Climate Corner: U.S. winters losing their chill

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Last week a report was released placing 2019 as earth’s second hottest year, and the 2010’s as the hottest decade on record. As we have started 2020, Middle Georgia has been in another string of warmer than normal temperatures including record breaking temperatures, like on January 4th, when we hit 81 degrees.

I know sounds crazy to be talking about record heat when we are just starting to exit a pretty extreme cold snap, but this too is part of our climate story. Much of the rest of the US is losing it’s chill, literally.
On average winters are not as cold as they used to be and cold snaps are both shorter and less frequent.
Our partners at Climate Central crunched the numbers and analyzed the number of consecutive winter days below normal across the US. Of the stations analyzed, 96% of the 242 stations experienced shorter cold streaks. The average was a reduction of 5 days. The stations with the greatest loss of cold snaps are Las Vegas with about 18 fewer days and Topeka, KS and Chico, CA both with 13 fewer days.
Here in Macon we saw a reduction of about 2 days of consecutive cold.
While all that might sound good to us here in Middle Georgia there are real world impacts. We have seen an expansion of pest seasons, including mosquito seasons.–I know I personally saw quite a few December and January mosquitoes this season.
Possibly the biggest impact on Middle Georgia is the decrease in chill time for fruit trees. Persistent periods of cold are important for the growth of many fruits, including peaches, which according to Dickey Farms need about 800 or more chill hours.
If the trees don’t get appropriate chill time yields will likely be smaller and we could see higher prices at the grocery store.