Random Corner - Climate Change: It's Getting Obvious - EdsCave

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Random Corner - Climate Change: It's Getting Obvious

Random Corner

In the past week in the metro Providence area we have seen temperatures range from 70's (F) to single digits.  The Washington Post ran an article claiming that  February has actually been warmer than the average March down around D.C.  Climate change, however, as any good conservative will tell you, is just a scam being perpetrated on the energy industry by those  granola-eating, communist-loving scientists. Or is it merely a  Chinese hoax as is claimed by President Trump?

Two years ago (2015), we saw annual snowfall in excess of 100" near me. This was almost three times the average for the area and it seems like most of it fell in just a few weeks.  The news at the time gleefully reported that many of the biggest snowfalls were in recent years. I got curious - was total snowfall increasing?  So I found some historical data on annual snowfalls around Boston for the past century. Here is what a graph of the raw data looks like:

Nothing jumped out at me here, but if you take 20-year trailing moving averages, and standard deviations of the raw  data, you get the following...

So while the average snowfall hasn't changed all that much, hovering around 40"/year (moving up to 50" in the past 25 or so), the standard deviation has jumped rather dramatically (from ~20" to ~30")  in the past few decades - a 50% increase.  What this means is that while the average snowfall isn't going up all that much, the variation in snowfall from winter-to-winter has increased dramatically.  The current levels of variation show two thirds of recent winters (+/- 1 sigma) having annual snowfalls between 21 and 79 inches. And since I only looked at data up to 2010, this doesn't factor in data from the insane winter we had 2015.  Back around 1970, however,  the equivalent variation range was only 31 to 56 inches.

Some practical consequences of increased snowfall variation are:

  • It makes snow removal planning and budgeting harder for towns and cities.  More budget crises and increased taxes. Not like our local city fathers need any more excuses to raise already oppressive property taxes.

  • Infrastructure wear and tear - The temperature swings we have seen this year have taken their toll on local roads, despite an overall mild weather.  welcome to Pothole City, MA!

  • People who depend on snowfall and actually *like* it such as ski resorts will see more frequent 'bust' years.

  • Ecological effects - Plants, animals and insects respond to winter variations in complex ways. More variation makes for more complex - and more unpredictable outcomes. More bumper years for mosquitos, blackflies & ticks?

  • There will be more winters *I* personally have to shovel more snow. And that just plain sucks!!

The point  is that while we have reached the point where climate change  is starting to become apparent to anyone who has been around for more than a few years and pays any attention to the weather,  some of the consequences will be a lot more troublesome than just seeing future Februaries getting a little warmer.

4 March 2017   

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