SUMMERS in spots like the UK and North America could last half the year by the end of the century due to climate change.
Without efforts to slow global warming, summers spanning will become the “new normal” north of the Equator by 2100, scientists warned.
The UK was hit by a record-breaking heatwave last summer. Heatwaves are expected to become more common over the next century without efforts to slow climate changeCredit: PA:Press Association
The change would likely have a far-reaching impact on human health, the environment and agriculture, according to a study on the findings.
During the 1950s in the Northern Hemisphere, the four seasons arrived in a predictable and fairly even pattern, but climate change is now driving dramatic and irregular changes.
These changes have altered the length and start dates of the seasons, which may become more extreme in the future, researchers said.
If these trends continue without any effort to mitigate climate change, the researchers predict that by the turn of the century, winter will last less than two months.
A deadly snowstorm swept the southern United States last monthCredit: Alamy Live News
These warmer and shorter winters could lead to cold surges and deadly snowstorms similar to recent ice blasts in Texas and Israel.
The researchers used historical daily climate data from 1952 to 2011 to measure changes in the four seasons’ length and onset in the Northern Hemisphere.
They defined the start of summer as the onset of temperatures within the hottest 25 per cent during that time period, while winter began with temperatures in the coldest 25 per cent.
Next, the team used established climate change models to predict how seasons will shift in future.
Fountains froze over in the typically balmy TexasCredit: AP:Associated Press
The new study found that, on average, summer grew from 78 to 95 days between 1952 to 2011, while winter shrank from 76 to 73 days.
Spring and autumn also contracted from 124 to 115 days, and from 87 to 82 days, respectively, the researchers said.
Accordingly, spring and summer began earlier, while autumn and winter started later, the study found.
It was discovered that the Mediterranean region and the Tibetan Plateau experienced the greatest changes to their seasonal cycles.
Climate change is also expected to increase the frequency of forest fires similar to the huge blazes that scorched California last yearCredit: Getty Images – Getty
If these trends continue without any effort to mitigate climate change, the researchers predict that the transitional spring and autumn seasons will shrink further as well.
Study lead author Dr Yuping Guan, a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in China, said: “Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming.”
Dr Guan, of the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was inspired to investigate changes to the seasonal cycle while mentoring an undergraduate student, co-author Jiamin Wang.
He added: “More often, I read some unseasonable weather reports, for example, false spring, or May snow, and the like.
Flooding in Cambridgeshire last monthCredit: PA:Press Association
“Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks.”
For example, birds are shifting their migration patterns and plants are emerging and flowering at different times, the experts said.
These changes can create mismatches between animals and their food sources, disrupting ecological communities.
Seasonal changes can also wreak havoc on agriculture, especially when false springs or late snowstorms damage budding plants.
And with longer growing seasons, humans will breathe in more allergy-causing pollen, and disease-carrying mosquitoes can expand their range northward.
Climate change explained
Here are the basic facts…
- Scientists have lots of evidence to show that the Earth’s climate is rapidly changing due to human activity
- Climate change will result in problems like global warming, greater risk of flooding, droughts and regular heatwaves
- Each of the last three decades have been hotter than the previous one and 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have happened during the 21stcentury
- The Earth only needs to increase by a few degrees for it to spell disaster
- The oceans are already warming, polar ice and glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and we’re seeing more extreme weather events
- In 2015, almost all of the world’s nations signed a deal called the Paris Agreement which set out ways in which they could tackle climate change and try to keep temperatures below 2C
Dr Congwen Zhu, a monsoon researcher at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences in Beijing, who was not involved in the study, said this shift in the seasons may result in more severe weather events.
Dr Zhu added: “A hotter and longer summer will suffer more frequent and intensified high-temperature events – heatwaves and wildfires.”
Warmer and shorter winters may cause instability that leads to cold surges and winter storms, much like the recent snowstorms in Texas and Israel, he added.
Scott Sheridan, a climate scientist at Kent State University in Ohio, who was not part of the new study, said: “This is a good overarching starting point for understanding the implications of seasonal change.”
It is difficult to conceptualize a 2- or 5-degree average temperature increase, he added: “I think realising that these changes will force potentially dramatic shifts in seasons probably has a much greater impact on how you perceive what climate change is doing.”
The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
In other news, scientists have warned of a ticking time bomb in the Arctic that threatens to cause a climate catastrophe.
Scientists revealed this month that sea levels are rising 25 per cent faster than previously thought.
And, one of the world’s best-known mountains is cracking due to climate change, say scientists.
Are you worried about climate change? Let us know in the comments…
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