What Happened to Winter? Why 2020’s On Track to be the Warmest Winter Ever.
If you live in DC you’re probably like us and have been wondering what the heck happened to winter this year. You’re not alone, according to NBC News,
Additionally, according to NOAA, if the mild conditions in the U.S. persist through February, this could be the country’s warmest winter in recorded history.
What’s Happening: While it’s still too soon to tell how this winter’s balmy weather might relate to climate change, the conditions are being more directly caused by an Arctic weather pattern that is trapping cold air in the polar region. NBC added that scientists are watching this system closely to try to understand whether this winter is an outlier or a preview of what could become more common for the Northern Hemisphere.
Overall, a warming planet is making winters warmer
. As the Washington Post explained
, because of human-induced climate warming, winters like this — characterized by a lack of extreme cold and spotty snowfall — may become the norm this century.
In terms of what’s happening in the DC area, multiple studies have projected that the climate of the Mid-Atlantic region will turn more southern over the coming decades. This means shorter winters with far less bite. From a practical standpoint, you may find yourself needing heavy coats, scarves and hats far less, and hitting the golf links rather than the ski slopes.
Why This Matters: While winters can be a drag, they’re very important from an ecological standpoint. Below freezing temperatures kill ticks and other insects that carry disease and for Western states that depend on it, snow is a critical part of their water supply.
Additionally, as the National Snow and Ice Data Center explained, seasonal snow is an important part of Earth’s climate system. Snow cover helps regulate the temperature of the Earth’s surface, and once that snow melts, the water helps fill rivers and reservoirs in many regions of the world, especially the western United States.
Warm winters might be more comfortable in the short run, but in the long term, we have to urgently tackle climate change to ensure they don’t turn into something very problematic.