Watching the news last night, Diane Sawyer leaned into the camera with a what'll-they-think-of-next expression on her face to introduce a story straight out of Ripley's: Climate change may mean less snowfall but more blizzards. [record scratch sound effect] Say whaaaaat?
Philly.com ran the story with the headline, "Less snow, more blizzards makes sense to scientists." Outlets that ran the Associated Press' story used, "Climate contradiction: Less snow, more blizzards." Now I'm not the smartest person in the world, I'll grant you that, but I find it hard to believe that adult human beings who understand English and have experienced weather are having trouble with this concept.
The AP explains the idea:
A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that's likely to continue with manmade global warming. …
Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink the snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.
"Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature -- warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Increasingly, it seems that we're on that ragged edge."