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Winter Snow Depths in Northern China
Peng, S., Piao, S., Ciais, P., Fang, J. and Wang, X. 2010. Change in winter snow depth and its impacts on vegetation in China. Global Change Biology 16: 3004-3013.

What was done
Peng et al. used snow-depth measurements collected at 279 meteorological stations scattered across China, plus colocated satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data, to investigate spatio-temporal changes in snow depth over the period 1980-2006 and the effects of those changes on vegetative growth the following spring and summer.

What was learned
The five researchers report that "over the past three decades, winter snow depth overall increased in northern China, particularly in the most arid and semiarid regions of western China where desert and grassland are mainly distributed," and they say that in those specific areas there were positive correlations between mean winter snow depth and spring NDVI data. In addition, they note that Piao et al. (2005) determined that the net primary productivity of the same desert and grasslands during 1982-1999 "increased by 1.6% per year and 1.1% per year, respectively," and that "desertification has been reversed in some areas of western China since the 1980s," citing the work of Runnstrom (2000), Wu (2001), Zhang et al. (2003) and Piao et al. (2005).

What it means
In discussing the implications of their findings, Peng et al. write that the "increase in vegetation coverage in arid and semiarid regions of China, possibly driven by winter snow, will likely restore soil and enhance its antiwind-erosion ability, reducing the possibility of released dust and mitigating sand-dust storms," while noting that the frequency of sand-dust storms has indeed "declined in China since the early 1980s (Qian et al., 2002; Zhao et al., 2004)." Thus, as the world has warmed over the past three decades, there has been another concomitant climatic change across China above 40°N latitude (an increase in winter snow depth) that has prompted a biological change (increased vegetative growth in desert areas and grasslands) that has prompted yet another climatic change (a reduction in sand-dust storms), all of which would be recognized by most rational people as positive developments, as opposed to the catastrophic consequences typically conjured up by the world's climate alarmists.

Piao, S.L., Fang, J.Y., Liu, H.Y. and Zhu, B. 2005. NDVI-indicated decline in desertification in China in the past two decades. Geophysical Research Letters 32: 10.1029/2004GL021764.

Qian, Z.A., Song, M.H. and Li, W.Y. 2002. Analysis on distributive variation and forecast of sand-dust storms in recent 50 years in north China. Journal of Desert Research 22: 106-111.

Runnstrom, M.C. 2000. Is northern China winning the battle against desertification? Satellite remote sensing as a tool to study biomass trends on the Ordos plateau in semiarid China. Ambio 29: 468-476.

Wu, W. 2001. Study on process of desertification in Mu Us sandy land for last 50 years, China. Journal of Desert Research 21: 164-169.

Zhang, L., Yue, L.P. and Xia, B. 2003. The study of land desertification in transitional zones between the UM US desert and the Loess plateau using RS and GIS -- a case study of the Yulin region. Environmental Geology 44: 530-534.

Zhao, C.S., Dabu, X., and Li, Y. 2004. Relationship between climatic factors and dust storm frequency in inner Mongolia of China. Geophysical Research Letters 31: 10.1029/2003GL018351.

Reviewed 5 January 2011