Boston Snow Climate Change Amplified

New England is now experiencing the fifth in a series of worse than average winter storms. So far, Winter has dumped over 60 inches of snow on Boston, and after the present storm, it will probably be possible to say that a total of 60 inches or more have fallen there in just over 2 weeks, according to Paul Douglas, meteorologist and founder of Media Logic Group. Douglas notes "I’ve never seen a SST anomaly of +11.5C, but that’s the case just east of Cape Cod. No wonder Boston is submerged.... Quite amazing, really." As such, Boston has already broken it's 30 day snowfall record going into the latest storm. According to Massachusetts Governor Baker, the region has had enough snow to fill Foxboro Stadium 90 times. That is, of course, a meaningless number for most people, but I can tell you (because I saw Paul McCartney there ... I think a sports team also plays there), that iss a huge stadium and since it has no roof and one can pile the snow quite high, mighty impressive!

The huge amount of snow falling on the region is normal snow amplified in amount by extraordinary sea surface temperatures, supplying more moisture and creating a stronger contrast across cold fonts moving through the region, which together brings more snow. The US National Climate Assessment indicates that there has already been an increase in extreme precipitation in the region, up over 71% in the Northeast, and climate experts predict further change in that direction. And it is costly. According to Climate Nexus, it costs Boston about $300,000 for every inch of snow removal, and a large storm costs the state of Massachusetts about a quarter of a billion dollars.

Severe weather is becoming the new normal.

ADDED: There has been some denialist chatter on twitter suggesting that Paul Douglas, Michael Mann, Chris Mooney, and I got our facts wrong regarding SST temperatures. That chatter involves looking at the sea right next to Cape Cod. When we use the term "Off Cape Cod" when referring to a huge storm system and a subcontinent (northeastern US) we are using Cape Cod, which on the big map is a little hook shaped thing, to orient to that general area of the sea. So the complaints, I'm afraid, are mere yammering and of no consequence. Nonetheless, I did throw together a simple instructional graphic showing the 11C anomaly in relation to "off Cape Cod." Here:

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.44.06 AM

Featured Image Photo Credit: Aviad T via Compfight cc

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GO HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATE See below for update Jonas, (and no, I do not condone naming of storms that are not tropical cyclones) is going to do bad things to the US East Coast and hinterland. Imma let you get back to setting your hair on fire over this storm, but first I want to 'splain…

Tom, coal is only one source of GHG. But yes, the anomalous SST's are pretty much caused by the CO2 increase, and coal is a big factor. Thanks for asking.

Poor Tom, knowledge rejectionist and cherry-picker, carefully one could ever guess what you will say next. 'Sarc'

I just now watched a spooky video from someone who said he believes the excessive amount of snow is something that the scientist in the Oval Office (President Obama) needs to explain away.

He saw some snow, therefore the laws of physics are broken.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

Tom, it took millions of years just to lay down a single seam of coal (CO2). How long does it take to dig that coal out of the ground and pump it (CO2) back into the atmosphere? A million years of CO2 production put back into the atmosphere in a very short time, year after, after year, after year. And what's the upshot? Nothing? I think not.

We are beginning to understand that different aspects of climate change are less like individual tracks of influence but more like dominoes. Take warming of the oceans and methane hydrates for one example. One unthinkable example I might add. Nothing in nature stands alone, everything is connected. Something we learn over and over again. Usually to great cost on our part.

By Richard Chapman (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

Is that the same Tom Harris who "taught" the scam climate denial class at Carleton University a year or so ago?

[Despite my history with Crichton, which was positive (he even funded some of my research, and based one of his books in part on that research project) I don't actually allow links on this blog to denialist sites. My choice to not allow this blog to become a link farm. So, I deleted your link to the anti-climate science page on Michael's "official site." -- gtl]

By Taco Tuesday (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

All of you are basement blogging fascists.....blogs about every snowfall that dumps over a foot of snow and equating it to global warming which is now climate change explained by heat causing more moisture causing more snow. Remember winter, snow was the norm.

By Taco Tuesday (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

Manzo is aping a guy on Twitter who tends to think climate change is not for real. The information reported in this post is accurate, the information reported in the links Manzo provides is misleading and irrelevant.

I'm adding a graphic that I produced to clarify the misleading information the twitter guy is spreading around to the post above.

