Watercooler – Global Warming Makes Major Snowstorms More Likely

As the second blizzard in a week rocks the Mid-Atlantic, many people are thinking that this disproves the theory of global warming. Think again. According to Time Magazine:

There is evidence that climate change could in fact make such massive snowstorms more common, even as the world continues to warm. As meteorologist Jeff Masters points out in his excellent blog at Weather Underground, the two major storms that hit Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., this winter — in December and during the first weekend of February — are already among the 10 heaviest snowfalls those cities have ever recorded. The chance of that happening in the same winter is incredibly unlikely.

But there have been hints that it was coming. The 2009 U.S. Climate Impacts Report found that large-scale cold-weather storm systems have gradually tracked to the north in the U.S. over the past 50 years. While the frequency of storms in the middle latitudes has decreased as the climate has warmed, the intensity of those storms has increased. That’s in part because of global warming — hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of snow. Colder air, by contrast, is drier; if we were in a truly vicious cold snap, we would be unlikely to see heavy snowfall.

It’s a counter-intuitive reality that will have to be explained to the public over and again, because climate change deniers will use any opportunity – valid or not – to make people believe that there’s nothing to be concerned about.

What’s on your mind tonight?

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