Abstract

Winters in northeastern North America have warmed faster than summers, with impacts on ecosystems and society. Global climate models (GCMs) indicate that winters will continue to warm and lose snow in the future, but uncertainty remains regarding the magnitude of warming. Here, we project future trends in winter indicators under lower and higher climate-warming scenarios based on emission levels across northeastern North America at a fine spatial scale (1/16°) relevant to climate-related decision making. Under both climate scenarios, winters continue to warm with coincident increases in days above freezing, decreases in days with snow cover, and fewer nights below freezing. Deep snowpacks become increasingly short-lived, decreasing from a historical baseline of 2 months of subnivium habitat to warmer, higher-emissions climate scenario. Warmer winter temperatures allow invasive pests such as Adelges tsugae (Hemlock Woolly Adelgid) and Dendroctonus frontalis (Southern Pine Beetle) to expand their range northward due to reduced overwinter mortality. The higher elevations remain more resilient to winter warming compared to more southerly and coastal regions. Decreases in natural snowpack and warmer temperatures point toward a need for adaptation and mitigation in the multi-million-dollar winter-recreation and forest-management economies.

Department

Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space

Publication Date

Winter 1-24-2022

Grant/Award Number and Agency

National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR Ecosystems and Society Project (EPS-1101245), NSF Macrosystems Biology and Early NEON Science (#1802726), NSF EPSCoR Track 4 (#1832959, #1832970), and the NSF EPSCoR INSPIRES Project (#1920908)

Journal Title

Northeastern Naturalist

Publisher

Eagle Hill

Document Type

Article

Rights

Eagle Hill Institute reserves the copyright to all its publications. Any reproduction, other than for an individual's own personal and private use, or distribution of journal content is prohibited without written permission from Eagle Hill Institute.

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