Nov. 6, 2003 Global warming has had a surprising impact on the Great Lakes region of the U.S. – more snow. A comparative study of snowfall records in and outside of the Great Lakes region indicated a significant increase in snowfall in the Great Lakes region since the 1930s but no such increase in non-Great Lakes areas.
A team of researchers, led by Colgate Associate Professor of Geography Adam Burnett, published the study, “Increasing Great Lake-Effect Snowfall during the Twentieth Century: A Regional Response to Global Warming?” in the November issue of the Journal of Climate.
Syracuse, NY, one of the snowiest cities in the U.S., experienced four of its largest snowfalls on record in the 1990s – the warmest decade in the 20th century, as a result of global warming.
“Recent increases in the water temperature of the Great Lakes are consistent with global warming,” said Burnett. “Such increases widen the gap between water temperature and air temperature – the ideal condition for snowfall.”
The research team compared snowfall records from fifteen weather stations within the Great Lakes region with ten stations at sites outside of the region. Records dating back to 1931 were available for eight of the lake-effect and six of the non-lake-effect areas. Records for the rest of the sample date back to 1950.
“We found a statistically significant increase in snowfall in the lake-effect region since 1931, but no such increase in the non-lake-effect area during the same period,” said Burnett. “This leads us to believe that recent increases in lake-effect snowfall are not the result of changes in regional weather disturbances.”
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