Excluding ski enthusiasts and ice-fisherman, most people embrace the idea of a brief winter with open arms.
After all, who wouldn’t enjoy wearing short-sleeved shirts and flip-flops for most of the year, especially if you happen to live in a region with harsh winters? Like most things in life, however, there can be too much of a good thing.
Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, has analyzed over 120 years of data that indicates winter has been starting later and ending sooner over time in the United States. This data was gathered from around seven hundred weather stations throughout the U.S., and according to Kunkel, although the timing of the first freezes fluctuates in both directions, the overall average has been coming later in the year.
The delay in first freeze appears to have begun around 1980, and has resulted in a seven-day delay in the onset of yearly frost on average. To put this into a greater perspective, the current year witnessed only forty percent of the continental states experiencing a freeze by October 23, versus the expected sixty-five percent during a more “normal” year. Not only has the onset of the freeze season been delayed, but the length of the entire 2016 freeze season contracted by over a month when compared with the winter of 1916.
Some people have good reason to be happy about the shorter freeze periods, which generally lead to longer growing seasons for farmers and horticulturalists. However, certain crops require some cold weather, such as Georgia’s famous peaches. Furthermore, insects and pests are usually kept in check by the colder weather, but now they are able to live longer and reproduce more as a result of accommodating weather. Along similar lines, may of the plants responsible for allergies also have greater opportunities to multiply and flourish.
This ties into a larger, more pronounced concern about global climate change. If the trend of temperatures rising continues unabated, we could eventual face the possibility of rising seas and the annihilation of coastal cities. While most people would love to wear their summer wardrobe year round, the downside to this privilege is unimaginable.
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Science Says Winters are Coming Later, Leaving Faster | Popular Mechanics