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Global Warming Means
More Frost-Free Days

By Reuters

27 August, 2004

Frost will become less and less common across much of the world as global warming accelerates, U.S. researchers reported. The latest of a series of reports on the real-life effects of climate change shows fewer days and nights when the air temperature dips below freezing.

The report, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, joins a study from the same group released earlier this month predicting more severe and common heat waves in cities such as Paris and Chicago and another one focusing on California that showed higher temperatures would threaten the dairy and grape industries.

Also this month, the European Environment Agency predicted that cold winters could disappear almost entirely from Europe by 2080 and that heat waves and floods would become more common.

Weather researchers have already noticed fewer days when there is a frost in some areas, especially in the Western United States.

Writing in the journal Climate Dynamics, NCAR researchers Gerald Meehl, Claudia Tebaldi and Doug Nychka used a Department of Energy climate model to forecast day-to-day changes in temperature at the end of this century.

The model predicted a steady loss of days when there will be a frost in 2080 to 2099 compared to 1961-1990.

"In general, there is a gradient from west to east across the continent, with greater decreases in frost days in the western regions," Meehl said in a statement.

Changes in atmospheric circulation will cause the change, Meehl said.

The model predicts that in northwestern North America, low-level winds will blow more often from the Pacific, carrying mild air during the winter.

Eastern North America will get more cold Canadian air, however. A similar pattern is seen in Europe and Asia, with Northern Europe getting more warm ocean air and Asia getting cold continental blasts.

But the researchers do not find that the change in frost patterns will affect agriculture.

For example, the average first frost and last frost dates do not change, although the technical growing season may lengthen because more days, on average, will see average temperatures of above 41 degrees F.






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