Climate change is disrupting all types of weather patterns. While extreme heat gets most of the attention, winter weather is also changing. The winter of 2022–2023 saw some surprising changes in when and where snowfall occurred.
This map from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows changes in snowfall patterns. It compares snow-covered areas in February 2023 against a 20-year average. Some places in the US experienced as much as 80% more or less snow than in a typical February.
You’ll also notice charts running along the map from north to south and east to west. When combined with the hexbin map, you can easily see hot and cold spots for snow-covered areas.
In general, the Western US saw more snow than usual. The Eastern US experienced the opposite, with significantly less snow. While the Northern US saw lots of variation (particularly in the Northeast), the Southern US hewed closer to expected averages.
Diverging snowfall can have positive and negative impacts. It can lengthen or shorten seasons for winter sports like skiing. It can delay crops and create conditions ripe for spring flooding. In the West, above-average snowfall helped mitigate an extended stretch of extreme drought. But it also created widespread flooding in California’s Central Valley.
Mapping variations in expected patterns helps us quantify how the climate is changing. It provides a historical record and makes it easier to convey the extent of the changes we’re observing.