It’s spring in the Midwest. The only problem? It’s midwinter ( )

Winter has gone missing across the Midwest and Great Lakes, and time is running out to find it. Dozens of cities are on track for one of the warmest winters on record, making snow and ice rare commodities.

Several cities are missing feet of snow compared to a typical winter, ice on the Great Lakes is near record-low levels and the springlike temperatures have even spawned rare wintertime severe thunderstorms.

A classic El Niño pattern coupled with the effects of a warming climate are to blame for this “non-winter” winter, said Pete Boulay, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Winter has become the fastest-warming season for nearly 75% of the US and snowfall is declining around the globe as temperatures rise because of human-caused climate change.

Buddahriffic ,

Warmer weather during winter has been an obvious trend for decades now. But this year is different. The last few years, we'd have weeks where the snow would thaw in my area but then it would get cold again because that was happening was a storm was pulling warm air up from the south.

This year, we've had the opposite where the default is warm weather and occasionally a storm brings cold air down from the north.

Now this is the second year of an el Nino, so this hopefully isn't the new average case yet. But this year is really exemplifying how much things have changed since the last second year of El Nino we've had. Not even sure when that was (2012?), but I am sure that I've never seen a winter like this before.

Oh yeah, bringing up 2012 reminds me that we're also at the solar maximum part of the sun's cycle.

RememberTheApollo_ ,

Yep. Got almost no snow for the last few years running, and that sucks. Way more bad bugs in the summer, less maple syrup, etc.

Not good.

Modva ,

Funny observations now will turn into food and water scarcity later. The 1% will be high and dry (at least while they can grow food without an ecosystem), while the rest of us enjoy unimaginable human suffering on a massive scale.

MonsiuerPatEBrown ,

[Thread, post or comment was deleted by the author]

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  • Dkarma ,

    This makes zero sense lol

    MonsiuerPatEBrown ,

    Just to offer this thought: the Roman calendar was very messed up around the time of Julius Caesar. Because of its inaccuracies the seasons would slide around calendar.

    So perhaps along with us destroying the environment and the climate's response it could be our calendar is missing some variable that pushes things around seemingly randomly.

    August27th ,

    This is a flat-earth style take but for the climate.

    our calendar [...] pushes things around

    Is your proposal to find the missing snow by looking at another month then?

    Turun ,

    Indeed, the Julian calendar would shift. That's why we are on the Gregorian calendar now. The fix some few hundred years ago did involve skipping 11 days though!

    numberfour002 ,

    Where I live, our winters are typically like this. It's never been particularly stable, often oscillating between spring-like warm weather, standard cold winter weather, and stretches of extreme arctic blasts.

    What has been unusual is that we haven't had any snow at all so far, not even an ephemeral flurry. We haven't had any wintry weather (i.e. sleet, snow, freezing rain) this winter. And for that to be the case in mid February is definitely unusual. If we go this entire winter with no wintry weather, it will be the first time in my lifetime that I can recall.

    Coincidentally, back in the fall the long term forecasts for this winter were suggesting we would have more wintry weather than normal in this area, since there would be more moisture and more frequently extreme cold events (as well as cooler than normal temps).

    guyrocket , avatar

    What I want to know is is this the new normal? I'll go ahead and assume it is, but I don't see anyone saying that.

    Dark_Arc , avatar

    Yes, climate change models predict the Midwest becoming more comfortable. Don't get me wrong it's still bad overall but the Midwest will likely benefit from its climate change in terms of being a relatively comfortable place to ride the storm.

    Modva ,

    From what I understand, this is a continually escalating situation taking the planet well past habitability. We've tumbled over tipping point.

    Turun ,

    Imagine you have traveled on a high plateau with a beautiful view of the land. Now you are on a downhill trail to the woodland base of said plateau and some lone trees are now growing next to the trail. "Every now and then a big tree blocks my view of the beautiful landscape" you complain. "Should I assume this is the new normal" you wonder. Unbeknownst to you just a bit further the trail will enter the forest.

