Minnesotans rejoice in a mild winter, but it’s no cause for celebration

Minnesota might be ubiquitous with heavy snowfall, but locals never get used to the labor of shoveling their driveways. Naturally, locals celebrated a mild winter like a gift from Santa; some residents complained the absence of snow ruined the Christmas spirit. The weather in the Twin Cities last month shattered the region’s 150-year record as the warmest December ever, previously held by 1877, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

When the media portrays the pending doom of global warming, the chaos of natural disasters takes center stage. So, a pleasant December in the Midwest for many didn’t appear aligned with hurricanes, earthquakes, heat waves, forest fires, and floods. We’re now entering the end of January. The temperature is warm enough for a leather jacket, even though it would’ve caused frostbite in previous years. 

Typically, global warming naysayers would’ve been able to put a positive spin on the situation. 

But we have the science and technology to understand Mother Nature doesn’t operate based on movie scripts. Global warming is not synonymous with catastrophe. However, its ripple effects can lead to it. 

We have the tools to measure this unusually toasty winter in Minneapolis as a historic irregularity – and understand what’s causing it. MinnPost reported a primary cause is a climate pattern known as El Niño, characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. “Weakened trade winds cause warm water to be pushed towards the west coast of the American continents, changing the paths of atmospheric winds and affecting weather patterns globally.”

For Minnesota, that means cold air masses remain trapped in northern Canada, leading to warmer and drier conditions. And while temperature fluctuations are an inevitable part of the climate discourse, it’s man-made climate change that pushes them to such extremes. 

“There was a time some years ago when climate science wasn’t developed enough to attribute individual weather events to climate change, but that’s in the past tense,” said Peter Wagenius, legislative and political director for the local chapter of the national environmental group the Sierra Club. “Climate scientists have been really clear that 2023 — which is going to go down as the hottest year on record, not just December — is an insane record breaker on a string of record breakers because of climate change.”

So what does this all mean? At its face value, the absence of a harsh winter in Minneapolis is just another harbinger that society is losing the fight to stop global warming. The average temperature on a typical winter day is about 5 degrees higher today than in 1970. Disaster might not be here today, at least not in this zip code, but as seen by the melting of glaciers, it only takes a few degrees to begin the destruction of entire ecosystems.