How does climate change affect seasons? That’s exactly what a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters looked into. Due to global warming, summers are getting longer and hotter. By 2100, the season could last up to six months. While that might sound like a dream at first, trust us—it’s nothing short of a nightmare for the planet.
Researchers found summers grew from 78 to 95 days between 1952 and 2011. During that time, winter shrank, decreasing from 76 days to 73 days. The length of spring and autumn decreased as well: While spring went from 124 to 115 days, autumn went from 87 to 82 days. Unless the world takes serious action to curb climate change now, a six-month-long summer and two-month-long winter are very much a reality.
These shifting seasons cause a ripple effect. “Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks,” said lead study author Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer, in a press release. “For example, birds are shifting their migration patterns and plants are emerging and flowering at different times. These phenological changes can create mismatches between animals and their food sources, disrupting ecological communities.”
A longer summer and shorter winter can also lead to more extreme weather events—some of which we’ve already witnessed firsthand, like the devastating wildfires and the record-breaking snowstorm in Texas. “A hotter and longer summer will suffer more frequent and intensified high-temperature events—heatwaves and wildfires,” said Congwen Zhu, a monsoon researcher. In addition, “warmer, shorter winters may cause instability that leads to cold surges and winter storms, much like the recent snowstorms in Texas and Israel,” he says.
That’s just the beginning. Guan says these seasonal changes can also wreak havoc on agriculture. “Especially when false springs or late snowstorms damage budding plants,” he shares. “And with longer growing seasons, humans will breathe in more allergy-causing pollen, and disease-carrying mosquitoes can expand their range northward.”
There are numerous ways you can help stop climate change, like composting, supporting sustainable companies, and cutting down on waste. You can also opt for a more eco-friendly diet. One thing’s for sure: The planet desperately needs us, and this study is even more proof of that.