Really? W/ Liam Healy: Winter is Changing in West Virginia


BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The seasons come and go every year, marked by changes in temperature and weather… as well as holidays, school years, and other life events. But if you ask someone, are the seasons the same as they remember when they were younger? Many will say no. For most, it’s one particular season that’s changed the greatest in their eyes.

That season is Winter. With many claiming it changed greatly since they either moved here or when compared to their childhood.

No other season even came close on Facebook or Twitter. Many were vocal in the comments section about specifically how Winter changed. A majority of the comments focused in on how much milder the weather seems during Winter, and of course the lack of snowfall:

“Born and raised in southern WV. The winters aren’t as snowy or cold as when I was younger. I remember wading snow and subzero temperatures every year. We had to prepare for them. Now, winter is much milder overall.”

Tena Smith (Facebook)

Some even went as far to offer their opinion on why Winter and the other seasons just don’t seem the same any more:

“We are in climate change. Say what you want.”

Loretta Cooper-Lilly (Facebook)

In the end, most people were right. Winter got milder across West Virginia because of climate change. In fact, the average temperature during the winter months (Dec. to Feb.) increased the fastest and most out of any other season in the state, rising an alarming 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit from 1970 to 2019.

Data: NOAA/NCEI Climate at a Glance
Image Courtesy: Climate Central

So far, the science and the records we have fall in line with what many already know. Wintertime temperatures changed with it not as cold as it used to be. That’s not to say it can’t get cold any more.

The 2009-10 winter was ranked as the eighth coldest winter on record at Beckley with an average temperature of 27.9 degrees. It also went down as the snowiest winter on record, with 134.1 inches of snow, 34 more than the second snowiest season in 1995-96.

The other part of winter mentioned profusely was snow and how “we don’t see as much as we used to.” For some parts of the state, it is true. Places like Charleston, Clarksburg, and Huntington don’t see as much snow. In fact, all three of those cities are seeing about 10 less inches of winter snow than they did in 1970.

For southern West Virginia though, it’s a different story. Since 1970, Bluefield saw an increase in their average snowfall of almost 12 inches. While Beckley saw a small decline in average snowfall since 1970, the difference is only by 3 inches, which isn’t as significant as other areas.

Overall, the public opinion is right. Out of the four seasons in West Virginia, winter changed the most, in some aspects. However, it didn’t change in all ways people thought. Winter is getting warmer statewide, but not everywhere is seeing less snow. The short answer for why? Climate change causes extremes at both ends of the spectrum.

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