Looking back at 2017 and the early snowfall schedules, the story has undoubtedly been a country divided—with the Eastern half of the country including the Great Lakes and the entire East Coast experiencing heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Erie, PA already known for big annual snowfall totals broke a two-day record for snow this year. The Western U.S., by contrast, has been relatively mild and relatively dry during the early winter season.
It’s kind of the worst of all possible scenarios. More than just skiing and alpine recreation, much of the Western U.S. depends on snow and the resulting snowpack to keep and protect their water supply. The dry conditions have extended even into California which is experiencing devastating wildfires followed by horrific mudslides.
While there are definitely recreation advantages to heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures in the East—from skiing to ice fishing to other winter sports—there also tens of millions of people who are just trying to get to work each day without feeling like they’re risking their lives. Indeed, dozens and dozens of people have already lost their lives to the wintry conditions.
Last year, in 2016, at least the western side of the Rocky Mountains saw a good amount of snowfall. Now, everywhere seems warm and dry. Much of Colorado’s snowpack is once again approaching a dangerously low level.
This type of uncertainty and regional disparities also seem to be happening with increasing frequency. Long-term climate forecasts suggest that global warming is likely to have a mixed effect on winter-like conditions overall, with a high-degree of variability and the potential for monster winter storms also on the rise.