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Historic Western New York Snowfall

Posted on Nov 23, 2014

The past week has been nothing short of historic in Western New York with crippling and dangerous snowfall beyond what even lifelong residents could have imagined. This lake effect snowfall weather event was the culmination of several factors that allowed Lake Erie’s snow machine to turn on full blast and dump feet of snow in very short periods of time, rivaling some all-time American records. While the final totals need to be examined, assessed and fully vetted, once you pass four, five, six, or seven feet, there is really no number that can do the impact justice. It is a tragedy that so many lives have been lost in the event. Let’s hope human safety and well being improves from here on out.

With all of that said one of the more concerning themes that has come from this event is that it somehow invalidates the reality of climate change on this planet. There are a multitude of issues that alarm me when it comes to such an outlandish implication:

  • This is a lake effect snowfall weather event…”weather”. What is weather? The state or condition of the atmosphere at a given time or place as gauged by a variety of measurements (temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.) The climate is the weather conditions in a given area over the long-term. One day, one week, one month, one season or even one year does not define the climate.
  • I hate to break it to those who wish to deny science but late autumn is certainly a time for the Northeast United States to feel cold air and see significant snowfall. This is a historic lake effect event thanks to a confluence of perfect conditions including an unusually cold air mass, wind direction (perfect for a long fetch over Lake Erie) and subsequent systems passing through the region. It happens! Just not normally at this severe a level.
  • Defining global climate change as invalid because of the weather conditions in, essentially, one’s backyard is very self-centered and reflects a narrow view. Climate change is what is happening on the entire Earth thanks to anthropogenic pollution.
  • We are due to see more extremes in our weather conditions because of climate change with more ferocious storms, wider temperature swings, more wind, more flooding and maybe even areas of our country that are colder for longer periods while other places (we conveniently ignore) are far warmer than usual. This is another reason our backyards are never accurate indicators of the planet’s rising temperature.

How has the rest of the planet been looking in 2014 while our area has felt below-average temperatures and been buried in above-average snowfall?


Apart from the southern tip of South America and a section of the North Atlantic nearly the entirety of the planet was warmer than average, some much so, and many at record levels. How about the previous month…were there any headlines for October?


October in itself was the fourth warmest on record in the United States and the temperature of the Earth was the warmest on land and in water since records began in 1880. That is some frightening perspective on how we have to remember we are only a small part of this beautiful world, and one we must be working to save every single second of every single day. After all that snow we are also looking at a warm-up and the potential for major flooding come Monday as temperatures near or exceed 60 degrees! Be safe.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator