In an effort to get one step ahead of any head-in-the-sand kook or Wall Street Journal editorialist who plans on using the weekend's record snow in rural New York to debunk global warming, I offer this smart and succinct explanation from a recent HuffPo comment.
It was written in an attempt to spell out why Colorado was experiencing last month's record snows. But as you'll see - the explanation also pretty much predicts this weekend's incredible NY storms (thank you dshwa, hope you're not too buried):
"You get more snow when the air is warmer, not when it's colder. Warm air holds more moisture. In the mountains, when that warm air is forced to rapidly cool (due to being forced by the mountain into a higher elevation) the moisture is squeezed out in to sudden blizzards. Here in NY, we refer to this lovely occurrence as "Lake-effect snow" due to warm air currants sucking moisture out of lakes Ontario and Erie then hitting the Appalachians and dumping three feet of snow on us. The warmer the air that hits the lakes, the more snow we get. This is what you're getting in Denver, the unseasonably warm air over the Pacific is sucking up moisture, hitting the Rockies, and dropping far more snow than usual onto you. Although it seems counter-intuitive, global warming is going to make higher elevation blizzards far worse in the short term, until it gets to the point where the air in the higher elevations isn't cold enough to produce snow, and you'll get flash floods instead. Just something for you to look forward to. But hey, you won't need to shovel the downpour, though you might need a boat..."