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Northeast U.S. Winters Projected to be much Warmer and Wetter by Mid Century

December 12, 2012; 3:42 PM ET

A new study using high-resolution climate models suggests that temperatures in the Northeast U.S. will be significantly warmer in all seasons in the next 30 years, but especially the winter. Winters are also projected to be wetter, with more rain than snow.

This climate study, which was run by University of Massachusetts scientists is posted in the current issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The study provides the highest resolution climate projections to date for the Northeast from Pennsylvania to Maine for the period from 2041 to 2070, according to Michael Rawlins and Raymond Bradley of the Climate System Research Center at UMass Amherst, with Henry Diaz of NOAA's Climate Diagnostics Center, Boulder, Colo.

Some key findings from the report......

1. The Northeast region is projected to warm by some 2-3 degrees C. (3.5-5.5 F) by mid-century, with localized warming approaching 3.5 C. (6.3 F) during winter.

Putting this into better perspective by calculating a 4-5 degree F. increase in average temperature I estimate that winter temperatures in Boston by mid-century will feel more like what Philadelphia is today if this study ends up on target. The same goes for Philadelphia during mid-century having winter temperatures similar to what Richmond, VA has today.

2. Precipitation will likely go up, especially in the winter, but not uniformly.

Excerpts from the EurekAlert report.....

"The only clear signal of change for precipitation is noted in winter, which appears to be heading toward wetter conditions, consistent with current trends," Rawlins says. Winter precipitation is projected to rise significantly above natural weather variability, around 12 to 15 percent greater from southwest Pennsylvania to northern Maine, with the exception of coastal areas, where projected increases are lower.

"But we shouldn't expect more total seasonal snowfall," he adds. "Combined with the model-projected temperature trends, much of the increase will occur as rain. We're losing the snow season. It is contracting, with more rain in early and late winter."

The study assumes that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise going from nearly 400 ppm today to between 500-600 ppm in 2070.

Bradley and Rawlins acknowledge that this outlook represents the "most aggressive, most troubling higher emissions trajectory scenario" for CO2 levels, but they point out that so far there is little evidence that society will act to appreciably change the current rate of increase, according to EurekAlert.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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