    Bishma , avatar

    It's been spring in the PNW for weeks. Unless our spring is crazy wet while being cold enough for mountain snow then Oregon, Washington, and BC are just going to be one giant forest fire this summer.

    Drusas ,

    Yup. I've got spring flowers blooming in Seattle.

    vaultdweller013 , avatar

    SoCal checking in, can we have our spring back San Gregornio has enough snowpack.

    jaschen ,

    I live in Taiwan and it hit 90F the other day. I went to the beach today at 24 degrees(75F). We are supposed to get 15C-20C winters. This is not normal.

    ares35 , avatar

    we had a whole week of winter. last week it was 60F. what snow we had is long gone. it should be more like 0F with at least a couple feet of snow on the ground.

    they said 'warm and dry' winter for the upper midwest. they weren't kidding. those extended forecasts don't look promising the rest of the way, either.

    Magister , avatar

    I'm in QC and it's quite incredible this winter, instead of 0F we have 48F, we had 2 snowstorm in a few days early January, nothing since. I've never saw a winter like this, people were wearing shorts this week-end

    doctordevice ,

    It's not as stark of a difference, but in western Washington we've also had a noticeably warm winter. Really just feels like a continuation of fall. Almost the entire winter we've been around 40-50 °F, only had one cold snap that even got down to freezing, into the 20s for 4 days or so.

    uid0gid0 ,

    Last friday it was 60F here in the Detroit area. I took my daughter skiing at one of the local places and you could see the snow melt running down the hill. I saw at least two kids skiing in shorts.

    ininewcrow , avatar

    This warming winter trend just looks like a curiosity now because it is warm when it should be freezing cold right now.

    Wait until July comes around ... it will mean drought and extreme heat. Everyone will pump up air conditioning use and push the electric system to the brink. And water, having enough water, will start becoming something that is harder to find.

    It does not look good.

    ricecake ,

    In other parts of the world water is definitely a concern, but less so in the Midwest and the great lakes region in particular.

    It's the power grid I'm most worried about, since that's probably not going to be too happy about the unusually high continued load.

    agent_flounder , avatar

    Definitely a problem in the arid US states. One of the very few things that worries me about living in Colorado in the coming years.

    jpreston2005 ,

    additionally power substations have become a favorite target of far-right terrorists. With the election looming, there will probably ramp up attacks around that time as well.

    bigMouthCommie , avatar

    >With the election looming, there will probably ramp up attacks around that time as well.

    is there any evidence to support this?

    jpreston2005 ,

    do I have evidence of future acts of terrorism?

    bigMouthCommie , avatar

    while evidence of the future is impossible, surely you're not just guessing. what makes you think that's a reasonable thing to expect?

    jpreston2005 ,
    bigMouthCommie , avatar

    but why would it ramp up around the election? the pieces you cite seem to be lone-wolf attacks with no organization or real plan.

    Transporter_Room_3 , avatar

    Damn, sure have been a lot of "lone wolves" doing things lately...

    ricecake ,

    Likely because elections are politically charged events, and they always drive an increase in politically motivated crimes.

    Given that a preponderance of these recent acts have been from right wing persons, often associated with beliefs that they want to trigger a destabilizing event for society, and that the last election had at least one notable act of right wing violence, it's not unreasonable to predict that this election will be at least as decisive.
    Given that, concern about escalating threats to power infrastructure, with right wing groups have specifically threatened, seems prudent.

    It's not "elections make us hate transformers", but elections cause violence, one of the most violent groups repeatedly and specifically threatens power infrastructure, and this election is going to have more nastiness than usual, most likely.

    bigMouthCommie , avatar

    but this is just all conjecture. there's no specific threat that the FBI is warning about or anything?

    ricecake ,

    The FBI has not issued a specific threat advisory for election driven violence against power infrastructure.

    DHS has issued broad warnings about both infrastructure threats and election threats, and generalized details of specific plots involving each independently.

