Forecasting Change: Snow patterns shifting in the warming US

Winter is the fastest warming season for most areas in the country

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (Gerry Broome, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Falling snow is not a common sight in Central Florida. It has been more than a decade since the last frozen sleet and graupel fell in Seminole and Orange counties. That happened on the morning of Jan. 9, 2010.

So, if Central Floridians want to see snow, ski in it or build a snowman — it means they must travel.

[TRENDING: Name of teen, charges released in shooting at Seminole High School | 45 years ago this week, snow fell in Central Florida | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

This week on Forecasting Change we look at how snow patterns are shifting in the warmer U.S.

Winter is the fastest-warming season for most areas in the country. For every degree of temperature increase, the atmosphere can hold 4% more water vapor. The extra water vapor leads to heavier precipitation events. Not more snow or rain at usual times, but heavier snow and rainfall totals on wet days.

Warmer air holds more moisture

As our planet warms the number of days with temperatures below 32 degrees is dropping.

Look at the graphics below. They show the pattern of the cold retreating north in the coming decades.

Projected 2080-2099

The retreat of the cold and lack of snow is already happening.

According to research from our media partners at Climate Central, fall snowfall before Dec. 1 has decreased in every region of the country with available data. Snowfall in the spring has decreased in most regions. And, in the West, the lack of snowpack has led to a 30% reduction in snow-derived freshwater since 1955. The long-term drought of the Western U.S. is still a huge current issue.

Keep in mind it is not all about a lack of snow. With the additional abundance of moisture and lakes not freezing over as soon, the lake effect snow of the Great Lakes region has trended more intense when the lake effect does kick in.

So while we worry in Florida about rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes and wild swings in our temperature, across the U.S. the impacts of snow retreating are a huge issue in our changing environment.

About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.