Research Shows Big Changes Coming In Wisconsin Winters
MADISON, Wis. – Winters later this century could look quite a bit different, according to Michael Notaro, associate director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research in Madison.
Using high-resolution climate projection data developed at the Center, Notaro says we can expect fewer but bigger snowstorms, with wet, heavy snow.
"By the mid-century in particular the frequency of very heavy snowstorms could increase,” he advises. “So we may have in general less total snow, but when it happens it could be occurring as really large events."
Depending on what the carbon emission scenario is by late century, Notaro says we could see anywhere between 21 and 35 fewer inches of snow during a Wisconsin winter.
He sees an increase in total winter precipitation, with more rain than snow, as winters get warmer. Very heavy snowstorms could become more frequent.
"And by the late 21st century a decrease in heavy lake-effect snowstorms across the whole Great Lakes basin,” he says. “That being said, overall lake-effect precipitation is projected to increase but more in the form of lake-effect rain and less lake-effect snow as it gets warmer."
Notaro adds lake-effect snow from Lake Superior probably won't change much, because that region will still be colder than the rest of the Great Lakes Basin.
The scenario of more rain and less snow in winter will impact agriculture in Wisconsin, he stresses. Moisture that enters the soil late in spring will soak in earlier.
"If you have rain instead of snow, it's more instantaneous bursts of moisture into the ground,” Notaro explains. “So by the time you get from spring to summer it's drier.
“So if we go from snow to rain in winter then you're probably going to be encouraging more likely chance of summertime drought conditions - drier soils."
Animals will be affected by this change, Notaro adds. He says less snow in winter will mean deer will be more mobile with less snowpack, and ducks will be more likely to stay longer in the Midwest with milder conditions.