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Ice and snow disappearing: Record-warm winter wreaks havoc on US Midwest | Climate crisis

As a child in the 1990s, Joseph Kuzma remembers driving his truck to Lake Erie with his father every year around this time and setting up minicamps on the ice.

“We stayed in ice shacks all weekend. We caught fish and cooked them and slept in bunk beds on the ice,” he said. He also recalled sitting next to his brother as they drove a dump truck from nearby Put-in-Bay Island to the mainland on the lake’s ice, saying, “There would be six to eight inches of ice.” ” he said.

Back then, winters on the west shore of Lake Erie were filled with the noise of snowmobiles and airboats as ice fishermen headed to the frozen lake to catch prized walleye and perch.

But in recent days in Port Clinton, Ohio, a completely different sound has been heard: waves crashing against the rocks of a pier. Because there is almost no ice.

Ice cover across the Great Lakes, a network of five freshwater lakes the size of Britain, has been declining since the early 1970s but could reach unprecedented lows this year.

Port Clinton, Ohio, is one of the most protected and shallow areas of the Great Lakes and was one of the first areas to ice up this past winter. Photo: Steven Starr

By mid-February, ice coverage has historically averaged about 40%. This year it was about 4%. Ahead of the official end of winter on March 19th, three usually frigid cities are in the air: Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN – Already recorded This year is the warmest winter on record. scientists say Rising temperatures are a result of anthropogenic climate change and are expected to continue rising over the coming decades.

This winter’s warm temperatures are wreaking havoc across the Midwest, derailing plans and disrupting local economies.

In Minnesota, organizers of the Wayzata Chilly Open, an annual ice golf tournament, said:heartbrokenUp to 6 inches of water has accumulated on Lake Minnetonka’s ice, forcing the cancellation of the January event. Since 1984, the event attracted approximately 2,000 “golfers” to the area each year and was an important economic stimulus.

American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross-country ski race, donates nearly $20 million to the Northwest wisconsin region every year. This year, due to a lack of natural snow, they were forced to run on a modified course.

“Last year we had record snow and this year we have record low snow,” said Natalie Chin, climate and tourism support specialist for the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program in Superior, Wisconsin. “So it’s quite a contrast. There’s very little snow on the ground. It’s unseasonably warm.

“People say the birding isn’t very good, probably because the birds aren’t concentrated in their usual spots because there’s food everywhere.”

Big events aside, residents of several of the Midwest’s largest cities got a glimpse of what’s going on locally. ice rink is closed The season has come early due to the warm weather. These winter activities serve as an important way to get outdoors and reduce stress. Mental health concerns for many residents In the dark and cold season.

For farmers, the decline in snow and ice packs in the upper Midwest means that the moisture that previously kept fields and soil hydrated until late April is being lost months earlier. This change could exacerbate drought conditions during the critical planting season.

a Report published in January We found that the number of -35F (-37.2C) readings in northern Minnesota has decreased by up to 90%. Low temperatures play an important role in controlling weeds and pests.

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For indigenous communities, a warm winter could mark the end of a tradition dating back thousands of years.

“Winter activities are an essential part of avoiding cabin fever,” said Austin Laws, president of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan.

Ice fishing, maple syrup collection camp, Traditional Anishinaabe Major Contest Because of the mild winter temperatures, one of the events the tribe canceled was the Snow Snake.

“We use these outdoor activities to connect with our families, connect with community members, and get healthy exercise through outdoor adventures,” Laws said. “The ability to convey to our youth the important lessons of living with, respecting and learning from nature is rooted in outdoor engagement in all seasons, including winter.”

Back in Port Clinton, locals still talk about it. 20 people had to be rescued They left Lake Erie by helicopter and airboat in January after the ice floe they were standing on cracked and winds swept them offshore.

That ice has since disappeared along the quaint town’s waterfront. Divers, mallards and Canada geese roamed the water’s edge recently, and a flock of seagulls lounged on a small, half-submerged ice floe.

This is one of the most protected and shallow areas of the Great Lakes, so it would have been one of the first areas to ice up in past winters.

Local residents say the weather changes are not limited to the winter season. Kuzma, who owns a security company in Port Clinton, recalls that last year there were three tornado warnings issued locally. Usually, he said, there might be one or none at all.

“We had a week and a half of temperatures in the low 20s in January, then 50 degrees,” he said. “We’ve had some weird weather patterns here for the past few years.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/feb/28/us-midwest-record-low-snow-winter Ice and snow disappearing: Record-warm winter wreaks havoc on US Midwest | Climate crisis

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