IT DOES seem that every time some earnest group puts out a report on the dangers of global warming, there's a 2-foot snowfall somewhere the next day.
Turns out, there's an explanation for the seemingly regular appearance of once-in-50-year storms, one that, like most things having to do with climate change, is slightly ominous.
Experts say that long-term we are likely to see more giant blizzards but less snow overall, and the reason is that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, meaning more monsoon-like rains in the summer and more blizzards in the winter.
The Associated Press says a forthcoming study documents that there were twice as many extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the 60 years before that.
Americans now on Social Security have to be somewhat disillusioned. Their parents' stories of enduring worse winters and regularly trudging to school through 18 inches of snow are statistically incorrect.
The Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that this January saw the sixth-widest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere but that the cover wasn't as deep as previous snows.
Otherwise, says the lab, the snow cover has shrunk by around 1 million square miles in the last 45 years. And it predicts parts of the United States are likely to see their annual snowfalls drop between 30 precent and 70 percent by the end of the century.
There has been little snow this winter in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri, although the region is expected to receive a healthy dose today, a month before the official end to winter. Memories of the 22-inch blizzard two years ago this month remain vivid.
The AP quoted one scientist as saying: "Short snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch. That's the new world we live in."
People in snowy climes used to debate whether they would like the snow evenly distributed over the three months of winter or to get it over with all at once, even if it meant burying their city under 3 feet of snow with the associated school closings, treacherous commutes and endless shoveling.
Mother Nature has apparently made that choice for us.