A new study has found that a combination of climate change and more frequent and intense snowstorms is more likely to cause major damage to the US than the weather in the wintertime.
A team of researchers led by University of California-Davis professor Peter Gleick found that in the past, warmer temperatures combined with higher snowfalls have led to more frequent, more intense storms in the northern and central United States.
The research was presented at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle.
The team, which included UC Davis professor Peter Seibel and Stanford University research scientist Richard Lichtman, compared weather records from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when snow was more abundant and storms were more frequent.
“We used a climate model that simulated the temperature change in the climate,” Lichtmann said.
“We looked at how much climate change was responsible for these extreme events.”
In a scenario that included more frequent snowfalls, a warmer climate led to an increase in storms in general, the study found.
That increased storm activity meant more damage to roads, buildings and infrastructure, according to the study.
But when the climate cooled down and snowstorms became less frequent, it also meant more snowfall.
“When the climate cools, you can actually have less snowfall, and that actually makes for more severe storms,” Lichmann said, adding that this makes sense because the storms have less time to move through the snow.
“When it’s warm, you get more snow, and when it’s cold, you have less ice,” Lichess said.
“You don’t get as much ice.
You just don’t have as much snowfall.”
The team found that the combination of colder weather and a more intense storm was responsible in the most extreme cases for major damage.
In a scenario in which the warm temperatures and ice reduced the snowfall and allowed the storms to move into deeper, more mountainous terrain, the storms were responsible for the most damage.
In this scenario, Lichtmans team found, the combined effect of warmer temperatures and less ice contributed to more severe weather events, as they caused more damage.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers used weather data from the US Geological Survey to compare weather records dating from 1900 to 1970.
The data was compiled to determine how much the warming and cooling cycles influenced the amount of snowfall in each year.