More on the Great Blizzard of 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.57.51 AMThe Blizzard continues. The center of the low pressure system moved to the northeast more than expected, so the maximum snowfall amounts have also moved deeper into New England, and it the storm may end up dropping the largest amounts Downeast, in Maine, rather than around New York and southern New England. Nonetheless maximum snow totals are heading for 20 inches in many areas west of Boston.

Here, I wanted to alert you to a recent study that talks about “Changes in US East Coast Cyclone Dynamics with Climate Change,” which has this abstract:

Previous studies investigating the impacts of climate change on extratropical cyclones have primarily focused on changes in the frequency, intensity, and distribution of these events. Fewer studies have directly investigated changes in the storm-scale dynamics of individual cyclones. Precipitation associated with these events is projected to increase with warming owing to increased atmospheric water vapor content. This presents the potential for enhancement of cyclone intensity through increased lower-tropospheric diabatic potential vorticity generation. This hypothesis is tested using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model to simulate individual wintertime extratropical cyclone events along the United States East Coast in present-day and future thermodynamic environments. Thermodynamic changes derived from an ensemble of GCMs for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) A2 emissions scenario are applied to analyzed initial and lateral boundary conditions of observed strongly developing cyclone events, holding relative humidity constant. The perturbed boundary conditions are then used to drive future simulations of these strongly developing events. Present-to-future changes in the storm-scale dynamics are assessed using Earth-relative and storm-relative compositing. Precipitation increases at a rate slightly less than that dictated by the Clausius–Clapeyron relation with warming. Increases in cyclone intensity are seen in the form of minimum sea level pressure decreases and a strengthened 10-m wind field. Amplification of the low-level jet occurs because of the enhancement of latent heating. Storm-relative potential vorticity diagnostics indicate a strengthening of diabatic potential vorticity near the cyclone center, thus supporting the hypothesis that enhanced latent heat release is responsible for this regional increase in future cyclone intensity.

In short, today’s storm is the sort of storm we expect to see more often with anthropogenic global warming, and in fact, we have already seen such an increase.

At the Washington Post, Chris Mooney has this: Global Warming Could Make Blizzards Worse, in which he discusses this further (though not in reference to the research noted above). He summarizes, “While I wouldn’t call this a very settled scientific area, there are certainly reasons to think that in a warming world, we might get more snowfall, on average, in certain extreme winter storms.”

Here’s a piece on the Ed Show, with Paul Douglas, putting the storm in context.

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9 thoughts on “More on the Great Blizzard of 2015

  1. Hi Greg and all,

    I read you previous post and now this one. I have seen some announcements, but being far on the other side of the Atlantic I am not very familiar with the exact situation. I read this post from Peter Woit from Colombia about the storms [1] which, according to his personal experience does not look that bad at all. So, can someone say some words or provide some links about the current situation with snowfalls and the storm, are the media really exaggerate that much?
    I can see the first graph in this post, but looks like Peter would not agree with it.

    [1] http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=7482

  2. Hi Christopher,

    Thanks a lot for providing the links, those sure help.
    In the meantime I also spoke with a friend from Bloomfield NJ, she says it’s quite fine there.

    Cheers

  3. On this day In January 1985 we got over 13″ of snow with 8″ falling in 24 hours, low temperature for the day was 4 F .
    This is in Tennessee. Since then we seldom get more than 3″

    I can remember driving to work many mornings in snow worse than that in the late 60’s to early 70’s and much deeper snow when I was a youngster in the 50’s and early sixties.

    If I read the other map correctly the Gulf Stream fed waters off Massachusetts are much warmer than the waters further south. How does that work?

    1. There are two things you need to know GY. First, your personal experiences are not even weather, let alone climate! Second, the map is anomalies, not temperature. Now everything should be clear.

  4. “Sea Surface Temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius, or “SST anomalies” for short, are how much temperatures depart from what is normal for that time of year.”
    So there’s more of a departure from “normal” SST off the coast of Mass than along the coastline further south?

    I was remembering the weather here when I was younger and comparing it to weather of recent years. I can’t see that the winters are worse here than they were in the mid 20th century, milder in fact. Of course I don’t live near a sea coast.

    ““While I wouldn’t call this a very settled scientific area, there are certainly reasons to think that in a warming world, we might get more snowfall, on average, in certain extreme winter storms.”
    No sign of that here, but I’ll have to find local records going back beyond 1980 to be sure.
    One thing that’s unusual about my location. Our local weather follows the weather of the Ohio Valley while a few miles to either side the weather can be very different.

    Whether or not that’s germane to a discussion of snow in the NE I felt it worth mentioning.

  5. This site
    http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ohx/?n=calendar
    Gives an idea of how changeable the weather can be in this state.

    If there’s any tendency for more severe Tennessee weather in this century its lost in the extremes of the previous century.

    Some of the more extreme local weather doesn’t seem to have been recorded at all.
    The big flood here with four feet of water in the streets after a all night rain storm of very unusual intensity isn’t mentioned.
    I was a youngster then so it was probably 1960 or earlier.

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