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.

  • IninewCrow
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    5 months ago

    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@sh.itjust.works
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      5 months ago

      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.

      • IninewCrow
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        5 months ago

        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@sh.itjust.works
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          5 months ago

          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.

          https://news.agu.org/press-release/great-lakes-levels-are-likely-to-see-continued-rise-in-next-three-decades

          https://www.mtu.edu/greatlakes/research-highlights/climate-change-great-lakes/

          https://glisa.umich.edu/climate-change-in-the-great-lakes-region-references/

          • IninewCrow
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            5 months ago

            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@startrek.website
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          5 months ago

          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
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            5 months ago

            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.

      • jpreston2005@lemmy.world
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        5 months ago

        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.

      • agent_flounder@lemmy.world
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        5 months ago

        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.

      • poppy@lemm.ee
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        5 months ago

        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@sh.itjust.works
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          5 months ago

          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.

      • kent_eh
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        5 months ago

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

        For now, at least.