Winter Warming Trends

Calentamiento del Invierno

Jan 4, 2017

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winter trends

Even with a couple of late cold snaps, 2016 will soon be declared the second hottest year on record for the U.S. and the hottest year on record globally. Across most of the continental U.S., winter is the fastest warming season, and is the only season that has seen significant warming in each climate division. While this does not mean that each winter will be warmer than the one before, the overall trend indicates that winters have been getting warmer, on average, over the last 47 years, and will likely continue to do so.

Warmer winters may seem nice at first, but they have major ecological and economic consequences. While warmer weather extends the growing season, it also changes the growing zones while also allowing for the survival of agricultural pests and weeds that normally cannot endure the cold, putting crops more at risk for damage. Warmer winters could also cause some plants to flower earlier, so by the time bees and other pollinators emerge in the spring, their food sources may have already disappeared, causing both bee and plant species to suffer. Winter snowpack, already on the decline, insulates soils for trees, provides water for reservoirs later in the year, and reduces wildfire risk, could disappear if winters continue warming.

In addition, many industries that depend on the cold and the snow could lose millions of dollars. Maple syrup production is reliant on cold snaps in the winter, so warmer winters could mean less syrup. And without snow or cold weather, ski resorts and cold winter clothing demand will also be down.

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