I’ve heard a lot of people recently either complain about the snow or express their happiness about how warm it was this month. I realize that it is human nature to talk about the weather and that most people like moderate weather. However, you should be really, really glad, that here in New England it is cold and snowing in January. Sure, I like to go outside and play as much as the next person, but unseasonably warm weather in the winter causes real problems.
Snow pack in the mountains melts in the spring and fills rivers and lakes. This provides clean, fresh water for us during the rest of the year. It also provides habitats for plants and animals that are necessary to our ecosystem. It creates wetlands and it keeps the water levels high enough for various fish and water fowl. There are parts of the United States that are experiencing extreme droughts and instituting very significant water saving methods. We should all be glad that we are not having that trouble here.
Cold weather in the winter is important in keeping insect populations in check in New England. Insects have a lot of mechanisms for surviving the winter, including migration and hibernation. But picture a winter where it doesn’t actually get too cold for the insects, and they keep reproducing and eating all winter. Or perhaps a winter where the mild weather comes back very early and the insects are able to start reproducing months early. Mosquitoes are much more abundant in July and August than they are in April and May. What if they started reproducing again in February? Cold whether keeps them in balance with nature. I can’t imagine anyone who would like rampant amounts of insects this year!
Warm weather can cause plants to flower or bud out of season. If we then have another cold spell, such as the weather we’ve seen this January, it can damage those plants. When the weather fluctuates for periods of time between warm and cold out of season, plants that normally survive the winter by being dormant can be damaged when they attempt to grow early and then are frozen. Clemson University has some information about how to care for trees & plants that have been damaged due to rapidly dropping temperatures and winter weather fluctuations. Check your trees, this may be the year you need this information.
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