Another mild winter might be on its way

Experts believe this winter will be mild, but not record-breaking.

Alex Robinson

With the leaves changing colors and beginning to fall, temperatures will soon plummet and bring with them a bitter Minnesota Winter. Or maybe not.

For the past 10 years Minnesota has been experiencing a trend of mild winters, and experts say there’s a good chance for the trend to continue.

The meteorological winter lasts from December to February; this span of three months has been above the average temperature for nine out of the last 10 years.

According to the Post-Bulletin newspaper, Rochester, Minn. set a record in 2006 by having its average temperature rise 4.5 degrees, which was the greatest average increase for any metro area in the country.

While there isn’t one specific reason for the trend, a University professor said there’s more to the temperature increase than Old Man Winter showing his warmer side.

Warmer winters

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac” predicted this year to be the warmest winter in the nation’s history.

Meteorology and climatology professor Mark Seeley, however, said he is not ready to break out the sun-tan lotion just yet.

“I don’t put a lot of credence in the Farmer’s Almanac,” Seeley said.

He said he places more trust in the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, which suggested another milder than normal winter, but not a record-breaking one.

The center made its prediction based on trend analysis and computer models.

While warming and cooling trends naturally occur, a trend this long is extremely rare, Seeley said.

“The mild temperatures of the last 10 winters are unprecedented in Minnesota history,” he said. “You can go back 150 years and not find another like period.”

Global warming

Geology professor David Fox said the 10-year mild trend hasn’t created any immediate geologic impacts; however, the trend is linked to global warming.

“It would be hard to argue that the weather patterns we’ve been seeing here aren’t part of the general pattern of global warming,” Fox said.

Climate change from global warming will alter the type of agriculture, plant growth and the variety of species that live in the state, Fox said.

On a global scale, a warmer climate will melt ice sheets and increase ocean levels, he said.

Over the next few centuries, Fox said, the increased carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere could change the acidity of the ocean and destroy shallow marine environments.

For the past few years the average global temperature has been increasing at a fairly consistent rate. Last year was the warmest year globally in recorded history, Fox said.

What it means for students

Other than lower heating bills and opportunities for winter golf, a mild winter has repercussions for University students.

Some of the largest impacts fall on those involved in winter sports.

Architecture senior Eric McElrath is the president of the alpine ski team and said while they haven’t traded their snow skis for water skis, he has noticed some changes.

The team used to hold a high school race fundraiser in mid-December but they had to permanently cancel it because they didn’t get enough snow.

“In the Midwest we use to ski on real snow but it’s becoming rarer and rarer,” McElrath said. “Now we’re on man-made snow.”

Economics senior Blake Hillerson is the president of the Nordic Ski Club and said last year was probably the worst year for conditions.

Hillerson said he worries that if Minnesota continues to have mild winters people will lose interest in the sport.