Will the Summer Be Endless by 2100?

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

By Natasha Lasky,

A new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that global warming will drastically alter the seasons, and may cause summers to last at least six months in the Northern Hemisphere by the end of this century.  Meanwhile, winter could last less than two months, with the spring and autumn seasons also cut short.  The impacts of these changes are staggering to consider. It would alter agricultural cycles and animal behavior, like when crops grow and when birds migrate. It will also increase the frequency of hot-weather disasters like heat waves, tropical storms, and wildfires.  Longer, hotter summers would also affect the spread of disease, the researchers wrote.

Why this Matters:  More people in the United States die from heat-related emergencies than all other weather-related hazards. Summers have already been getting hotter and longer — 2020’s summer ranked 4th hottest and in the driest one-third of all summers in the historical record. In California’s Death Valley, a temperature reading in August of last year came in at 130 degrees, perhaps setting a world record for the highest temperature ever observed during the month of August.  Phoenix had four straight months where the high temperature reached 100 degrees this past summer.  It’s already almost unbearable. In order to prepare, we must force ourselves to imagine what that will be like in 80 more years. 

Turning Up The Heat

The study’s authors analyzed historical daily temperatures from 1952 to 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere in order to find when the seasons changed each year. They found that, on average, summers (months with hottest 25% of temperatures) got longer, while winter (months with the coldest 25% of temperatures) got shorter by about three days. Meanwhile, both seasons got much warmer. 

The researchers then created models to see what the future holds. They found that if we can’t curb climate change, spring and summer will start a month earlier in 20100 than in 2011, while fall and winter will start half a month later, leaving the Northern Hemisphere spending over half the year in summer. 

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