The “once-in-a-century” blizzard that has blanketed the United States East Coast is one of the completely predictable consequences of climate change. Climate scientists have been predicting big snowfall and big rainstorms for years.
More very large events becoming more common is a consequence of climate change, particularly in the north-eastern USA. The eastern seaboard is the big winner in the “extreme precipitation” sweepstakes dealt out by global warming, with the region seeing the biggest increase in the severity of blizzards or rainstorms across the country.
Such heavy storms have increased by more than 70 per cent in the past six decades, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment report.
Called extreme precipitation, these are the top 1 per cent of blizzards or rainstorms that pack the heftiest punch, threatening sudden floods or paralysing snowdrifts.
The trend has hit all across the US but with less impact in drier regions such as the South-west, which has seen only a 5 per cent increase in such events.
These storms result from a paradox of global warming in which warmer air temperatures mean more moisture is stuffed into clouds. That’s why when it rains or snows it pours harder than ever out of those overstuffed skies.
In New York City, where Monday’s storm is expected to break snowfall records, five of the ten biggest blizzards since 1869 have come since 2003.
The extreme snowfall the USA is experiencing is completely typical of what you would expect to see in a warming climate.