Global Warming Bringing More Oddball Winter Weather

Peculiar winter weather includes more heavy snowfalls, disruptions to local economies – map of recent oddball weather events reflects trends of what’s expected in years ahead

01-28-2010 // Aileo Weinmann
Man with snow blower

Global warming is having a seemingly peculiar effect on winter weather in the northern United States, detailed in a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

“Oddball winter weather is yet another sign of how uncontrolled carbon pollution amounts to an unchecked experiment on people and nature,” said Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist, National Wildlife Federation. “While global warming means shorter, milder winters on average, some snowbelt areas will see more heavy snowfall events. Disruptions to tourism and recreation economies will become increasingly common – for example to skiing and ice fishing that depend on predictable conditions.”

To explain the bigger picture and provide recommendations for how to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, Oddball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern Unites States details how: 

  • Global warming will bring more oddball winter weather.
  • Milder winters disrupt ecosystems in some surprising ways. 
  • Large economic uncertainty and potential losses are in store for many communities.
  • Natural habitats and agriculture are vulnerable to changing winter weather. 
  • We can reduce the severity of future oddball winter weather and its impacts.

More oddball winter weather is terrible news for skiers,” said Chip Knight, project coordinator, National Wildlife Federation and former Olympic slalom skier. “The mountain snow sports that depend on reliable snow conditions provide about $66 billion to our economy -- and the local economies that rely on those dollars are becoming increasingly vulnerable. The extreme efforts necessary to provide snow for the Vancouver Olympics are a startling example of what's at stake.”

From coast to coast, the report details recent oddball winter weather events in regions that are expected to see more of the same if global warming pollution continues unabated.

“We need to take these trends toward more oddball winter weather events into account when planning for snow removal, flood management, and recreation and tourism,” said Dr. Staudt. “We can no longer plan based on the climate we used to have.”

Important steps to reduce the risks include curbing global warming pollution to minimize future oddball winter weather, accounting for greater variability in snow removal and flood management programs, and safeguarding wildlife, fish and habitats from more unpredictable winter weather.

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