Major northeastern snowstorms expected to continue with climate change

Major northeastern snowstorms expected to continue with climate change
This January 2018 satellite image shows an intense nor'easter with a hurricane-like eye at its center. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using GOES-16 data

Even though climate change is expected to reduce the total amount of U.S. snowfall this century, it's unlikely to significantly rein in the most powerful nor'easters that pummel the East Coast, new research indicates.

The study finds that smaller snowstorms that drop a few inches will diminish greatly in number by late century. But the most damaging types of storms along the Eastern Seaboard, which strike every few years or so and cause widespread disruption, will remain about as frequent in a .

"What this research finds is almost all of the decrease in snow occurs in weaker, more nuisance-type events," said atmospheric scientist Colin Zarzycki, the author of the study. "The really crippling storms that have major regional impacts on transportation, on the economy, on infrastructure are not significantly mitigated in a warming climate."

"The big nor'easters are not just going to go away."

Zarzycki conducted the research as a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.

The new study is part of a growing body of research into the complex ways that a warmer atmosphere will influence and extreme weather events. Scientists have found that storms such as hurricanes and hailstorms are likely to become less frequent in the future—but pack an even more powerful punch in those instances when they're especially intense.

The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters. It was primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Taking a closer look at individual storms

Previous scientific studies have indicated that total snowfall over the course of the winter is likely to decline in coming decades. The reason, for the most part, is straightforward: more precipitation will fall as rain because of the warming influence of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere.

Zarzycki wanted to take a closer look to see how warmer temperatures would affect individual nor'easters. These powerful storms can bring blizzard conditions and coastal flooding to densely populated areas, sometimes causing widespread disruption and stretching into the billions of dollars.

To do so, Zarzycki turned to an existing set of advanced computer simulations of climate conditions, which scientists had created using the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model. The simulations used projections of society continuing a "business-as-usual" approach to emitting greenhouse gases, which would lead to pronounced warming this century. The simulation data set also consists of multiple ensemble members, which are realizations of the same climate but with different weather patterns that reflect the natural variability of weather. This was crucial for Zarzycki to get statistics for very rare but crippling storms.

Zarzycki applied a specialized algorithm to the simulations to essentially cut out and count the number of snowstorms. This enabled him to effectively peer into future climate conditions and zero in on the impact on individual nor'easters.

The results show that moderate nor'easters, which currently occur every one to two years, will decline sharply over the next few decades and become almost twice as rare by late century. But the frequency of very powerful storms that occur about once a decade, or of the most extreme storms that strike a few times per century, will be largely unchanged.

The reasons have to do with a combination of factors that will occur in the future: a shorter snow season, the ability of the atmosphere to hold more water, the warming of ocean waters that fuel powerful storms, and the increased energy in the warmer atmosphere that can turbocharge storms when conditions are lined up. All of these can modify a 's impacts in different ways.

"We'll have fewer storms overall in the future, but when the atmospheric conditions align they'll still pack a wallop, with incredibly heavy snowfall rates," Zarzycki said.

The research also accounts for population distribution, which can highlight regional societal impacts. For example, Zarzycki found that the trajectories of future storms will generally remain the same, meaning they are about as likely as present-day storms to bear down on heavily populated areas along the coastal corridor. That's an important consideration, given that the path a snowstorm takes could lead to paralyzing one or more of the nation's most economically important cities.

Zarzycki did not analyze how the mix between rain and snow may evolve in the future or what that might mean for flooding. But the paper recommends that local officials incorporate potential changes in powerful storms when planning new projects.

"Additional considerations are needed when developing hydrological infrastructure for water resources and flood resistance as the behavior of snowpack, snowmelt, and runoff tied to coastal storms [in the Northeast] are likely to change in the future," the paper concludes.


Explore further

What is causing more extreme precipitation in the Northeast?

More information: C. M. Zarzycki, Projecting Changes in Societally Impactful Northeastern U.S. Snowstorms, Geophysical Research Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1029/2018GL079820
Journal information: Geophysical Research Letters

Citation: Major northeastern snowstorms expected to continue with climate change (2019, January 24) retrieved 20 April 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-major-northeastern-snowstorms-climate.html
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User comments

Jan 24, 2019
It is the Human causes that
chaotically increase the violent changes to the Global Climate cycles.

We are responsible for turning normal disasters into abnormal catastrophes.

cue the denierbots...


Jan 24, 2019
snoosebaum
Good link. I keep seeing denier comments with links to Tony Heller (aka Steve Goddard) and his misleading nonsense posts and videos. Thanks for posting a debunking of him. He's notorious for his completely misleading bogus graphs of sea ice, sea level rise and temperature.


Jan 24, 2019
Enjoy, deniers. Buy more snow shovels. Maybe you can shoot the snow with all your guns.

Jan 24, 2019
Enjoy, deniers. Buy more snow shovels. Maybe you can shoot the snow with all your guns.

Da Schitt, the "meat" loving, knob gobbler, brays again.
As his boyfriend pummels the stupid out of his ass, he soils the forum with the shite from between his ears.
Enjoy jackass. Keep braying at the heretics and eating your boyfriend's "meat".
LMAO.