    Conjecture isn't quite the right word. This isn't forming a conclusion based on incomplete information.
    This is making a prediction based on prior trends.
    B is is correlated with C. A causes B. Therefore A happening should make you anticipate an increase in C.

    bigMouthCommie , avatar

    i'm not trying to be difficult here, i just find that there are a lot of outlandish predictions ("trump is the end of democracy", anyone?) and i just think there should be strong evidence for claims like that. as it is, i wouldn't be surprised if there were no provable right-wing infrastructure attacks this year, but i wouldn't be surprised if there were. it's a cointoss, so saying it's going to happen just can't be justified in my mind.

    ricecake ,

    Except no one said it's "going to". Statements about the future are always probable, and all of the statements in this thread have been probable.

    There's a difference between being evidence based and being willfully blind.
    Multiple intelligence community warnings about rising risk of right wing violence, multiple warnings about said violence targeting infrastructure, and warnings about expectations that violence will increase as we get closer to the elections makes it an extremely small logical step to "maybe those people we think are going to do more stuff will do it in the way that we've noticed they've been doing more often, particularly now that we're approaching a key time for stuff to happen".

    And, for the record, bringing up a president notably associated with a violent mob storming the Capitol building, who recently joked about wanting to be a dictator and promised retribution on reporters and political opponents is not a good way to punctuate your scepticism of a threat.
    Talking about suspending the constitution makes it a bit less "outlandish" to say that the person is a threat to democracy.

    jpreston2005 ,

    don't bother talking to him anymore. @bigmouthcommie is a troll.

    kent_eh ,

    outlandish predictions ("trump is the end of democracy", anyone?)

    On one hand he directly said he would be a dictator.

    On the other hand, he says a lot of things, often contradicting things he said a few days before...

    ininewcrow , avatar

    You'd think but I'm up in Canada near Sudbury Ontario where we are surrounded by lakes and rivers. In many North American cities and towns, they rely on winter snow to replenish drinking water reservoirs in the winter time. That accumulated snow and ice is what drives many of the major rivers and streams and groundwater that fill fresh water reservoirs.

    Northern Alberta is starting to feel the effects of drought because of the lack of snow over the years. Canadian prairie cities and towns are also starting to feel the effects of less snow every year.

    The great lakes are also not a perpetual supply of fresh water. The majority of the water in those lakes are remnants of run off from the last ice age. The water that's used from the lakes by us is mostly run off from the previous winter snow and ice accumulations that drain into the lakes every year. As soon as our usage takes more water than the amount of winter run off, we are starting to drain the lakes. Sure it might take decades or a century to have a huge effect but immediate effects will be having to move facilities further into the lakes as their water levels drop. Also more algae blooms, contaminated water and more water evaporating faster as the weather warms. On a large open surface, thousands of gallons of water evaporate depending on how warm or hot the weather becomes.

    It's a very delicate system of dominos and we've started to tip the scales.

    ricecake ,

    I'm not sure you grasp how big the great lakes are. It's about 200 years for the lakes to drain if they entirely stop getting water from tributaries or rain.

    Also, the meteorology predictions for how climate change will impact the great lakes region is an increase in precipitation, not a decrease. Much of the drop in levels is because more of the water is spending it's time evaporated or as run off returning to the lakes.
    The dynamics at play are complicated. Recently the lakes have been significantly higher than normal and that trend is expected to continue, which creates a whole host of problems.

    There are plenty of ecological impacts of climate change for the great lakes region, but shortage of drinking water isn't one of them here, specifically.

    ininewcrow , avatar

    Good points and I agree ... because I live here just north of the Great Lakes region, yes it is getting wetter but mostly at the wrong time of year. We have about less than half the amount of snow we normally get this year ... last week we saw rain in Sudbury in January because it was so warm, which is insane. Usually we would have mounds of snow piled up everywhere this time of year, the kids in the local school yard in my town normally play on a small snowhill that would rise up to about 20/30 feet by now but there's nothing like that this year. The drop in snow and ice is affecting some small towns and village water supplies. Due to lack of snow, the water freezes deeper into lakes and rivers which can freeze intake lines. Snow is important because it acts like an insulator. When a lake freezes, it freezes the top foot of water and it will continue freezing down if there is nothing on top. The thick layer of snow above the ice becomes an insulator that prevents the cold from driving deeper than it has to. Coupled with less water run off, these reservoirs run lower earlier in the year. And that is just in northern Ontario which makes it feel more like an inconvenience rather than a danger. It's having severe effects in the prairies and especially in Alberta.

    The little bit of lack of water, winter run off and less snow is why our forests are drying up here ... and it was the main reason why we had such big forest fires last year. I drive around several times to visit family and for work around Timmins / Cochrane / North Bay during the summer and last year it was apparent. In the early spring, everything looks barren and dry and it takes about a month for things to bloom. Normally by about June, everything is a lush green everywhere. Last summer, it never went out of that spring phase in many areas ... it just stayed near blooming and barren trees in many places because there was not enough winter run off. There were heavy rains but they all came at the wrong times and sporadically and just barely enough to keep the forests from becoming fire bombs. By July and August, most places had bloomed but it wasn't a lush green and by the time leaves and the bushes started filling out, the weather was turning cold again. All that meant is that the forests were tinder dry and with the lack of snow we have this winter, I'm really worried that this summer will be a bigger forest fire season than last year. Last year our forests were barely able to stay damp enough to keep from becoming fire hazards and we had a good supply of snow the year before ... this year, you can almost say that we had no snow and coupled with the prospect of a warmer summer, it's going to be a very nervous summer for us because the forests are going to be dry again and they will have less supply of water run off than last year. It's not looking good. It's a good thing my old house has asbestos siding.

    The little bit of less snow per winter that we get and the bit of warmer weather we see here may be a nice break from harsh winters but there are a hundred domino effects that will severely affect the lives of everyone everywhere.

    Transporter_Room_3 , avatar

    I live against one of the great lakes and I remember growing up there were certain bridges people avoided for month at a time because the rains could make the creeks surge and flood almost 5ft above the bridge.

    That particular valley hasn't flooded in almost 10 years now. There haven't been any changes to the way water is handled around here either, no widened waterways or dams to open floodgates on. Just.... Not enough water anymore.

    ininewcrow , avatar

    I've got friends and relatives up in James Bay and they haven't been able to open up the winter road properly up there this year. Ten, 20 years ago the winter road season started about a week or two before Christmas and lasted all the way to the first week of April in a good year. Now it realistically only lasts about one month.

    The openings they have for the road up there right now is for light vehicles like cars and trucks. The most important reason to have the ice road is heavy transports and they haven't been able to get them up there yet this year.

    It's a definite sign of unusually warm weather trends.

    kent_eh ,

    water is definitely a concern, but less so in the Midwest and the great lakes region in particular.

    For now, at least.

    poppy , avatar

    Drinking water, maybe. But a large amount of crops are grown in the Midwest and when we have droughts our crop season suffers greatly.

    ricecake ,

    Yup, the shift in rainfall pattern will have much more impact, since it's expected that it's going to shift away from most growing seasons and towards winter and fall.

    I don't know if it's still the case, but I recall that it was predicted that the shift would benefit the wine industry in the more hilly regions, and that's about it.

    queermunist , avatar

    I'm sure by March we'll have another vicious cold snap that kills anything that was tricked into thinking it's spring.

    astanix ,

    Except for the ticks... they were bad last year and I expect them to be worse this year... ugh

    ptz , avatar

    As someone who hates winter, I have been guiltily enjoying the warmth. We only had about a two-week cold snap (aka real winter) a month or so ago. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a good thing.

    mipadaitu ,
    CurlyMoustache , avatar

    You'll miss the climate change transition period when the sea rises, the food and fresh water is almost non existent, and the mass migrations begin 😀

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