On January 22nd, a massive winter storm began dumping snow on the southern and eastern parts of the United States, leaving cities buried in more than a foot of snow. The heavy snow conditions continued into late hours of the night and ended early Sunday morning. Blizzard warnings were in effect for millions of people including those in New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. Airlines cancelled thousands of flights in advance and shoppers have stocked up on essentials, hoping it will last them through the storm.
So what’s with all the snow?
Shouldn’t warming of the climate result in less snow? Not exactly. Global warming is still happening. The overall increase in temperature leads to more evaporation and increases the amount of moisture in the air. This increase in moisture in the air falls down as rain or snow in winters, and is what is responsible for these short but severe winter storms. If we look back in history, on average, “35 percent of snow seasons that produced extreme snow events were warmer than average”, supporting the argument that a warming climate correlates with more severe winter storms.
How do we monitor climate change?
As the rise in climate temperature progresses, sea levels rise. Monitoring of these changes will be done by NASA’s Jason-3 satellite that has just lifted off (Jan 17). It will use microwave energy transmitted towards the oceans as an indication of sea level height. The timing of how long it takes the microwave source to reflect back to Jason-3 will provide information about any changes to the sea level height. At the same time, Jason-3’s exact location will be monitored with a GPS system. This allows us to maintain an “unbroken record” of global sea level changes.
Is there anything we can do?
The more obvious approaches taken to reduce the factors contributing to global warming include implementing the use of more eco-friendly vehicles that limit fuel consumption (or choosing to take public transit altogether), properly insulating our homes to limit the amount of energy used to heat and cool them, and preserving our forests to serve as CO2 absorbers. But can these efforts actually reverse the damage that climate change has caused?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: no. Even with all the above efforts in place, and then some, it can still take up to 1000 years for the environment to return to its preindustrial state. The best we can do is make efforts to prevent further damage to our climate.