Jan 24, 2019
oh auntieoral, ypu do seem to enjoy exposing your deepest cravings.
Does your pimpdaddy enjoy making you expose your brutalized ass like this?

Jan 24, 2019
All of the predictions have been total failures. Now all they are left with is unfalsifiable claims tied to each weather anomaly.

See I told you so it is snowing or see I told you so there is no snow. They look at last weeks news and write a paper predicting it a month later.

Jan 25, 2019
The general public is being programed every day by the media. Every little bit of weather is called unprecedented. 8 inches of snow is called snowmageddion where in the past this was just considered a normal snow storm. What was once real news has been reduced to click bait'

Jan 25, 2019
There is a huge difference between creating a model that correctly predicts events 10 years in the future and creating a model that purports to explain what happened in the past.

Jan 25, 2019
Ahh, I see now.
missy666. You keep producing all these predictions based on your models of discredited lies.
In order for you to confuse the public.

Thanks for clarifying that for us.

Jan 25, 2019
Enjoy, deniers. Buy more snow shovels. Maybe you can shoot the snow with all your guns.


Many who accept the science on global climate change also support the second amendment to the US Constitution.
They know that firearms are possessed by neither demons to make you do evil nor angels to make you do good but rather are powerful, inanimate machines that can do many things including giving us the ability to procure seasonal food and providing us a means for the defence of self and state.

Jan 25, 2019
There is a huge difference between creating a model that correctly predicts events 10 years in the future and creating a model that purports to explain what happened in the past.


They are actually two sides of the same coin-- the past is our key to the future.

Jan 25, 2019
dudester, I'd be a lot more impressed with your intellect if you had read the entire 2nd Amendment. & in context with the Founding Father's intentions as too who actually should be permitted access to military capable firearms.

By the way, it wasn't you or me!

The simple fact is that the original US & State Constitutions are obsolete & worse, irrelevant to Modern Society.

That is why the trumpsterfire crime family can escape justice for so many years of disregarding the Laws.

Too many Americans are intellectual cowards who refuse to admit to the reality of the present.
& accomplish the hard work to get America up the next rung of social evolution.

Yeah? Well that freezing Time
at the Perfect Moment
for The Perfect Society
is just utter self-delusion.

Jan 26, 2019
"The simple fact is that the original US & State Constitutions are obsolete & worse, irrelevant to Modern Society."

RR how could you possibly be THAT ignorant of world history and government oppression of citizens? Remember when everyone was cheering the socialist wins in Venezuela? If you allow a group of people to modify the constitution at will the powerful will corrupt the process to their advantage and enslave you or your children.

Jan 26, 2019
What a surprise! Weather is to continue in spite of "climate change".

Jan 26, 2019
The brilliance of the US constitution is the fact that people are born with God given rights and all governmental powers are granted to the government by the people. In other countries people are granted rights by the government.

Jan 26, 2019
sorry missy666 nut you are completely lacking in credibility. Neither at history or science or patting out mudpies.

Tou & the rest pf the loons are quisling copperheads & pseudo-science buncoartists, All of you are without honor or honesty or .
accomplishment.

Maybe my dog could teach how to bark at squirrels in a tree?

Jan 28, 2019
LOL After reading the full text of the article - I finally realised by the tone of their explaining how and why - that they (meteorologists) are covering their arse - in case their AGW doomsday scenarios don't unfold as they would like - to keep their credibility intact no matter come what may.

"The study finds that smaller snowstorms that drop a few inches will diminish greatly in number by late century. But the most damaging types of storms along the Eastern Seaboard, which strike every few years or so and cause widespread disruption, will remain about as frequent in a warming world."

Some things just never change!!

Jan 28, 2019
The brilliance of the US constitution is the fact that people are born with God given rights and all governmental powers are granted to the government by the people. In other countries people are granted rights by the government.
says Mr166

Yes indeed - which is what has happened to the poor starving folks in Socialist/Marxist Venezuela. Which is what people like rrwilliejoe would love to see happen in the USA also.

Jan 28, 2019
When the people whose cesspools have been backed up into their yards come for you to hang you up by your ankles over the flooding cesspools good luck getting me to vote against it or even care.

Jan 28, 2019
Well Da perhaps next time they will not buy a house that was built on a marsh.

Jan 28, 2019
@rrwillsj
... if you had read the entire 2nd Amendment. & in context with the Founding Father's intentions as too who actually should be permitted access to military capable firearms
for starters, there is nothing in the 2nd that qualifies the context or changes it's meaning

for two, if we take it into context the founding fathers then we have to understand that *any and all* citizens are militia and required for defence as they lived on the frontier and faced hazards from not only the indigenous population but also the local fauna, be it feral or wild

in point of fact, all citizens joining the militia (or military at all) were required to provide their own rifle, powder and ball (rifle and ammo) which means they most certainly did have "military capable "weapons in civilian hands, including canon, repeaters and rockets

see also: https://legal-dic...mendment

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