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    Climate Change and Northeast U.S. Snowstorms

    3/29/2011, 4:43:58 AM

    Is climate change having an impact on Northeast U.S. snowfall?

    I read this interesting article from David Kroodsma of Climate Central.

    In the article, Kroodsma looks at snowstorm and snowfall trends in the Northeast U.S. over the past 30 years and tries to see if there is any link with climate change. A Northeast blizzard as seen from space.

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    Here are some excerpts from the Climate Central article on what they found.........

    Is Climate Change Making Snowstorms Worse?

    The short answer is “maybe.” Average seasonal snowfall can come from many small storms or fewer, bigger ones. The past two winters have seen an abnormally high number of major storms — storms that drop more than 10 inches over large areas. Both 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 had three winter storms that qualified as at least a “Category 3” based on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). Even the 1995-96 winter didn’t have that many storms of this ranking, and you’d have to go back to 1960-61 to find as many high-scoring winter storms in a single season as we saw in each of the past two years.

    In the short run, climate change could actually mean more heavy snowstorms. A warmer atmosphere means that the air can hold more water vapor, and this can result in more storms with heavy precipitation. In fact, scientists have already documented an increase in heavy precipitation events. If it is cold enough to snow, these storms can drop heavy snow instead of rain. However, the possible links between climate change and heavy snowfall is an area of active scientific research, with no definitive answers yet. And many credit the past two years of heavy snow to the North Atlantic Oscillation, and not necessarily to climate change.

    Even if heavy snows increase over the next few decades, many climate scientists say that a warmer climate will eventually mean less total snowfall for the northeastern states, as more precipitation falls as rain.

    What do the climate models say?

    Climate models are relatively good at projecting temperature change, but they are less skilled at accurately projecting changes in precipitation. And predicting snowfall is especially tricky, as it requires getting both temperature and precipitation details right. As a result, our findings—that seasonal snowfall will decrease between 30 and 60 percent in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states by the end of the century—should be taken with a grain of salt.

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

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    Global climate change