By John Salak –
Waiting for summer to arrive can be a big, deflating drag. Understandably, who wouldn’t want warm weather to last just a little longer each year? For better or worse, that desire may just become a frightening reality by the end of this century.
In fact, AGU, a nonprofit organization, reports that without efforts to halt climate change, summers in the Northern Hemisphere could last nearly six months by 2100. Such a shift away from having four predictable seasons “would likely” have enormous consequences on agriculture, the environment and, in turn, humans.
“Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming,” reported Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography and lead author of the AGU report.
Guan and his team arrived at their conclusions after reviewing climate data over a 60-year period, defining summer as the onset of temperatures in the hottest 25 percent during that time period. Under this model, winter began when temperatures started in the coldest 25 percent. The group’s research discovered that the length of summer increased almost 20 percent to 95 days during this 60-year period, while average winters shrank three days to 73 days. Spring and autumn contracted from 124 to 115 days, and 87 to 82 days, respectively.
AGU’s teams predicts that if these trends continue, winters on average will last less than two months by the year 2100, while spring and autumn will also contract.
“Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks,” Guan said. These changes would lead, for example, to shifts in migration patterns for birds, coupled with changes to flowering patterns for plants that could create mismatches between animals and their food sources.
Changing seasonal patterns could also disrupt agriculture as a result of false springs or late snowstorms harming crops. Longer growing seasons might also generate an increased amount of pollen-induced allegories for human and, perhaps expand the range of disease-carrying insects.
Weather patterns would also be disrupted, creating potentially severe and dangerous events.
“A hotter and longer summer will suffer more frequent and intensified high-temperature events— heatwaves and wildfires,” warned Congwen Zhu, a monsoon researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather and Institute of Climate System. Although not part of the study, Zhu added that warmer, shorter winters may cause instability that leads to cold surges and winter storms similar to what was recently witnessed in Texas and Israel.
AGU’s report also drew commentary from Kent State University climate scientist Scott Sheridan, who noted it is difficult for most people to visualize the impact of a few degrees increase in temperature. “But this is a good overarching starting point for understanding the implications of seasonal change,” he added.
“I think realizing that these changes will force potentially dramatic shifts in seasons probably has a much greater impact on how you perceive what climate change is doing.”