The Effects of Global Warming

None or almost none.

Not for us anyway.  Like the national debt it’s our children or grandchildren who will suffer.  We prefer to ignore long-term consequences (the popularity of smoking and our national debt are two other examples of this); we’re so damn irrational and so are our policy makers.  When the other shoe finally falls our grandchildren can point their fingers and blame us all they want for their woes and we won’t care because we’ll all be long dead. 

The catch-phrase “Global Warming” makes the problem and any solution hard to grasp.  “Global”, after all, is so big and far away.  It’s too foreign to us, just like the starving millions in Africa.  So I did some digging into what it means just for the Northeast U.S., and extrapolated a little to get my arms around what it will mean for Western New York.  An easy-to-read report, put together by the Union for Concerned Scientists (warning:  the Reactionary Right has labeled this group part of the Radical Left) can be found here.

In the Northeast, the least-impact scenarios include an increase in the length of summer – about 10 days  in both directions – and a 25% decrease in winter snowfall.  Average temperatures will go up around 5 degrees and result in around 30 days over 90 and a few days over 100 – this is Virginia weather.  The fact that a hard winter freeze will still occur means that insect and vegetation issues that occur in the South will probably not affect the Northeast.  We won’t get termites and our hardwood trees will still grow.

90 Degree Days in Buffalo, 2100

Around here, Lakes Erie and Ontario will continue to act as moderators in both winter and summer, so this area may see a few more 90-degree days in the summer but not that many more.  Even though we seem to get a lot of snowfall we’re actually in a region that’s sensitive to the Alberta Clippers that help create lake effect snow.  The number of cold air masses from the North are expected to decrease, so it is likely that even though it will take longer for the lake to freeze, the amount of lake-effect snow we get will probably go down.  We will, however, get more lake-effect rain.

Then there’s the “extra energy” problem.  Extra heat in the air means that there is more energy to feed storms; so the weather that we get will likely be more severe.  Wind speeds will probably increase slightly because of added convection.

In summary, that’s about it.  These predictions are all based on current climate models, but we probably won’t experience the drought conditions that are expected in the Southwest or extra-intense hurricanes in the South or even that significantly longer a summer.  Our climate change relative to most of the U.S. will be moderated by the lakes.

Western New York will still be a pleasant place to live, experiencing neither extreme cold or extreme heat.  If anything, I would predict that tourism will go up as Southerners come to Buffalo to escape the heat.

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