This is complete nonsense. If high SST were creating much more moisture laden storms, it should be reflected in very high precipitation amounts in Boston. But that isn't the case. The total amount of precipitation in Boston in February so far is only 2.2 inches. So from that 2.2 inches--huge snowfall inches have resulted. You know why? BECAUSE THE AIR HAS BEEN UNUSUALLY COLD DURING THESE STORMS. Boston normally has heavy wet snow. But all of these storms have been cold, with temps in teens and 20's--this creates the so called "fluff factor", meaning very deep snow totals are created from modest total precipitation. This blog is amateur hour.

Jack, Imma let you finish being a meteorologist and all, but first you need to get your facts straight. Boston normally gets about 3.3 or so inches of precipitation in February. For the first 9 days of Feburary it has gotten 2.2. So that is actually a lot. Now you know!

Cold vs warm is a factor, and Boston does often have slush and even rain in the winter, but actually, this storm involved a mixture of warm and cold air that resulted in the large snowfall.

"“Heavy snows mean the temperature is just below freezing, any cooler and the amount would be a lot less,” adds Kevin Trenberth, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Warmer waters off the coast help elevate winter temperatures and contribute to the greater snow amounts. This is how global warming plays a role.”"

You can learn more here:…

Greg Laden: Boston has received 2.2 inches of precipitation in February. This has fallen as snow. The total snow for the month so far is 40 inches. That is an 18;1 ratio for snow to precipitation. That is an unusually high ratio for Boston, where normally it is more like 10:1 during storms with a temperature flirting near 32. Dry powdery snow and cold temperatures is quite rare in Boston and points south along the coast during storms. But that has been the norm this winter. The fact that 2.2 inches is a large % of the normal Feb precipitation isn't the point--of course Boston has received ample precipitation. We are getting a storm every 3 days! The point is what the total precipitation is during these individual storm events--and that has not been unusual at all. but the 18:1 fluff factor is sending snow totals through the roof.

Jack, you suggested that "only 2.2" inches of precip has falling in Boston. I corrected you by pointing out that the average is just over 3 inches, so 2.2 in a couple of storms, falling as snow, is quite a bit. Also, you can go there and play in the snow if you want!

But yes, it may well be that the total snow depth is enhanced by it being lighter than average. That may arise from the particular mix of warm air masses (see above for where that is from) and the Alberta cold (which normally would be more likely to pass to the north).

And, no, the "total precipitation... has not been unusual at all" is at odds with "2.2 out of 3.3 inches in the first nine or ten days fo the month."

Your obvious cherry picking and distortion is obvious.

Well, yes, that is true. February is only a theory.

By Mark Ryan (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

But Mark, gravity is just a theory, too.

So why don't you jump off a building to give us that crucial evidence you require that theories have no reality until "after the fact" events demonstrate their validity?

Or are you somehow certain that theories actually describe reality instead and you'd like to withdraw your assertion?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 10 Feb 2015 #permalink

11C? This happened how fast and we're just hearing about it now? That's a lotta nuklur subs hidden there or something. Lucy got some 'splainin' to do.

Well. Here is 'off' Cape Cod from the 3'rd (more recent data from this particular archive site for that area seems a 'whiteout'):…

But, it would be an 'anomoly' for a given point if the Gulf Stream has meandered a little out of position:…

Is anyone claiming that the Gulf Stream is 11C above 'normal' for itself?

Tim, the observation was made by a nationally respected meteorological team, verified my the world's leading climatologist, passed around to a dozen or so interested observers who were all appropriately impressed, and I made a meme about it. How many times is someone going to point to the sand shoals off Cape Cod in the winter and claim that that has any relevance at all?

Denial. Not just a river in Egypt any more.

Denialists are everywhere. They don't want to give up anything in their life style or sacrifice anything. So with the rePUKEians in power and backed by used teabags and people that think gawd will save them, it will always be an uphill climb to get anything done.
And as someone pointed out even if the climate change is not correct, what is so bad about doing anything to clean up the place and use resources more intelligently???? Most of us do have G'G'G'kids coming along eventually.

I think they also overestimate how much they have to "give up" and don't understand the economic benefits of rebuilding infrastructure.

I'm truly intrigued because last month it was

At present sea surface temperatures are more than 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change.” I would add that the actual anomolies over large areas of the sea where this low pressure system will track are closer to 4 degrees.

So now it is 11C (nearly 20 F; ~12.5 increase since last month). Am I at least correct that they're talking about the Gulf Stream or a pinched-off 'ring' of it? By that, I mean the 'anomaly' is because a Gulf Stream component is sitting where it normally is not.…

^^ I don't know how 'anomalous' that warm patch is but I note that it sits over the 2010 BP spill and that water goes into the gulf stream.

If precipitable water with this storm was not as astounding as one might expect it to be given 20F warmer water, I'd wonder if some of that oil hasn't come up and limiting evaporation there.

The gulf stream is doing something strange. The whole Atlantic is warm. Some of this warm is in extra warm clumps, and some of that has to do with the gulf stream doing something unusual. I know there is a paper coming out on this soon, but I have no idea what it will say, but I'm assured it will be a) interesting and b) related to climate change.

I don't think there's any BP oil from Deepwater Horizons there to speak of.

"" speak of.

Well, It only takes a 'sheen' to limit evaporation (this, alone, would result in increased surface temps). Any ' in situ' verification?

I seem to recall that the particular petroleum effluent from the Macondo site was so neutrally buoyant that it would remain submerged below certain thermocline boundaries of warmer waters until those waters cooled or the 'glop' was biologically/other modified otherwise.

Speaking as someone who has been shoveling this stuff for a nightmarish number of days, I think the event offers a lesson regardless of the exact temperatures 'off Cape Cod'.

What matters to humans is the interaction of the climate system with the 'human system'.

Had there been one one-day storm a week, with equivalent (or even greater) amounts of precip, dry or wet snow, it would be no big deal.

If we were in the lake-effect zone, it would have been no big deal. I've been in those events with totals appreciably more than double this, and everyone managed just fine. (Although I admit I was a bit less than half as old.)

But our infrastructure is 'tuned', much more 'finely' than people realize, to local, typical, conditions. So, the MBTA has not bothered to upgrade trains and switches, and has just enough staff to maintain the system in that typical week between storms. And Boston has just enough heavy equipment to clear the narrow streets following old cowpaths, and the schools have just enough snow days, and I have felt no urgency to get my snowthrower repaired...

The point, which is obvious but needs repeating, is that the scale of energy sloshing around the climate system (even locally) is enormous compared to the amount needed to cause serious damage to human well-being. And changes in patterns are as likely and significant as changes in more obvious metrics.

So, while science demands that we gather and analyze data about monthly average precip, and quibble about the exact ocean temperature, there is simply no rational argument that BAU is going to turn out well. Destabilize the system, even by a 'small' amount showing up as 2C, and we will feel it.


Just to clarify-- "one day storms a week apart cumulatively producing the same or greater total"

Tim, if all the deepwater horizon oil was injected into the gulf stream as it went through the straights of florida, it would be diluted to 0.000000082445% strength in one year.

Having spent winters on Nantucket, where Gulf Stream gyres warm the water and import lost tropical fish more or less annually, I am at once impressed by the 11K midwinter delta T, but underwhelmed by its location- under Sable Island is not quite the same as off Cape Cod.

I think I'll turn on the sst channel at

and watch for a month before I make up my mind.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 12 Feb 2015 #permalink

Russell, if the very warm seas referred to were "under Sable Island" you might have a case.

That is not a map of SST anomalies.

That is a very tiny number, Greg Laden #28. But that would be for equally 'dispersed' oil throughout its volume. I'm considering 'glops' that may have escaped into the bounding Gulf Loop and held together; being slowly swept along in the preserving cold below the current until achieving buoyancy.

Then, it doesn't take all that much greatly reduce surface area by dampening small scale ripples -- This would reduce evaporation/conduction and cause a surface warming.

Oil-on-Water Calming Effect:

The effect is attributed to "Gibbs surface elasticity" of thin films and, to a lesser degree, a reduction of surface tension.…

Tim, meanwhile, the oil is being consumed by bacteria. There wouldn't be much, or any, left by the time it got to the north atlantic.

I am not a scientist, if snow storms blast the coast,
I’m guessing: vampire voodoo? Or lefty, zombie-ghost?

