New parameter better match current climate reality, scientists say
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — After evaluating the latest satellite data from the past few months, the World Meteorological Organization announced April 1 that, starting this year, the official winter season will be shortened by one month, two weeks at either end.
A warming global climate, especially in the Arctic, requires the change in order to keep the seasons in synch with climatological realities, said Manny Fairweather, lead long-range climate analyst for the Geneva-based group.
Instead of beginning Dec. 21, winter will officially start Jan. 6, and instead of ending March 21, it will end two weeks earlier, on March 7.
“It just doesn’t make sense for winter to last for three months anymore,” Fairweather said at an April 1 press conference. “The reality is that we just aren’t seeing winter conditions in December, so we’ve decided to delay the start of the season until January.
“Similarly, we’re seeing crocuses and tulips blooming in late February these days, and it can’t really be winter if the flowers are coming out,” Fairweather said.
Just this past winter, thousands high temperature records were set around the globe during the so-called winter season, even in high-latitude areas that historically have been cold through late April or early May.
“We really hope the public — and especially those people who enjoy snow and cold — will respect our decision. Just because we changed the timing of winter doesn’t mean it won’t be cold sometimes in November,” said Dr. Reuben Graupel, a NOAA scientist who has studied the trend of increasing winter warmth in the U.S.
Graupel said leading scientists hope that the change will give climate researchers more credibility with the public, where doubts about global warming have increased in recent years.