Unraveling Climate Change’s Link to Extreme Winter Storms

But many scientists say that while there is some evidence to suggest that Arctic warming weakens jet currents, there is little basis to support the notion that this creates Ripple pattern allows polar vortex to roam. And at least research found that short-term trends of wavy jet streams and polar vortex excursions in the 1990s and 2000s spurred the development of the idea that Arctic warming affects polar vortex, did not continue.

Research on this topic is ongoing.

“We’ve figured out several aspects of this question,” said Steve Vavrus, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin and author of a study. paper 2020 reviewed the current understanding of the subject in a paper several years ago. “I think we’ll continue to do so in the coming years as more and more people study it.”

Outside the Arctic, warmer winters have more certain effects. For example, higher winter temperatures in the western United States have increased the viability of tree-destroying insects such as pine beetles, contributing to mass forest deaths. Warming also means more rain falls instead of snow, reducing the winter snow cover that in many areas is so important to water supplies.

However, when it’s cold enough for snow instead of rain — as in many places during recent storms — more snow can fall. That’s because the air can hold more moisture when it’s warmer. It’s the cold weather version of why precipitation is becoming more extreme in many parts of the world.

While it’s difficult to tell if this storm generally got more snow than it would have without human-caused climate change, in some areas the total snowfall is off the charts. The local National Weather Service office said Buffalo received more than 22 inches of snow on Friday, a record.

Buffalo is located in an area of ​​the country that is affected by the “lake effect” snow, which occurs when cold, dry air blows over water (in Buffalo’s case, Lake Erie), absorbs moisture, and then dumps it in the form of snow. snow when it hits the ground. Lake effect snow occurs when water is not frozen. And in general, the larger the temperature difference between the air and the water, the greater the effect.


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