Winter Climate Change


Severe soil freezing occurred in mid-winter, 2006 at HBR. Ironically, a warming climate is likely to result in more soil freezing in northeastern forests because the insulating effect of the mid-winter snowpack may be lost. Credit: Don Buso
While many from cold northern regions might welcome a bit of climate warming, the negative consequences for others -- for example, many arctic populations -- clearly counterbalance the benefits. In the northeastern United States and elsewhere, one of the ironic outcomes of winter climate warming could be an increase in the frequency of soil frost in forests; long-term observations at Hubbard Brook illustrate that soil freezing has normally been the exception rather than the rule because a deep snowpack usually develops in early winter, insulating soil from severe mid-winter cold. Later and more intermittent snowpack development in a warmer winter climate is likely to result in more rather than less soil freezing. Long-term observations, field experiments and mechanistic studies at Hubbard Brook have demonstrated the consequences of soil freezing for ecosystem processes and forest health.

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