Climate change is responsible for some of the weird winter weather we’re seeing in the northern United States, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

“Oddball winter weather is yet another sign of how uncontrolled carbon pollution amounts to an unchecked experiment on people and nature,” says NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt, PhD. “While global warming means shorter, milder winters on average, some snowbelt areas will see more heavy snowfall events.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • In areas where winter is milder, ecosystems are disrupted.
  • Natural habitats and agriculture are vulnerable to changing winter weather.
  • Many communities will face greater economic uncertainty and losses.
  • Snow removal and flooding will tax community resources.

“Disruptions to tourism and recreation economies will become increasingly common—for example, to skiing and ice fishing, which depend on predictable conditions,” Dr. Staudt says.

“More oddball winter weather is terrible news for skiers,” adds former Olympic slalom skier Chip Knight, an NWF project coordinator. “The mountain snow sports that depend on reliable snow conditions provide about $66 billion to our economy, and the local economies that rely on those dollars are becoming increasingly vulnerable. The extreme efforts necessary to provide snow for the Vancouver Olympics are a startling example of what’s at stake.”

Despite what some may think, we can take steps to minimize the severity of weather events by:

  • Curbing pollution
  • Safeguarding wildlife, fish and habitats from more unpredictable winter weather
  • Planning for greater variability in snow-removal and flood-management programs

Ultimately, however, “we can no longer plan based on the climate we used to have,” Dr. Staudt says.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza