Climate zones defined in Western New York

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New York is known for its ever changing weather patterns. It seems as though one day it’s 90 and the next it’s snowing. There’s always a lot of variation, but one man is trying to take long term data and find a trend that makes sense.

It’s a study that’s taken years and years to complete. But this past summer, with help from a student, Dr Stephen Vermette of Buffalo State College has completed the first phase of his research. Vermette told News 4, “We just crunched a whole bunch of numbers over the summer, and started producing graphs and maps, looking for trends in the data and patterns in the maps looking at what is happening in regard to climate in western New York.”

For the study they defined western New York by looking at the 8 counties. Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus, and breaking them up into 5 separate climate zones. He shared, “We looked at what controls the climate in western New York. Things like elevation and proximity to the water maybe population density with regard to the heat island effect. Then we superimposed on top of it weather and climate data.”

They did this from the year 1965 to 2016. Over that 51 year time span, they comprised their results. Some were surprising, others were expected. Vermette said, “One thing is that there seems to be a response with temperature. Our temperature seems to be increasing in western New York along the lines of what’s happening in the United States, the average. Another response is you might expect precipitation to be increasing. We’re not seeing that. The trend is flat.”

Vermette says although the trend is flat, there has been a lot more variability in terms of heavy rain or lake effect snow events, These findings will impact each zone in a different way. He elaborated by saying, “Warming temperatures might allow them to grow different varieties of grapes. Or peaches. Places like Atlanta are getting too warm to grow peaches maybe that will come here more so. So there is a lot of potential. It’s not all doom and gloom.”

The next step in his research is to engage the community and to gather support so that he can further research the agricultural and social impacts these climate changes will have, specifically to the 5 different zones he’s created.

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