By Thomas Scott
This winter has yielded some of the most extreme winter in recent memory.
The most recent pressure system, known as Winter Storm Pax created havoc throughout the Southeast from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13.
The Carolinas and Georgia bore the brunt of the damage. According to The Weather Channel, Winter Storm Pax caused 26 deaths. About 22 inches of snow were deposited in the more mountainous parts of North Carolina.
The Northeast also experienced significant snowfall after Winter Storm Quintus swept through the region last weekend, depositing 20 inches of snow in Maine, 10 inches in Massachusetts and 8 inches in Connecticut, according to The Weather Channel.
It is estimated that $50 billion has been lost as a result of the extreme weather.
According to an economist at the University of Maryland, the winter snowfall might end up costing the national economy around $20 billion to $40 billion.
In addition, the Los Angeles Times claimed, “Bad weather was blamed for a 0.4 percent drop in retail sales in January.”
However, since the United States depends overwhelmingly on services, as opposed to the manufacture of goods, losses will potentially be made up quickly. Regardless, CNBC estimates that the total economic impact of the winter weather may be “about 0.3 percentage point[s]” of growth.
In the wider picture, this winter weather also has ramifications for the environment.
In a paper published in Science on Feb. 14, five climatologists argued that climate change has had limited impact on this winter’s weather.
Leading climate scientists John M. Wallace, Isaac M. Held, David W. J. Thompson, Kevin E. Trenberth and John E. Walsh noted that some “have been touting such stretches of extreme cold as evidence that global warming is a hoax.”
Meanwhile, the climatologists acknowledged that “others have been citing them as evidence that global warming is causing a ‘global weirding’ of the weather.”
The climatologists hold a more neutral view, however. According to their publication, the group claims that while the planet will continue to warm over the next 100 years, presenting severe environmental challenges, they consider it “unlikely that those consequences will include more frigid winters.”
The scientists do not discount the need to examine the issue further, stating that “research linking summertime Arctic sea ice with wintertime climate over temperate latitudes deserves a fair hearing,” but that placing it at the center of “public discourse on global warming is inappropriate and a distraction.”
In the long term, climate change may actually yield less snow fall. Since 1957, the amount of snow cover in the northern hemisphere has decreased by one million square miles according to the New York Times.
This trend will have an impact on ski resorts. According to the New York Times, about “two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.” In the Northeastern United States “half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years” due to climate change.
In the Alps however, the situation is more dire. According to the New York Times, the Alps are “warming two to three times faster than the worldwide average.”
In the United States, groups have been formed to advocate for sustainable policies and awareness of the effects of climate change.
Two such organizations are Proctect Our Winters and the National Resource Defense Council, which published a report in 2012 that stated that “[t]he estimated $12.2 billion U.S. winter tourism industry … has already felt the direct impact of decreased winter snowpack and rising average winter temperatures.”
This development ultimately “translates into less snow and fewer people on the slopes.”
The industry has taken a big hit over the past decade. According to the New York Times, from “1999 [to] 2010, low snowfall years cost the industry $1 billion and up to 27,000 jobs.”
The winter tourism sector maintains an estimated 960,000 jobs all across the United States. While parts of the United States have experienced significant snowfall over the past few months, it hardly spells an end to climate change.
And while the economy may have taken a hit due to the recent snowfall, now might not be a bad time to hit the slopes.
It seems like this extra snowy winter, along with its economic impact, will keep climate change in the center of the public discourse.