A Later Winter In The Northland? Autumns Are Staying Milder, Longer. See For Yourself
I love all the seasons, otherwise I wouldn't live here. I would have fled south decades ago. However, as a meteorologist I can't help but notice a trend. Springs are fickle and often colder and slushier in recent decades, but there is no doubt that a typical Northland autumn is staying milder, longer than it did 50+ years ago. This year will probably be no exception, especially with a strong Super El Nino kicking in
Let me be clear. We will have winter, it will snow and cold fronts will in all probability gang up on us. I doubt we'll come anywhere close to 140" snow, but winter has not been canceled. Nope. But after a record hot summer, worldwide, the Northern Hemisphere is simmering, and some of that warmth will spill over into October, even November. Will ice form late on Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes again this fall? Yes, probably.
It's part of a much larger, global trend. Climate Central data shows an additional 19 milder than average days during fall for the Twin Ports since 1970.
Weather is a complicated beast. There are natural cycles and oscillations overlaid over a gradual warming trend, fueled by fossil fuel emissions from burning oil, gas and coal. Data shows New England, the northern tier of the USA and much of the western US has warmed the fastest over the last 53 years. Much of the Northland is 4F warmer during autumn than it was in 1970.
According to Climate Central: "Since 1970, average fall temperatures have increased in 232 (96%) of the 241 locations analyzed. The fall season warmed by 2.4°F on average across those 232 locations. Nearly one-third (71) of those locations warmed by 3°F or more since 1970. And the top five fall warming locations were: Reno, Nev. (7.7°F); Las Vegas, Nev. (6.1°F); El Paso, Texas (5.7°F); Tucson, Ariz. (5.3°F); and Phoenix, Ariz (5.1°)."
The Twin Ports have warmed 4.1F since 1970, something of an "atmospheric brake" on the inevitable slide into winter chill. Will it get cold? Of course. Just not as quickly as it did for your parents or grandparents.
2023 has been a summer of drought and wildfire smoke from Canadian blazes, a trend will may continue into October, in fact it may take heavy snow to extinguish hundreds of fires still blazing away upwind.
My takeaway: a longer, milder fall appears likely, thanks in large part to El Nino, boosting the underlying trends of a warming climate. Winter may be shorter this year.
My advice: plan for winter but keep a few T-shirts and shorts in your closet until further notice.