Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snowstorms are Consistent with Climate Change

Another storm influenced by climate change has struck the US east coast and while Juno was not as bad as predicted in places like NYC in wreaked havoc across New England. Boston had 23 inches of snow and 78 mph winds caused widespread power outages in Nantucket, Cape Cod and other coastal communities. In Newport Rhode Island, the tall ship Providence was knocked over by heavy winds. The National Guard had to rescue people inundated by flooding in the community of Scituate and snowfall records were broken in places like Worcester north of Boston.

Warmer ocean temperatures are driving storms like Juno and the research evidence indicates that climate change is expected to make snowstorms and deluges both more frequent and more severe. There is a clear trend towards more intense precipitation in the US and this is particularly pronounced along the northern portions of the US east coast. A review of the literature in the U.S. Climate Impacts Report concluded, "Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent."

Currently sea temperatures are 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal along the east coast, the result is more water vapor in the atmosphere which causes more storms.

Milder winters will actually produce more snowstorms because warmer air hold more moisture while cold air does not contain as much vapor. For every 1 degree temperature increase the air can hold 4 percent more moisture.

In addition to increased vapor, climate change is also altering the jet stream which can cause a storm to slow down or even remain fixed giving it more time to dump snow and increase accumulations.

Juno is not the first major snowstorm and it certainly will not be the last. As temperatures continue to rise both on land and at sea we can expect far more and far bigger snowstorms in the future.

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