Publication Date October 7, 2019

New England winters are on the decline due to climate change, study says

United States
An iconic New England sleigh ride in Stowe, Vermont, in 1997. There may be fewer opportunities for rides like these in the future, thanks to climate change. Photo: Boston Globe

New Englanders may take cold, snowy winters for granted, but those are in jeopardy due to climate change — and that could affect everything from forest ecosystems to human health, researchers say.

Alexandra Contosta, assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Earth Systems Research Center, and her team looked at 100 years of weather station data from forests in the northern United States and Canada, and found that milder winters are having widespread impacts, she said.

The study was published in July in the journal Ecological Applications.

“Our study found two key things: One, we’re losing the cold … and secondly we’re losing snow. And I think this research is really important because it helps us understand how winter conditions are changing on the ground right now,” Contosta said.

The study found that the number of frost days, when minimum temperatures are below freezing, declined by 1.1 days per decade. The number of days it snowed or was cold enough to kill mosquitoes and other bugs also declined, ranging from 0.9 to 2.3 fewer days per decade depending on the area.