The frequency of blizzards is twice as high as it was twenty years ago and it may be linked to sunspotting, a new research from Ball State University suggests.
Jennifer Coleman, a geographer at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, found that ever since the 1990s, the number of record-breaking blizzards has been on the rise. Such storms rose from nine blizzards per year between 1960 and 1994, to nineteen from 1995 to now.
According to Dr. Coleman, there may be two possible explanations: the first one has to do with a phenomenon known as sunspots, and the second one is that there is much better data on blizzards currently.
Sunspots are temporary phenomena that appear on the Sun’s photosphere as dark spots. These are visible from solar telescopes. The sunspots – which occur over regions with intense magnetic activity – can expand and shrink, and measure about 31,000 miles (49,889 km) in diameter.
In the mid-1990s and 2000s, as well as nowadays, the sunspot activity was quite low – which made Dr. Coleman correlate it with greater, more frequent blizzard occurrence. In the Northern Hemisphere, the frequent polar snow storms appear to coincide with periods of minimum sunspot activity, she explained. That being said, sunspots are only a small component in what causes the frequent blizzards.
Brad Anderson, a meteorologist from Lincoln, Nebraska, also said that blizzards take place in cycles (there were many snowstorms in the 1970s but fewer in the 1980s) and that he agrees with Coleman’s view.
Ever since the 1960s, over seven hundred blizzards have occurred in the continental United States, Dr. Coleman found. Three conditions, that have to persist for three hours or more, are required in order for a regular snowstorm to be considered a blizzard. These are: continuous winds of 35 mph (about 56 km/h), heavy or blowing snow, and visibility of one-quarter mile (0.4 km) or less.
The Midwest and the northern Plains are the most affected areas by blizzards that occur outside the traditional season of October to March, as well as blizzards in general, according to Dr. Coleman.
The only states that have never had a blizzard are: Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Even California and Texas have had blizzards, Coleman said.
On the East Coast, the most recent storm has affected about sixty million people. It caused power outages, and transportation had to be cancelled. Although New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., are currently recovering, experts advise people to remain vigilant.
Image Source: radio
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