Schoolkids and surfers might think an endless summer sounds too good to be true. But the world may soon be facing six-month summers with staggering consequences. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters predicts that if emissions continue at their present pace, by 2100 it’s going to be summer for half of every year. These long summers will be filled with heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and more.
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Scientists at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in China led the research. They analyzed 60 years of climate records and used models to predict future trends. For the study, they defined summer as the “onset of temperatures in the hottest 25 percent during that time period, while winter began with temperatures in the coldest 25 percent.”
Using that definition, the researchers found that from 1952 to 2011, the number of summer days in the Northern Hemisphere increased from 78 to 95. Meanwhile, winter shrank by three days, spring by nine and fall by five.
“Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming,” lead study author Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, said in a statement. “Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks.”
These changes will greatly impact the environment, agriculture and the health of all living organisms on the planet. It will change the timing of feeding, breeding and migration for many animals. Instead of this extra summer meaning more beach time, it will be difficult for humans. A longer growing season will torment humans with allergies. Pestilence-carrying mosquitoes will fly at the chance to expand their range northward. More extreme weather events like fires, droughts and hurricanes will drive untold numbers of humans from their homes — if they’re lucky enough to survive.
The study concluded that policies on agricultural management and disaster prevention will need to be adjusted. Seasonal-related fields of study will also have to readjust, as six months of summer will mean a new reality for those studying topics like the ocean, atmosphere and ecology.
Image via Roger Laurendeau