Those Awful Warmer Winters

by John McClaughry

An environmental organization called Climate Central, whose board is composed of people from the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the like, released an interesting report on winter temperature increases in the US since 1970. Burlington Vermont led the nation by experiencing a seven degree Fahrenheit average temperature increase over the three winter months.

The accepted science of global warming holds that however caused, the warming effect should be more pronounced in high latitude places, such as Burlington and Minneapolis. The choice of 1970 as the starting point makes the increase seem greater, since back then scientists were worrying about an approaching ice age.

Yes, it has been getting warmer in Vermont. Is that a good thing? Climate Central says “Warming winters may sound nice to some who prefer more moderate temperatures, but milder winters can signal more difficult times for industries that economically depend on cold winters. Tourism and recreation may suffer when mild conditions negatively affect skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.”

OK, let’s look at the tradeoff here. Less fun things like skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing, measured against less fuel needed to heat our homes and businesses, less ice and snow on the roads, a longer growing season and greater food production. And what is the recreational downside of a zero degree winter day replaced with a seven degree above day – still far below freezing?

It looks to me like the winter warming is an overwhelming benefit.

- John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JOHN W SMITH December 21, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Mr McClaughry, you mentioned the “approaching ice age” of the 70’s. I remember this and have been trying to remind people of that doom. There must be some popular sience or other magazines that mention this. Do you have any sources we can quote?

I live in Barnet Vermont


Robin Chesnut-Tangerman December 23, 2017 at 4:37 am

Climate change is not merely a matter of a few degrees warmer or colder, but triggers a cascade of unknown impacts affecting habitat, reproduction cycles, food availability, budding, hibernation, plant and animal migration (like Lyme moving northward), and foliage change, to name just a few. To call winter warming “an overwhelming benefit” is both ignorant and shortsighted. I expect better than that from the EAI.


John McClaughry December 25, 2017 at 3:08 am

Yes, those are valid considerations, but none of them occurred to Climate Central when declaiming against climate change in Burlington.


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