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What Winter Will Be Like In 100 Years


One of the upsides to the seemingly endless winter of 2014 was that you had time to think.

And to ask futuristic questions, such as: What will the American Winter of 2114 be like?

Here are some of the answers.

Milder: In the midst of the Sochi Olympics, the New York Times posted a wake-up piece about the future of snow skiing. According to the article's author, Porter Fox — an editor at Powder magazine and author of Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow -- climate change will not put an end to winter in the U.S., but it will significantly alter the way winter looks and feels. "The planet is getting hotter," he wrote. "Since 1970, the rate of winter warming per decade in the United States has been triple the rate of the previous 75 years, with the strongest trends in the Northern regions of the country. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000."

The American West, Porter added, "will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen."

Wilder: Also in February, a group of scientists presented a study at the 2014 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science showing that the behavior of the jet stream — and weather patterns — may be changing. "The meandering jet stream," according to a BBC report on the findings, has accounted for "the bitter winter weather in the U.S. Midwest remaining longer than it otherwise would have."

Researcher Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University told the BBC, "We can expect more of the same, and we can expect it to happen more frequently."

Wetter In Some Places: "A few cities will be gone ... cities that are at or below current sea levels," says futurist Rebecca Ryan of NEXT Generation Consulting in Madison, Wis.

Drier In Others: And some regions will be warring over water, Rebecca says. "Texas and Oklahoma are already fighting mightily."

Somewhat The Same: Jim Fleming, a weather historian and professor of science, technology and society at Colby College, is pretty philosophical about the question. "As was the case 100 years ago, in 1914," he says. "I expect technology and society to have changed more than climate. With more people living in cities, we could have more transportation shutdowns when storms hit."

He says, "If people are willing to make robust investments in resilience to severe weather, it will make the biggest difference in lives saved and damage averted. Snow will still exist in 2114 — how's that for a bold forecast?"

And when it comes to painting a portrait of the American Winter of 2114, Jim says: "I expect a snowy, picturesque New England, frozen tundra on the Great Plains, great skiing in the Rockies, dreary in the Rust Belt, balmy in Hawaii and Key West, rainy in the Pacific Northwest, with a dusting of snow on Queen Anne Hill, Seattle."

The Protojournalist: A sandbox for reportorial innovation. @NPRtpj

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.
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