Remarking on the First Blizzard of the 2010-2011 Winter Season: My Thoughts in the Middle of a Snow Storm
Previously published on Jan 6, 2011
A fairly tranquil 2010-2011 winter season was underway until a low pressure system off the Atlantic Coast in the beginning of December lead to a series of massive snowstorms in the Great Lakes Region. With the Buffalo, New York area hit hard at first, changing winds resulted in a three day plus thumping that dumped four to five feet of snow in some areas just south of Lake Erie. Although a classic wintry mess amplified by strong winds for places like Crawford County, PA, such a large volume of snow in such a short period of time has not been seen in years.
Beyond the Great Lakes, which suffers from chronic downpours of frozen participation measured in feet until, and if, the Lakes freezes over, this particular winter storm stretched into more than a dozen States, a weather pattern becoming ever more common. In fact, even the Sunshine State managed to receive a troublesome, yet minuscule, accumulation of less than an inch as temperatures fell into the 20's for a period of several days. It is, however, ironic how little snow actually fell outside of a few hard hit key areas, which as usual included this writer's hometown.
Looking back, the 2009-2010 winter season was unusual in that many regions saw by far above average snowfalls; whereas, areas accustom to heavy snows received only a typical seasonal accumulation. The 2008-2009 season, on the other hand, was another story as the Great Lakes region received somewhere around twice the normal snowfall. Had March not so abruptly progressed into a fairly tranquil spring, that season would have surpassed 2000-2001 to have had the greatest seasonal accumulation of snow on record in the Erie area.
While the average person may see these conditions as proof positive that global warming is a myth, the unfortunate reality is that rising average temperatures translate into stronger, more frequent storms, not calmer winters. Not only do warmer water temperatures offer more energy for massive storms to form and sustain themselves in general, the unfrozen Great Lakes allow for more devastating lake effect snow. On a broader global scale, warmer oceans offer greater energy for weather fronts traveling across the continents while they also change how fast and where air masses move. As such, we see climate change, including snowier, colder winters for some regions, along side overall global warming.
Trudging through three plus foot snow dunes, which thankfully compressed from their original volume, and shoveling snow anywhere I might throw it with heavy winds quickly replenishing it, I fondly think back to the 2007-2008 winter when temperatures averaged in the 40's. With temperatures consistently reaching the 90's through the end of summer, I had hopped the 2010-2011 season would be just as merciful. Unfortunately, global warming, especially for my area, appears to be translating into heavier lake effect snow and a consistently lower Jet Stream that pushes brutal artic air into the region. Given Pennsylvania's industrial history, this must nature's version of poetic justice.