Buffalo's lake effect mega-blizzards: global warming or act of God?

For a year and a half I went to school at SUNY Oswego which among other things was known for its sunsets. Every night we would watch the sun go into Lake Ontario. Along with that beauty we had lake effect snow, and we could see it coming. Sometime we would see the snow rolling in over the lake from Canada. And when the snow came there would be a foot on campus and only a few inches of the white stuff a few miles away.

That’s what has been happening in Buffalo New York this week—to the extreme. So far areas of Buffalo have received about six feet, 72 inches of snow since Tuesday and another 2-3 feet are expected before Buffalo residents wake up on Friday morning.

Usually these events are classified as acts of God (except for people such as Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey who classifies it as summer in Minnesota). But according to a piece in Slate the creator of the world is off the hook.  Slate reporter Eric Holthaus claims this week’s snow in Buffalo  (at least its volume) was caused by global warming.

Some people’s first reaction might be “wait a second, snow needs cold and global warming is…well warm.” Forgetting logic (something global warming enthusiasts rarely use anyway) let’s take a look at his “facts”

Global warming is probably juicing lake-effect snows, and we’ve had the data to prove it for quite some time.

And as proof he offers the chart below from the NOAA, which demonstrates a greater fraction of wintertime precipitation in the Northeast has fallen during extreme events over the past few decades.

The  writer seems to be correct about the wintertime precipitation committing from extreme events in recent years. However, he is forgetting one important fact in his analysis. The vertical red line around the year 1996 was added to Mr Holthaus’ chart.  September 1996 was the last time Earth’s temperatures warmed (see below). So the worst years in the chart above occurred after the Earth stopped warming, the heavier snowfalls must have a different cause (perhaps they can blame Bush or the lack of comprehensive immigration reform).
Later in his post Holthaus continues:
Lake Erie is warming (along with the rest of the planet) by a steady but measurable amount. Since 1960 that trend has been about a half of a degree Fahrenheit per decade. More important than this, though, Lake Erie has been losing its ability to freeze over in the winter, with a decline of about one sub-freezing day per year in recent decades.Lake Erie’s ice cover has been slipping in recent decades, which is helping it to produce more lake-effect snow.
As proof he offers another chart which provides records from 1960-2007. However the NOAA says this past winter (2013/2014) saw highest ice coverage in the Great Lakes in twenty years, perhaps a better comparison  (see chart below)
Slate goes on to show another chart which seems to show that lake effect snow has been growing, but the chart only goes to 2001 which ignores the last 13 years of no warming.
Here’s the real reason for the storms:

There you go, that is the reason for the storms in Buffalo! God feels so bad for the suffering NY Jets fans, he is going to make sure Sunday’s game is going to be moved to a neutral site and he is giving them an extra day to prepare. Some of you may believe my explanation for the storms to be a bit mad, but it makes much more sense than the claim it was caused by global warming.