Big snowstorms might be few and far between this century as the climate warms, a study released Monday suggests.
Global warming is expected to affect the frequency, intensity and size of snowstorms across much of the USA, according to the study.
“If we do little to mitigate climate change, the winter season will lose much of its punch in the future,” said study lead author Walker Ashley, a Northern Illinois University meteorologist.
“The snow season will start later and end earlier,” Ashley said. “Generally, what we consider an abnormally mild winter now, in terms of the number and intensity of snowstorms, will be the harshest of winters late this century.”
Ashley and his study co-authors looked at computer model simulations of what the climate will be this century to reach their conclusions. "There will be fewer snowstorms, less overall precipitation that falls as snow and almost a complete removal of snow events in the southern tier of the United States," he said.
Milder temperatures would not only reduce the number of snowstorms each year, scientists said, but the warmth would also reduce the size of the snowstorms when they do happen.
Snowstorms in nonwinter months will take the biggest hit, the researchers found, especially in the fall and spring months of October, November and April.
“Major cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston would continue to see snowstorms, but when looking over long climatological time periods, the total number of snowstorms is projected to decrease, especially in portions of the early and late winter,” said study co-author Victor Gensini, also of Northern Illinois University.
The news isn't necessarily all bad, indicating likely decreases in snow-removal and energy budgets. “There could be benefits in some areas, such as for air and road transportation systems,” Ashley said. “But there also could be serious negative consequences, especially for freshwater resource-dependent industries such as agriculture, recreation, refining, manufacturing, power generation and river and lake transport."
The study is probably the first to identify and track individual snowstorm projections of the distant future – from minor snow accumulations, to average winter storms, to crippling blizzards.
The research was published Monday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change.
More on climate change from USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Climate change will reduce big winter snowstorms, study says