Jan 13, 2020

New England Will See More ‘Winter Heat Waves’ As Climate Warms, Scientists Say

New England
Annie Ropeik
melting warm
NHPR's membership director Genevieve Andress kayaked on the Nashua River amid record warmth Sunday. Credit: GENEVIEVE ANDRESS, NHPR

Signals Summary: Climate change is increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of extreme heat and heat waves, and is leading to more heat records in every season, including winter. 

Article Excerpt: Scientists say winter warm spells – like the one the Northeast saw this past weekend – are in line with predictions for climate change.

Nearly every New Hampshire city and many in surrounding states set daily high temperature records on Saturday and Sunday, with peak warmth in the high 60s.

"New England's a warming hotspot,” says UNH research assistant professor Elizabeth Burakowski. “We're seeing warmer winters, we're seeing less snow, and having these events doesn't necessarily bode well for the future."

She says recent studies find that these heat waves are starting to happen year round.


Burakowski says the region's snowpack took a big hit in this weekend's rain and record warmth, which she calls "winter whiplash."

The melted snow exposed bare ground that absorbs more of the sun's energy, causing more warming and release of stored-up carbon, according to another recent study.