Winter Outlook: How a warmer world is impacting winters in Central New York

Winter Outlook 2021

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR)-You can’t have winter in New York State without snow. It’s like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter. 

We have so much snow that we have a golden snowball award.

People travel hundreds of miles to ski and snowmobile here too. But with our changing climate, that may not be the case in the future.

Do you remember the days when it really looked like winter from December to March? The days when you could play in the snow all of the time because snow was consistently covering the ground? It’s not like that anymore because our planet is warming

Northeast Regional Climate Center Climatologist, Jessica Spaccio says, “I think the biggest impacts in the short term is less of the snow depth so less of the snow cover which does have an impact on our recreation and then as we go farther into the midcentury and late century that’s when we’re really going to start to see that snowfall start to decrease as temperatures continue to warm.”

You may not notice from year to year but look at the long-term trends. Those tell us that we have had more warmth which has led to less overall ice coverage. We see it with Oneida Lake and Lake Ontario.

Spaccio says, “As Lake Ontario stays ice-free and warmer longer, that really helps create that lake effect snowfall that Syracuse tends to get a lot of.” 

While the amount of average snow has gone up in Syracuse, lake effect snow is not guaranteed there. The warmth isn’t the only ingredient for it. The direction of the wind determines if Syracuse gets a foot of snow or if our friend in Redfield does. If you’re not close to a lake at all, you still need your shovel but you’re just not using it as much. 

Spaccio says, “Other places have seen a decrease in their snowfall. And that’s really what we’d expect to see you know as the temperatures do warm. That doesn’t necessarily mean they warm above freezing so we can still see warming temperatures but still get snowfall.

The warm spells in between are what keep it from consistently staying in your backyard and in decades to come, winter as you’ve grown to know it will be much different for the youngest generation.

Spaccio says, “Winter is the season that we’re seeing the most warming in. We’re seeing more warming in winter than in summer and that’s a trend that we expect to continue that the winter warming will continue. Which is really scary because we have so much winter recreation and we need that snow depth for things like snowmobiling and skiing so that is definitely a concern for our area.”   

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