RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Not wearing a jacket in early February is nice, but these warmer temperatures can do more than just give us spring fever, it can change the very system we are part of. 

“We have to think about all the components of the ecosystems,” explained Dr. Jennifer Phelan with RTI International. “If you change one component, it trickles down and impacts everything else.”

Dr. Phelan is an environmental scientist with RTI International. She says since the start of the 20th century, the growing season for plants has increased by two weeks. That sounds like a good thing, but there are more complications that come with a longer growing season, one of which is water.

“There might be situations where there isn’t enough water where you actually have extended drought seasons, and your plants aren’t going to be able to grow when there’s more drought,” she explained. “You’re going to have to water them more, and you’re going to have to pay more for water and you’re going to have to start depleting water sources even more to water your plants.”

It’s not just water issues, however. Bugs and other pests can’t die off if the weather is not cold enough.

On top of potentially more pests, there are also memories made decades ago that just aren’t possible to be recaptured with the warmer weather.

“We’ve gone from a time when we could have skated on Pullen Park ponds and now there’s no way we can,” Dr. Phelan says. “That shows that in fact the climate is changing.”

It’s easy to think an increase of a few degrees over the decades doesn’t mean much in terms of climate change, but Dr. Phelan says to think back to that pond at Pullen Park.

“They cannot dispute something that’s experiential” she said. “They cannot dispute that yeah, my grandmother skated on that pond, or my dad skated on that pond, but I never can. That they cannot dispute.”

Something else Dr. Phelan talked about was about the lack of snow. These warmer winters are also leading to less snow in the mountains which has an impact on natural water reservoirs, which can lead to more water woes.