Winter Weather Whiplash: Impacts of Meteorological Events Misaligned With Natural and Human Systems in Seasonally Snow-Covered Regions

TitleWinter Weather Whiplash: Impacts of Meteorological Events Misaligned With Natural and Human Systems in Seasonally Snow-Covered Regions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCasson, NJ, Contosta, AR, Burakowski, EA, Campbell, JL, Crandall, MS, Creed, IF, Eimers, MC, Garlick, S, Lutz, DA, Morison, MQ, Morzillo, AT, Nelson, SJ
JournalEarth's Future
Volume7
Issue12
Pagination1434 - 1450
Date Published2019///
ISBN Number2328-4277
Keywordsextreme events, rain-on-snow, socio-ecological systems, weather whiplash
Abstract

“Weather whiplash” is a colloquial phrase for describing an extreme event that includes shifts between two opposing weather conditions. Prior media coverage and research on these types of extremes have largely ignored winter weather events. However, rapid swings in winter weather can result in crossing from frozen to unfrozen conditions, or vice versa; thus, the potential impact of these types of events on coupled human and natural systems may be large. Given rapidly changing winter conditions in seasonally snow-covered regions, there is a pressing need for a deeper understanding of such events and the extent of their impacts to minimize their risks. Here we introduce the concept of winter weather whiplash, defined as a class of extreme event in which a collision of unexpected conditions produces a forceful, rapid, back-and-forth change in winter weather that induces an outsized impact on coupled human and natural systems. Using a series of case studies, we demonstrate that the effects of winter weather whiplash events depend on the natural and human context in which they occur, and discuss how these events may result in the restructuring of social and ecological systems. We use the long-term hydrometeorological record at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, USA to demonstrate quantitative methods for delineating winter weather whiplash events and their biophysical impacts. Ultimately, we argue that robust conceptual and quantitative frameworks for understanding winter weather whiplash events will contribute to the ways in which we mitigate and adapt to winter climate change in vulnerable regions.

URLhttps://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019EF001224
DOI10.1029/2019EF001224
StartPage

1434

EndPage

1450