If you hated digging out from the 2 feet of snow dumped on the region last week, a local scientist has some unfortunate blizzard projections for you.
Thanks to global warming, heavier and more intense snowstorms are expected to blast the Northeast and Massachusetts in the decades to come.
Seven of Boston’s top 10 biggest snowstorms on record have happened since 1997 after last weekend’s nor’easter pummeled the Bay State. These major storms have hit the region as temperatures climb at a rapid pace.
“These intense snowstorms we’ve seen in recent years are a manifestation of a warming climate,” University of Massachusetts Amherst atmospheric scientist Michael Rawlins told the Herald on Thursday.
“Climate models project places like the Northeast can expect heavy snowstorms to continue to occur through at least the mid-century,” added Rawlins, associate director of the UMass Amherst Climate System Research Center.
The 23.8 inches of snow that fell on Boston last weekend was the seventh largest storm on record for the city.
Two whoppers in 2015 made the Hub’s Top 10 list, as did major snowstorms in 2013, 2005 and 2003; the 28 inches in 2003 was the biggest storm in Boston’s history.
“It’s not surprising to scientists who understand climate dynamics and atmospheric physics that we’re seeing heavier snowstorms and more intense snowstorms occasionally in this region,” Rawlins said.
The scientist explained that as the climate warms, the atmosphere can hold more moisture. As a result, storms that approach the Northeast are capable of holding more moisture — and dumping a whole bunch of heavy snow.
Whenever a massive snowstorm hits, Rawlins noted that some people will question whether the climate is warming. He mentioned how Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe in 2015 brought a snowball on the Senate floor, as the senator claimed that the globe was not warming.
“We often hear folks question the warming climate and climate change whenever we get extreme cold and snow,” Rawlins said. “It’s important that scientists communicate to the public, regarding what types of extreme events are expected as the climate warms. That’s an obligation I take very seriously.”
With the region facing these significant snowstorms, it’s critical that officials take steps to prepare for such intense storms, he added. That includes making sure emergency services can operate and addressing transportation challenges.
“It’s important that we prepare for these storms, just like all the extreme events that are increasing as the climate warms,” Rawlins said.
Rawlins elaborated more on the impact of climate change on snowstorms in an article published in “The Conversation.”