Weather Winter Storm Nemo

Where’s the Global Warming?

As parts of the Northeast are buried under 3 feet of snow, I thought it would be a good time to share why climate change will lead to more ferocious winter storms.

The science behind this is clear: Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the atmosphere, and warmer air holds more water than cooler air. The air’s “water-holding capacity,” in fact, rises about 7 percent with each Celsius degree of warming. This results in air that becomes super-saturated with water, often bringing drenching rainfall followed by flooding or – if it is cold enough – heavy and intense snowfall.

A study of 20th century snowstorms, published in the August 2006 Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology – before the big storms of recent years – found that most major snowstorms in the United States occurred during warmer-than-normal years. The authors predicted that “a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.” [...]

It’s already happened in recent years. Few people will forget the monster snowstorms that walloped the Atlantic states in 2010, most notably a back-to-back punch only days apart in February that broke records in many major cities and, in Washington, D.C., became known as “Snowmageddon.” Rare storms also brought heavy snows to the deep South, including the northwest panhandle of Florida. In fact, by the second week of February, every state but Hawaii had snow on the ground.

The 2010 “Snowmageddon” was the birthplace of my favorite Sean Hannity moment when he pleaded “It’s snowing! In winter! Where’s the global warming?”