RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Over the last 50 years, winters in the Triangle have warmed by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

This may not seem like much, but Dr. Kenneth Kunkel with North Carolina State University said it’s significant.

“It represents something real happening to our climate system,” he explained. “It’s not just part of the random fluctuations that we would normally experience.”

Here’s the thing, while you might be happy you’re running your heat less, we need these cold months.

Winter slows down pests like ticks and mosquitoes, it’s a time where our water sources “recharge,” and some crops need a certain number of cold days to produce the best yields.

It’s also important to know that warming winters don’t mean extreme cold days are out of the question. Extreme cold will still happen, it just won’t be as frequent, or last as long.

“We’re going to have periods where it’s pretty miserable because it’s going to be cold, but if one looks at the historical records they haven’t been as cold and that’s likely to be the case continuing in the future,” Kundel said.

Warm winters are fairly common in North Carolina, but the way we’re warming now, it’s like nothing we’ve felt before.

“There have been other warm periods in the past,” Kunkel explains. “The 50s were on the warm side, the 1930s the dust bowl era was also warm, but neither of those periods was as warm as what we’ve seen in the most recent decade.”