by DARIEN LAMEN
(WXIR-Rochester) Rochester has seen more snowfall than any other city in the nation so far this winter. With 59 inches of the white stuff to date, Rochester leads cities like Buffalo, New York; Fargo, North Dakota; even Anchorage, Alaska, by more than a foot.
So does this mean that winter’s got its groove back after several years of milder temperatures?
Meteorologist Sean Sublette says the snowfall could actually be symptomatic of global warming.
"Just because it's snowier doesn't always mean it's colder," Sublette says. For Rochester, "you've got to have cold air coming across the lake to produce snow. And if it's very cold, the lake ices over and you don't get the moisture coming off the lake as much into the atmosphere to produce snow."
Sublette is a meteorologist at Climate Central, a science and communications non-profit in Princeton, New Jersey. Every week, the organization analyzes a different kind of metric in relation to global warming and climate change.
This week it was the length of winter cold snaps. That’s the number of consecutive days where the average temperature stays below normal.
"We've looked at more than 200 cities across the country, and what we've found is over the last 50 years, 95% showed a trend in which these longest winter cold snaps were getting shorter," Sublette says.
For Rochester, the longest winter cold snap is now 5 days shorter than it was half a century ago.
Shorter cold snaps may seem like good news, but Sublette says there are costs associated with the warming trend.
"There's lots of economic costs, when you think about the legacy cold-weather sports, like skiing and snowmobiling," he says.
"You've also got to look at ecological concerns," Sublette adds. "As you have winters that are not quite as intense, you're going to more bugs winter over. And if you have winters that are starting to get too warm, it messes up things like fruit trees which need a good dormant period during the winter to then come back in the spring, flower, and produce fruit."
"We have to look at how we've developed our economy and our society based on the current climate to understand these changes are going to have repercussions," says Sublette.
And that’s to say nothing of what the warming trend will feel like during Rochester's summer months.
DARIEN LAMEN is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can reached at email@example.com