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As Winters Warm, New Englanders Are Finding Normal Cold Weather More Unusual

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Flickr Creative Commons
Don't expect a lot of picturesque winter landscapes this time around. Forecasters say New Hampshire's winter is going to stay mild without much snowfall.

As the climate warms, Americans – and New Englanders – appear to be finding abnormal temperatures less and less remarkable.

New England has been slightly colder than average this winter. But a new study shows around a third of residents across the regions’ cities thought it was unusually cold in weeks when it actually wasn’t.

The research analyzed social media posts to find that more southerly New England residents believed that more weeks of normal cold were abnormal.

University of New Hampshire assistant professor Elizabeth Burakowski says it’s because overall, our winters are getting warmer – and regular cold feels colder by comparison.

“What the shifting baseline is doing is changing our expectation of what’s cold and what’s warm,” she says.

To Burakowski, who studies snow and the ski industry nationwide, it’s a mixed blessing.

"On the one hand, I think it's kind of encouraging to know that humans are very adaptable and we will shift our expectations and probably adjust our responses to these types of events,” she says.

But she’s also worried that it’ll make people less likely to take action in time to prevent the region’s more severe climate problems – like rising seas and summer droughts.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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