Project Winter - How A Changing Climate Is Shaping Future Winters

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 4:16 AM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Winter and colder temperatures are just around the corner, but the season is shaping to look different than it might have just a few decades ago.

Climate scientists like Meteorologist Bob Rauber at the University of Illinois say the changing climate is having a direct impact on winter.

“We know, right now, that in winter time, in general, the Arctic is warming faster than the midlatitudes,” said Rauber.

Evidence for a warming climate can be seen by melting glaciers and a reduction in sea ice across the globe. Signs can also be seen locally here in the Heart of Illinois.

“We’ve seen the reduction in the frequency of strong cold waves,” said Rauber.

Data shows an increase in average temperatures both locally and globally. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, average global temperatures have risen by nearly 2 degrees since 1880. Rauber said if these trends continue, winters will quickly become shorter.

“It’ll also show up as a somewhat earlier Spring and a somewhat later Fall,” said Rauber.

The shift will only become more noticeable as more fuels are burned to meet global population rise. Not only can a changing climate shorten our winter season, it can change the type of weather we see. National Weather Service Lincoln Meteorologist Ed Shimon said such signs are already showing up in summer.

“We are seeing more of an affect at this point in heavy rainfall, heat and drought,” said Shimon.

Winters will be next.

“We are seeing a faster warming of the polar regions than we are at the equatorial regions. So we could see more frequent cold outbreaks,” said Shimon.

While we could see more frequent cold outbreaks, they may not be as strong due to a smaller temperature difference between polar and tropical regions. Differences in the duration and intensity of winter storms are also likely.

While changes can be expected, Shimon says it’s not something that will happen overnight.

“It’s a long range change, climate change is decades,” said Shimon.

You can prepare for the upcoming winter season by downloading the Heart of Illinois ABC News and Weather App which will provide location specific winter weather updates straight to your phone.

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