Nov 19, 2014

Buffalo mega snowstorm tied to climate change?

Buffalo, NY
USA
by
Paul Huttner
,
MPR News
Storm snowfall total forecast in inches, Wednesday November 19. Image: National Weather Service
Storm snowfall total forecast in inches, Wednesday November 19. Image: National Weather Service

Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive. How can you have more snow, earlier in the season with a warming climate?

An oversimplified explanation goes like this.

  • Warmer climate = warmer water in Lake Erie
  • Arctic warming = a wavier jet stream pushing unseasonably cold arctic air mass into the eastern U.S.
  • Unusually cold air masses and unusually warm lake water temps = extreme temperature contrast of 50 degrees between lake surface and air mass
  • Extreme temperature contrast = more intense lake effect snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per hour with 60-plus inch snowfall totals