Winter is coming…but it will likely lose its chill

Nov 26, 2019

Winters are not as cold as they used to be in most of the United States, causing impacts on winter tourism and farming.

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Winters are not as cold as they used to be  in most of the United States, causing impacts on winter tourism and farming.


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KEY CONCEPTS

  • Winter is the fastest warming season across much of the U.S. In the Northeast, for example, winter has warmed three times faster than summer.

  • Climate Central’s analysis of average winter temperatures finds that winters have warmed by almost 3°F on average since 1970 in the contiguous U.S. Of the 242 stations analyzed, 79% (190) have warmed by at least 2°F since 1970. Only seven stations have cooled in this time period. 

  • The top five cities showing the most winter warming are all in the northern U.S.—led by Burlington, Vt. (6.8°F), Concord, N.H. (5.6°F) and Milwaukee, Wis. (5.5°F).

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

POTENTIAL LOCAL STORY ANGLES

How is climate change impacting winter activities and tourism near you?

Protect Our Winters, a non-profit advocacy group concerned with climate change’s effect on winter sports and recreation, published a 2018 economic analysis that contains state-level data. And here are links to national winter sports organizations that have searchable databases to find sources or activities near you:

And if you have a professional hockey team near you, check for local initiatives at NHL Green, the National Hockey League’s sustainability program that aims to lower emissions, conserve water and reduce waste so future generations can continue the tradition of playing hockey outdoors. 

What’s the forecast for winter weather where you live? 

The National Weather Service’s winter outlook predicted warmer average temperatures for many, with wetter conditions in the North, and drought improvement in the Southeast. For more timely bulletins, their Winter Weather Desk provides twice-daily updated forecasts for snow, freezing rain, and other wintry conditions around the country. 

Tools for reporting on winter weather events near you:

Warmer temperatures can make winter storms more complicated, with sleet and freezing rain. Criteria for winter storm watches, advisories, and warnings can vary by region so check out your local National Weather Service office. The NWS also provides helpful information on how to stay safe in winter conditions, wind chill charts, and an explanation of the polar vortex.

LOCAL INTERVIEW IDEAS

The SciLine service, 500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists or climatologists who have expertise on winter conditions in your area.

The American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of all 50 state climatologists

Talk to a local farmer: the USDA maintains directories for farmers and community-supported agriculture (CSA) in your area—just type in your zip code. OR contact the rural development USDA office in your state

NATIONAL INTERVIEW SUGGESTIONS

Sarah Kapnick 
Research Physical Scientist in the Climate Variations and Predictability Group
NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory 
Research interests include understanding snowfall and snowpack variability, predictability, and climate change.
609-452-6548
Sarah.kapnick@noaa.gov

Cameron Wobus, PhD
Earth scientist with expertise in geomorphology, surface and groundwater hydrology, and numerical modeling and data analysis. Lead author: “Projected climate change impacts on skiing and snowmobiling: A case study of the United States”
cwobus@lynkertech.com

Mario Molina*
Executive Director, Protect our Winters
Media contact: Sam Kilgore (sam@protectourwinters.org, 206-310-5393)
*Available for interviews in Spanish and English

HOW WE GOT THE DATA

Local average winter temperatures (December - February) were calculated from 1970 to 2019 using data from the Applied Climate Information System. National trends are compiled from each NCEI climate division.

Displayed trend lines are based on a mathematical linear regression. Climate Central's local analyses include 244 stations. However, for data summaries based on linear trends, only 242 stations are included due to large data gaps in St. Johnsbury, Vt. and Wheeling, W. Va.

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