Real science is desperately needed these days!

By christyl rivers (not verified) on 13 Feb 2015 #permalink

I’m guessing: vampire voodoo? Or lefty, zombie-ghost?

Actually, homosexual transvestite communist unicorns.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 13 Feb 2015 #permalink

In reply to by christyl rivers (not verified)

There's always a comeback from the "climate change" people, with a little nugget to keep their religion intact. There is record cold in Boston. Who wants to explain the cold weather? Nobody. Instead, ignore the inconvenient truth, and focus on the moisture in the air. Boston is a seaport on the Atlantic Ocean, there is always plenty of moisture, you don't need to explain how global warming makes Boston humid. What you need to do is stay on topic, why is Boston unseasonably cold?

By karlbmiles (not verified) on 16 Feb 2015 #permalink

Karlbmiles, so far I'm pretty sure you comment is not clear enough to even respond to. Would you like to try again?

Well now Greg, don't go bothering Mr. Harris with facts and what not - he has no experience with such things.

karlbmiles #38

I really don't want to be the guy who "reports from the location" for to this part of the world, but I guess I've already given myself away so let me help you out.

Boston is not 'humid' in the winter; look it up on the National Weather Service site. Maybe compared to the deserts out there where you live?

Storms like we've had do get some enhancement when they move over the ocean, but the energy/moisture originally comes from systems moving from the S or the W intersecting with arctic fronts from the NW.

Now, whether or not one can make a statistical attribution to climate change for any single event or pattern, you can certainly make a logical case that what we have experienced is very consistent with a disrupted and more energetic climate system. Deeper dips in the jet stream are hardly a surprising outcome.

Do you have an alternative model?

karlbmiles #38. "There is record cold in Boston."

Boston’s record low temperature is -18 F, recorded on February 9, 1934. Last night’s low was -3 F.

By Charles Zeller (not verified) on 16 Feb 2015 #permalink

Homer: See, Lisa, looks like tomorrow I'll be shoveling ten feet of global warming.
Lisa: Global warming can cause weather at both extremes, hot and cold.
Homer: I see, so you're saying warming makes it colder. Well aren't you the queen of crazy land. Everything the's opposite of everything.

By RogueElement451 (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink…

This entire post is factually inaccurate. Boston measured the water content of the snow and found it to be only slightly above normal (3.83 vs. 4.83) for the record snowfall.

Thus 4.83" turned into 96" of snow
Were it warm and moist, 4.83 would turn into 48" of snow or less…

Folks are jumping into the soft dry snow from second story windows. If it were caused by warm waters, it would be very wet and very hard.

I wish climate scientists would use science. I guess we can always hope.

FTOP, no, you are simply not correct. The significance of warm seas is not how warm the snow is. The warmer sea surface is important because of the amount of moisture it adds to the atmosphere. How warm/cold sticky/fluffy the snow is when it falls is a matter of what happens at the site of the snow formation, which is potentially hundreds of miles away from where the moisture goes into the air.

For a broader view of the question of anthropogenic global warming and precipitation in the US Northeast, see this:…

Your argument is that AGW is driving increased moisture resulting in more snowfall.

The precipitation data does not show increased moisture.
For the Northeast, it is below normal precipitation for the last 60 days. Just look at precipitation for the last 60 days versus normal:

Northern Maine and Northern New York show drought level conditions. Boston is closer to average.

Are you saying that less precipitation results from more warm moist air?

Analysis of the data shows that this record snow is not driven by increased moisture. If it was too warm to snow, Boston would be having normal or less rain in January and February than average. Record breaking snowfall is being driven by increased COLD.

Providing a link to a broader view that does not reflect conditions over the last 60 days is meaningless. You may as well blame Hurricane Katrina.

The NWS has boston with about 20% more rainfall so far than average this month, 10% more in January. but it was heavily concentrated during the period of larger snow storms. Since we are talking anout snowfall in Boston, that would be the relevant number. Across s. New England things have been about average this winter in totals. The link I provided certainly is relevant to the larger picture. The data you are referring to are not relevant to the question. you are wasting my time go away.

FTOP, you are exactly correct and Greg Laden does not know what he is talking about. The warmists can't find the heat so they are looking at any and all excuses (poor ones) to try to support their failed hypothesis.