What this weather means

This winter has been the warmest on record at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, but not by much. To date (March 15), the average winter temperature is just 0.2°F higher than the previous record, set in the winter of 2001–2002. The average temperature by March 15 that year was 34.9° F, and the average temperature this year to that date is 35.1°F. Our total snowfall this year has been 27 inches, with 15 of those inches falling in a freak snowstorm at the end of October 2011. We had just 19 inches of snow in the winter of 2001–2002.  

Will all of our winters be like this from now on? Probably not. We should expect some variability in the severity of winters to come, but overall, on average, winters will get warmer. That means that we may have some very cold and snowy winters and we will have some mild winters, with the frequency of mild winters increasing over time. What we know from climate-change research is that the frequency of extreme events will increase, so we can expect more big storms of all sorts, including blizzards, floods, and severe thunderstorms. 


This is an excerpt from an article in this week's issue. For the full story please see the newspaper.