RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – You’ve heard this story before: our winters are getting warmer. In fact, in the Raleigh-Durham area, our winters have warmed more than 4°F since 1970.
“The average winter temperature has been warmer than any other period since our records started at least for North Carolina as a whole back in 1895,” explained Dr. Kenneth Kunkel, a research professor at North Carolina State University.
It’s not just the overall winters getting warmer that’s the problem. Our cold snaps are getting shorter, too. A cold snap means a number of days in a row colder than the average high temperature.
Since 1970, across the country, cold snaps are getting shorter by an average of six days. Here in the Triangle, our snaps are shorter by eight days. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you like getting outside, cold snaps can help keep insects at bay.
“There are mosquitoes that are active during the winter as adults,” said Dr. Matt Bertone, the Director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at N.C. State. “They rest while it’s cool, but you get a warm day they’ll come out and start being active again.”
If you pair those shorter cold snaps with our warming winter temperatures and it means less snowpack in the North Carolina mountains. Some crops that need a string of cool days to produce the best yield also won’t get it.
It may be nice running your heat less during the winter, but warmer winters and fewer cold days show this change is not stopping.
“It represents something real happening to our climate system,” Kunkel said. “It’s not just part of the random fluctuations that we would normally experience.”