January , 2023
Blizzard of the century
11:36 am

Saptarshi Deb

Parts of the US have been ravaged by a monster snow storm, which the weathermen are terming as the ‘blizzard of the century.’ The storm that swept across the northern parts of the US over the Christmas holiday weekend has killed at least 60 people in eight states and claimed at least 34 lives in Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo.

The city of Buffalo was buried under four feet of snow and is now slowly returning to normalcy. Power has also been restored to most of the households. The Buffalo International Airport has reopened after days but nearly all flights are delayed or being cancelled. The situation had been so critical that the US National Guards had been pressed into service and were seen going door to door, attempting to help stranded residents in the city of Buffalo. Another threat that is looming large is that with the temperatures rising, the snow will melt and there will be fresh threats of flooding.

Climate Chanege

Average air temperatures have been rising across the world for decades due to global warming. When this happens, the atmosphere holds more water vapour in some locations, increasing the potential for extreme rain and snow events.

According to David Easterling, Chief of the Scientific Services Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, warmer temperatures mean it takes longer for the great lakes to freeze and more open water means more fuel for nature’s snow machine known as lake-effect snow. 

Lake-effect snow forms when narrow bands of clouds form in cold, below-freezing air rushing out of the Arctic and over large lakes, such as Lake Erie and Lake Superior in the Great Lakes in the US.  According to Easterling, “When cold, dry air comes in out of Canada, and crosses an open body of warm water, it evaporates like crazy. Once the system moves over land and slows down, all that moisture becomes precipitation and falls to the ground as snow or rain.”

Weather records show temperatures in New York have risen 2.5 degrees since the beginning of the 20th century and the northern lakes do not freeze as early as they used to. This leads to the lake-effect snow which, according to the weathermen, is an important contributing factor for severe weather conditions.

Collaborating with this assessment, since 1998, Lake Erie has remained mostly ice-free only about a half-dozen times. Lake Ontario’s ice cover has remained below 40% since 2006, except for the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 and researchers report the region has seen some of the largest increases in snowfall in the nation and could continue to see those increases into the future. 

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