Climate change to bring frequent and intense snowstorms in the future


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

The Northeast has been a target for snowstorms and blizzards in January, and new studies suggest that there will be more intense winter storms expected throughout the region in upcoming decades. 

The Northeast has been subject to extreme storms since 1997. According to The Boston Herald, Boston has experienced seven of its top 10 most intense storms since the late 90’s, including the late January 2022 blizzard. 

“Climate models project places like the Northeast can expect heavy snowstorms to continue to occur through at least mid century,” Michael Rawlins, a UMass Amherst atmospheric scientist, told The Boston Herald.

There has been a four degree increase in temperature in both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States since the late 1800s, according to The Daily Star. This can be attributed to the fact that warm air holds more moisture than cold air. Additional degrees in Fahrenheit can cause air to hold 4% more water vapor, intensifying the water cycle.

While temperature plays a key role in identifying climate trends, researchers say that studying humidity is just as important, according to The Boston Globe. Since 1980, heat and air moisture indicate that global warming is two times greater an issue than previously thought.

“Changes in ocean salinity due to melting ice caps and glaciers alter ocean currents that are directly tied to atmospheric currents, making them less predictable and more intense,” said Lori Mitchener, a lecturer for the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability.

With the water cycle intensifying, all four seasons in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are seeing more precipitation and becoming overall “wetter seasons.” According to The Daily Star, this additional moisture can power extreme weather events. More than 50% of the heaviest precipitation events have taken place in the Northeast within recent decades, more than any U.S. region. 

According to The Daily Star, climate models indicate that the second half of the century may not experience extreme snowfall. Instead, the warming climate will cause more rain to occur.

“Severe storms costing billions in damages will become the rule, not the exception,” said Mitchener.