Climatic Change

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 131–139

Catastrophic winter storms: An escalating problem

Article

Abstract

Winter storms are a major weather problem in the USA and their losses have been rapidly increasing. A total of 202 catastrophic winter storms, each causing more than $1 million in damages, occurred during 1949–2003, and their losses totaled $35.2 billion (2003 dollars). Catastrophic winter storms occurred in most parts of the contiguous USA, but were concentrated in the eastern half of the nation where 88% of all storm losses occurred. They were most frequent in the Northeast climate district (95 storms), and were least frequent in the West district (14 catastrophic storms). The annual average number of storms is 3.7 with a 1-year high of 9 storms, and 1 year had no storms. Temporal distributions of storms and their losses exhibited considerable spatial variability across the nation. For example, when storms were very frequent in the Northeast, they were infrequent elsewhere, a result of spatial differences in storm-producing synoptic weather conditions over time. The time distribution of the nation’s 202 storms during 1949–2003 had a sizable downward trend, whereas the nation’s storm losses had a major upward trend for the 55-year period. This increase over time in losses, given the decrease in storm incidences, was a result of significant temporal increases in storm sizes and storm intensities. Increases in storm intensities were small in the northern sections of the nation, but doubled across the southern two-thirds of the nation, reflecting a climatic shift in conditions producing intense winter storms.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Branick ML (1999) A climatology of synoptic winter type weather events in the contiguous U.S. Weather Forecast 12:193–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Call DA (2005) Rethinking snowstorms as snow events. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 86:1783–1793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Changnon D, Changnon SA (1998) Evaluating weather catastrophe data for use in climate change assessments. Clim Change 38:435–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Changnon SA, Changnon D, Karl TR (2006) Temporal and spatial characteristics of snowstorms in the contiguous U.S. J Appl Meteorol Clim 45:1141–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Insurance Information Institute (1988) The 1987–88 property/casualty fact book. Insurance Information Institute, New York, NY, p 39Google Scholar
  6. Kocin PJ, Uccellini LW (1990) Snowstorms along the northeast coast of the U.S.: 1955–1985, meteorological monograph 44. Am Meteorol Soc, Boston, MA, p 280Google Scholar
  7. Kocin PJ, Schumacher PN, Morales RF, Uccellini LW (1995) Overview of the 12–14 March 1993 superstorm. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 76:165–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kocin PJ, Uccellini LW (2004) A snowfall impact scale derived from Northeast storm snowfall distributions. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 85:177–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. National Assessment Synthesis Team (2001) Climate change impacts in the United States: the potential consequences of climate variability and change. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, p 78Google Scholar
  10. National Research Council (1999) The costs of natural disasters: a framework for assessment. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, p 87Google Scholar
  11. Rauber RM, Olthoff CS, Ramamurthy MK, Miller D, Kunkel KE (2001) A synoptic weather pattern and sounding-based climatology of freezing precipitation in the U.S. east of the rocky mountains. J Appl Meteorol 40:1724–1747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Zelinski GA (2002) A classification scheme for winter storms in the eastern and central U.S. with emphasis on Nor’easters. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 83:37–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Changnon ClimatologistMahometUSA

Personalised recommendations