Hard to pin down | RecordCourier.com

Hard to pin down

Mark Twain once observed in "Life on the Mississippi" that the Lower Mississippi had shortened 242 miles over the course of 176 years, and that if it continued for another 742 years into the future, it would be less than 2 miles long.

"There is something fascinating about science," he said. "One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

We read recently that forecasters gathered at Stateline for their annual conference heard the snowpack in the Sierra will suffer a 79-percent decline by 2100 based on climate models.

Because the central Sierra's peaks are lower than those further south, Tahoe's ski industry will suffer as a result of less snow.

Looking out across Carson Valley on Monday morning, it's difficult to take such a warning too seriously.

It's appropriate that Tahoe's ski industry is partially based in Nevada, as every season contains an element of risk. We've seen rain wash all the snow off the slopes and we've seen it fall all the way to the Valley floors.

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Attempts to quantify global warming have been flummoxed by the complex nature of climate, and the fact that Mother Nature has a tendency to prove how fallible human prediction can be.

Evidence shows this place has been many things over the eons, from ocean to floodplain to desert and back.

You don't have to look into deep time to see that Nevada was far more verdant than it is now when the first people arrived during the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.

But it doesn't help make the case for global warming when it just keeps snowing.