Go Green: Where Has All the Snow Gone?

By Tom Last

I had written this article initially during the Martin Luther King weekend but decided to hold off until the aftermath of the possible “snowstorm,” which wasn’t much of a snowstorm after all, but just a mere dusting. The thing with Climate Change is that its effect may not mean “no snow,” but a trending decline of such precipitation over time, as we have seen in the last few decades. So even though we still may have a true snowstorm on occasion, the snowfall levels of the past may well remain in the past.

During the MLK holiday weekend, I took a drive with my wife to Mt. Snow, in Vermont for some fun and recreation. We took our normal driving route along the Van Wyck, over the Whitestone Bridge, and then eventually onto the Taconic State Parkway. Normally, this time of year you would see snow along the road, out in the fields, and high in the mountains. But it wasn’t until we reached Pleasant Valley, in Dutchess County, that we finally saw some scant signs of snow. We didn’t find any real snow accumulation until we crossed over into the state of Vermont, but that snow level was less than the normal amount of snow on the ground at that time of year.

So, where is all the snow this year? Are the low snowfall levels an aberration or will this be a typical weather pattern of the future? Well, according to an in the January 10 edition of The New York Times (1), “The Northeast and Southwest of the United States are among the regions losing snowpack the fastest, along with Europe.” This reduced snowpack should not be a surprise as 2023 was officially the Earth’s hottest year by far in a century and a half. As the Earth continues to warm up due to human activity (e.g., the burning of fossil fuels), expect more rain and less snow in the future.

In the Northeast, snow is less important for water supply, but it is needed for winter recreation, tourism, and culture. The possibility of shuttered ski resorts and limited ski seasons will have a major effect on our economy from upstate New York to Maine.

Throughout the country and especially in the western United States, where snowmelt provides 75 percent of the water supply, less snowfall will mean water shortages and decreases in the amount of water available for people to use in the spring and summer. Decreased snow cover increases the risk of forest fires and a recent study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) predicts large wildfires will become more frequent in Western United States this century.

Melting snow plays a major role in forest ecosystems including seed dispersal, absorption of pollutants, insulation, and hydration of animals and plants. Less snow can lead to habitat loss with less shelter and protection for animals, affect species migration and reproductive activities (e.g., spawning of fish), and increase competition between species and potential disruptions in critical ecological interactions.

Key Takeaway: Most of us like the beauty and surrealness of snow and hope to see it in the future, but we should remember snow also plays an important role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, less snow and less snowmelt will continue to affect human recreational activities and our economy along with continued negative effects on animal and plant life. But reduced snowfall is just one of the many changes we will need to contend with as the planet’s temperature increases. We still have time to act and stop some of the most serious consequences of climate change, but time is running out. Become an environmental advocate and start fighting climate change today.

Remember, there is no Planet B.

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *