It’s beginning to look less like Christmas, at least if you live in the United States. Los Angeles and Phoenix have seen record temperatures. Even parts of the U.S. that are used to white Christmases will be disappointed: The Upper Midwest and western Great Lakes can expect temperatures around 30 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the time of year.
In Europe, the situation is only marginally better: weather services predict that European Union countries have a 60%-70% chance of exceeding median historical temperatures this winter, while most of northwestern Europe is set for temperatures close to or above seasonal norms through January.
Heat waves threaten skiing industry
If global temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius, more than half of Europe’s ski resorts would face a “high risk” of snow shortages, Le Monde reported. Winter in the Alps, long the capital of European skiing, is facing a particularly severe threat: the mountain range has been warming at twice the global average. And in Norway’s capital Oslo, the skiing season is over a month shorter than it was in the 1990s, according to NRK, the state-owned television network.
Mild weather means less chance of energy crisis in Europe
For the second year in a row, unusually mild weather has increased confidence that Europe will weather the winter comfortably amid lingering uncertainty about the continent’s ability to provide enough energy following Russian energy export cuts. As natural gas prices slumped, energy traders have already started to shift their focus to summer 2024, Bloomberg reported. A warm winter would also be welcomed in Ukraine, where the country has been preparing for new Russian attacks on energy infrastructure to freeze people out.
Warmer winters threaten agriculture
Rising winter temperatures are also threatening crop yields. Many crops require a certain amount of cold weather, known as “chill hours.” Without cold enough temperatures, pollination can be delayed or incomplete, a process that may devastate California’s production of peaches, walnuts, and apricots by 2050, NPR reported. In Europe, swathes of farmland are dependent on water sources filled by snowmelt that gradually melts in the spring months. Last year a mild winter followed by a sizzling summer pushed down yields of maize grain, sunflowers, and other crops.