I’ve lived in Rochester for more than fifty years. I’ve experienced some memorable winter events, including ice storms, wind storms, and blizzards with heavy snowfall. Some of these events occur in March or late in the season, so it isn’t over until the flowers bloom.
Those who track weather patterns over time can definitively say that the Great Lakes’ temperature and wind direction has the greatest impact on who gets what amount of snow. Climate watchers will say that we are currently in a La Nina pattern but can’t say with any confidence just how much influence that has on our local weather patterns.
But, if you look at how the Jetstream has flowed for the past several seasons, there is a significant change in its’ shape. This “new” pattern tends to bring warmer, moist weather up from the Gulf and along the East coast. The demarcation line appears to run at a diagonal from roughly Texas up to Maine, with an area around Syracuse being a dividing line. Throughout the year, the Eastern side of the line allows more intense weather to prevail.
The Great Lakes remain unfrozen and relatively warm. Still, the winds that usually fire up significant snow accumulation haven’t come from a direction enabling big snow to fall in the regions usually downwind of Lake Ontario.
I’ve also noticed that normal changes in seasons aren’t occurring at traditional times of the year. They appear to have shifted by about a month or two, with warmer periods extending through December. The transition to warmer weather is also rather abrupt, without much of a spring.
It’s worth pointing out that climate and weather are different things. Weather is usually observed over relatively short time frames of several days. As we all know, Western NY has many micro-climates (actually mini-weather patterns) caused by several factors.
The climate is a longer-term trend and is usually observed globally. There is no question that what we’ve observed globally is a significant change from historical patterns. I’m convinced that there is Global Climate Change and that human behavior and government decisions cause it. Others may disagree, stating that the changes are natural. No matter the cause, it is prudent to behave as if the changing climate and subsequent dangerous weather patterns are human activity caused. We should invest heavily in zero-emission electric production and increase electric-powered mass transportation.
Otherwise, we will continue to endure changing weather and, in the case of places like the West Coast, communities around the Gulf of Mexico, and Central America, pay the price for our abuse of our planet with severe droughts of long duration followed by deluges and floods. A lack of significant winter snowpack here will eventually have costly consequences for farmers and winter entertainment venues. No matter what, we all need to pay attention to climate and weather because all our futures depend on our actions now.