This year, the Nutmeg State has seen a string of abnormal weather patterns. While September ended with a flash flood across Southern Connecticut, October began with a week of sunshine.
Since July, precipitation levels in New Haven have been 50 percent higher than the New England average, and the forecast is calling for an even wetter winter, according to geology and geophysics professor Ronald Smith. New Haven’s eight-and-a-halfmonthlong wet season generally brings three inches of rain a month, but this year it rose to five inches, according to recent reports from the U.S. Geological Survey administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. But the storms that bring the downpours have been alternating with days-long dry spells, making daily forecasting difficult.
Juan Lora, who will join Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics as an assistant professor in 2019, said that global warming could be causing the sporadic weather.
“In general, global warming is known to have an impact on the intensity of extremes and the frequency of extremes,” Lora said.
Lora also added that the extremes of New Haven’s recent weather did not surprise him, as “really rainy and stormy conditions are becoming more common” as a result of climate change. Still, he was surprised that the fluctuations were happening so late into the season.
“What we do know is that climate change is affecting seasonality,” Lora said. “The seasonal patterns of weather that we’re used to are changing. We know that plants are adapting [and] spring is coming earlier … it’s now October, maybe we’re seeing what used to be common earlier [in the year].”
Smith said that the changing weather patterns may have been “just random fluctuations.” While he emphasized that “climate change is definitely occurring, [because we can see] long term trends of global averages,” he was reluctant to claim that global warming was causing the changes in weather in New Haven, even if the two correlate.
According to a 2014 report from the National Climate Assessment, recent population growth in the Northeast could be affecting the changes in weather patterns. Since 1895, temperatures in and around Connecticut have increased by almost two degrees on average, largely due to the rise of metropolises. Since 1958, 70 percent more precipitation has fallen during the heaviest storms than prior to that year.
Smith said that the shifting seasons paired with the residual moisture in the atmosphere could create the perfect conditions for a wet winter in New Haven. Additionally, Smith said that the “greatest potential impact” of global warming Elm City residents might see later this year would be the impact of nor’easters — storms categorized by strong winds from the Northeast. According to Smith, after months of rising temperatures and increasing precipitation, there is a greater probability that such storms will occur in the winter.
Audrey Steinkamp | firstname.lastname@example.org