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Climate Change Plays ‘Big Part’ in New England Blizzards

Climate change is playing a “big part” in the blizzard sweeping parts of New England this week, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth tells Joe Romm at the Climate Progress blog.

“In winter it is cold over the continent,” Trenberth says. “But it is warm over the oceans, and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. With sea surface temperatures more the 2ºF above normal over a 1,000-mile area off the east coast, “water vapour in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change.”

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The northeastern U.S. has already seen a 71% increase in precipitation during “very heavy” storms between 1958 and 2012, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment.

Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace,” Romm notes. “And like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is ‘caused’ by steroids.” He cites Trenberth’s observation that “all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”