere to be found in the Times article. Hmmm.

Of course, one year's worth of record snowfalls doesn't disprove the global warming myth. However, as drought conditions in this region ease, as do temperatures around the supposedly warming planet, shouldn't there come a point when a more honest and fact-based discussion concerning climate change ensues?

What if 1998 continues to be the warmest year in this cycle, and temperatures moving forward continue their recent downward path? Shouldn't we begin re-evaluating whether or not there's any cause for alarm as well as the possibility that scientists who have been calling this all part of a long-term nature climate cycle are actually correct?

Or does that make too much sense?

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Noel Sheppard's picture