Salem State Professor to Lecture on Snow Cover and Climate Change


NASA satellite image of snow cover, which helps moderate temperatures by reflecting sunlight back into space. Satellite measurements from the 1960s to the present show a 10 percent decline in annual snow cover.

March 15, 2017

Prof. Stephen Young, a geographer from Salem State University, will return to Quincy on March 15, 2017 to deliver a lecture on his original research into climate change. Cosponsored by Quincy Climate Action Network and the Thomas Crane Public Library, the lecture will take place at 7 p.m. at the library in Quincy Center

Two years ago, Young gave a well-received lecture in Quincy on evidence of climate change in New England. This year, he will lecture on how our warming climate is affecting snow cover in the northeast US and eastern Canada.

Young uses data from satellites to assess the extent of snow cover as well as the temperature of the soil. “Snow cover in the past fifteen years has been going down,” he said in a phone interview. “One potential cause is that excess warmth is causing snow to melt. Another concern is that with less snow cover, less solar energy is being reflected back into space, so that more is absorbed into the earth’s system.” This further accelerates warming, he said, leading to more snow melt, in what scientists call a feedback loop. Northern parts of the planet, according to Young, have been heating up faster than other regions, possibly owing to the loss of snow cover.

The loss of snow cover also affects plants and animals. “Certain life forms live under the snow, and without snow the surface of the earth is much colder,” Young said. Loss of snow cover and the warming climate have also cause a northward migration of deer ticks, spreading Lyme disease.

Climate change will hit Quincy in the form of rising sea levels and heat waves, Young said. “The hotter the climate, the more people die in heat waves, and already more people are dying in heat waves than in tornadoes or hurricanes,” he said, adding that irritability and crime have also been shown to rise with temperatures.

Young has published widely in scholarly journals, including Conservation Biology, Biotropica, and International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research, but his lecture is intended for the general public. He extended a special welcome to students and those who doubt or deny that the climate is changing.