Moment Editorial/Getty Images
Moment Editorial/Getty Images

It's still winter, and it's still terrible. When will climate change make it go away?


Soonish, according to government analysis. But you're probably not going to live long enough to see it.

In 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this map projecting changes in snowfall through the end of the century. The darker colors mean less snow — and as you can see, the Northeast and Pacific Northwest will see snowfall amounts plummet.

noaa snow

"The vast majority of the U.S. experiences snowfall loss, with the greatest percentages occurring in the south, along the eastern coast, and the Pacific Northwest," NOAA says.

This was confirmed this past summer by MIT's Paul Gorman, who found that the average winter-plagued region of the U.S. would experience a 65-percent reduction in average winter snowfall over the course of the century.


There is likely to be a years-long hump over which parts of the U.S., especially those located near large bodies of water, will have to pass through before winter becomes less terrible.


Instead, during this period lake-effect snow is likely to increase. Slate's Eric Holthaus wrote about this a few months ago, but here's the basic idea: Lake-effect snow occurs when cold air passes over warm water.

lake effect chart

As large bodies of water stay warmer for longer thanks to climate change, regular old cold-air winter will still be around — especially while we still have Polar Vortexes, which have also been linked to climate change. This is likely to produce more snow.

So until the air gets warmer, it will still be pretty snowy.

While we may associate "lake effect" snow with the Great Lakes region — and indeed, places like Buffalo and Chicago have seen some epic dumps in recent years — any metro located near a large body of water…like, say, Boston, stands a chance of getting licked. Here is the recent timeline of heavy precipitation events in the U.S.


Mark Monmonier, a professor of geography at Syracuse, summed this all up to The Buffalo News recently:

“The general notion is that, as the climate warms and the lakes hold their warmth longer into the fall, you’re going to see a lot more lake-effect snow until it’s too warm to have much snow."


That is also what New York's official meteorologists said last year in their official climate models for the state per Holthaus.

"By mid-century, lake-effect snow will generally decrease as temperatures below freezing become less frequent," they wrote. But until then, "natural variability is expected to continue."



Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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