The Warmest Winter Registered Raises a Warning About Climate Change

The average temperature during the winter was 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above average. The implications of earlier snowmelt include reduced water availability and increased risk of droughts and wildfires

By Carlos Roa

A report published on March 8th by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that “The U.S. had its warmest winter on record”, opening a new discussion on traceable effects of climate change.

The NOAA highlights that the last meteorological winter had an average temperature of 37.6 degrees F — 5.4 degrees above average. This means that parts of the country barely experienced any winter weather.

The same source explores further into the issue, informing that the average temperature across the contiguous U.S. last month was 41.1 degrees F, 7.2 degrees F above the 20th-century average and ranking as the third-warmest February in NOAA’s 130-year climate record.

“It was also a mild winter with each winter month around or well above its monthly temperature normal, ” as the National Weather Service described.

The AccuWeather forecasting service goes beyond in their assessment of the situation: “The winter that wasn’t” reads their headline. They conclude that every state in the contiguous U.S. had higher-than-average temperatures this winter.

A Warm February

Among the consequences of this historic temperature outcome, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin experienced their highest recorded temperatures for February. Furthermore, an additional 20 states witnessed one of their warmest Februarys, ranking among the top 10 on record.

Also, the persistent warmth of the winter led to a gradual decline in ice coverage across the Great Lakes. On February 11, the ice coverage hit a historic low of 2.7%, marking the lowest recorded amount for mid-February.

Throughout the country’s contiguous territory, February precipitation measured 1.86 inches, falling short of the average by 0.27 of an inch. This placed February 2024 among the driest third of recorded climate data.

Consequences of a Warmer Winter

The National Environmental Education Foundation points out that when snow disappears earlier, it means less water is available for individuals, ecosystems, and agricultural use.

They add, “Droughts, which are expected to become more common in the United States, can destroy crops and grazing land, reduce the quantity and quality of water resources, and increase the risk of fire.”

Other effects of shorter winters according to Climate Central, are longer growing seasons and disruption in the chill that fruit crops depend on, longer allergy seasons, and changes in the patterns of water supplies as they come from ice and snow melting.

The unprecedented warmth observed during the last winter across the contiguous United States serves as a stark warning about the accelerating impacts of climate change.

This underscores the need for global action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate. The ramifications of a warmer winter extend far beyond mere inconvenience, affecting ecosystems, agriculture, water resources, and exacerbating the risk of droughts and wildfires.

As we witness these tangible consequences unfold, it becomes increasingly evident that addressing climate change is imperative for our well-being and that of future generations.

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