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Snowfall & Climate Change

Those living in the Northeast U.S. have recently been hit with some of the severest snow storms in recent meteorological history. In Boston last month, winter storm Juno dropped nearly 6 feet of snow in two weeks and was reported as the biggest snow fall since after the Civil War.

Although this season’s heavy snows in the Northeast are seen as a freakish anomaly that are part of climate variability, many scientists say the extreme winter is due to different weather patterns newly formed because of global warming: warmer air means more moisture, the increased moisture hits air that is cold enough and makes snow. In the case of Juno, the air was warm enough to hold large amounts of moisture and cold enough to snow.

According to NASA, NOAA and other research teams on climate change, the Earth is getting warmer. The hotter temperatures are caused by the increase in greenhouse gasses, emissions primarily from burning coal, oil and gas to generate electricity and to run cars.  The warmer air locks in more moisture resulting in more precipitation.

Integral to the changing weather is the shifts in the jet stream with its varied ridges that carry Arctic air. Last fall, Typhoon Nuri knocked the jet stream off its usual course serving up a polar blast further south over the eastern U.S. Meteorologists pointed out that the jet stream had already been weakened by the quick melting of the summer Arctic sea ice.

Also, the shifts in the jet stream seem to slow storms down, making them last longer that sees more snow fall, according to David Easterling, chief of the Global Climate Applications Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, storms are moving more slowly, leaving more snow accumulation.

Last fall, the jet stream ushered in frosty Arctic air to the Great Lakes region in New York and mixed with the lakes’ warm moisture, producing record snow fall that crippled the region, especially in Buffalo. Known as the “lake-effect,”  more than 7 feet blanketed the area.

 

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