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Research shows local ‘winters are trending to be warmer’

How does your garden grow in 21st century Buffalo?

Thirteen days longer than it did 70 years ago.

Research exploring trends in Western New York’s climate shows the first frost of the year occurs on average about 4.1 days later now than it did in 1941 and the last frost comes 8.8 days earlier in the spring than it used to back then, according to a SUNY Buffalo State report.

“Our winters are trending to be warmer,” said Stephen Vermette, a Buffalo State meteorology and climatology professor.

Vermette, who authored the report with student Fred Bloom, revealed the data Saturday at It’s Local! – a daylong, first-of-its-kind local weather conference – held at Buffalo State.

The analysis shows the average annual temperature in Buffalo Niagara has increased 1.7 degrees overall between 1974 and 2014.

That’s on par with a 1.8-degree figure nationwide.

“As temperatures are rising nationwide, they’re also rising in Buffalo,” Vermette said.

Of all of the records set for temperature over the last 30 years, 61 were set for high temperatures, according to the analysis.

An even deeper look into the data reveals that the greatest increases came during the winter and spring months.

Winters are 2.2 degrees warmer on average now. Spring months are 1.9 degrees warmer.

“The warmth seems to be concentrated in the spring and winter months and less so in the summer and fall,” Vermette said.

But summer and fall months got warmer as well – by 1.4 and 0.9 degrees, respectively.

When considering precipitation, trends dating back to World War II suggest it’s been increasing in Buffalo Niagara, Vermette said.

Annual precipitation averages 6.1 inches more now than it did then, including a 10-inch increase in snowfall.

The snow tends to be falling less on “the fringes” of the season during the late fall and spring, according to the analysis.

Despite some notable storms to the contrary – October 2006 and November 2000 and 2014 – Vermette’s data shows annual snowfall averages are down overall during the months of November, April and May but up every month between December and March.

“We’re losing snow on the edges and its accumulating more in the middle,” Vermette said.

Saturday’s conference, modeled after former open houses once held by the National Weather Service, attracted a capacity crowd.

The event also featured presentations by Depew native Tom Niziol – the former meteorologist-in-charge at Buffalo’s National Weather Service who now lives in Atlanta and serves at the winter weather expert for the Weather Channel – and recently retired Channel 4 meteorologist Don Paul.