Science of the Seasons
Aside from bitter cold ushered in by the occasional polar vortex, data shows that winter in the Northeast and Midwest is becoming warmer and wetter than in the past. Increased climate variability means winter storms are becoming more extreme and winter weather is yielding to spring temperatures earlier in the year. These shifts have the potential to change the range of invasive insects such as the hemlock woolly adelgid and habitat suitability for native tree species.
This page brings together Northern Research Station science that relates to the winter season, along with links to other seasonal resources within the USDA Forest Service.
Scientists Perspectives on the Seasons
Winter. Just the word evokes the feeling of snow on your face, bone-chilling wind, and hard frozen ground. Changing climate conditions may redefine winter, however, and that has ramifications for everything from invasive insects to the farm economy. From the Mid-Atlantic to the Northwoods and from the Central Appalachians to the Central Hardwoods Region, observed trends in climate over the historical record show that the mean annual temperature has increased, with even greater warming during winter. What difference can a couple of degrees make? Projected changes in climate precipitation will have important implications for economically valuable timber species, forest-dependent animals and plants, recreation, and long-term natural resource planning
Forest vulnerability assessments for forest ecosystems in the Northeast and Midwest are available at: https://forestadaptation.org/
For more than half a century, the tiny, aphid-like hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) has been creeping out of urban forests and into rural forests, resulting in the widespread decline and death of hemlock trees in the eastern United States.
Three beetle species may serve as a desperately needed defense for hemlock trees embattled by the HWA. A leading question for Northern Research Station scientists is whether the beetle species Scynmnus sinuanodulus, Sasajiscymnus tsugae, and Laricobius nigrinus can survive winter, which is an active season for the adelgid.
Northern Research Station scientists are using electronic “bug condos” to examine the impact of temperature on feeding behavior, to identify the conditions under which feeding will take place, and those conditions, such as post-feeding freeze that may place the beetles at risk.
Learn more at:
Selected Research Stories
- Ice Storm Experiment
- In New England, Changing Climate Ushers in More Precipitation, Milder Winters
- Surprising Resurgence of Red Spruce Likely Result of Cleaner Air and Warmer Winters
- The Adaptive Tradeoffs between Boreal and Temperate Conifers in a Warming World
The publications listed below do not represent every study related to winter; for a more complete list of NRS publications, please visit our Publications page at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/
Christianson, Lindsey; Venette, Robert. 2018. Modest Effects of Host on the Cold Hardiness of Emerald Ash Borer. Forests. 9(6): 346-. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9060346.
Janowiak, Maria K.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Swanston, Christopher W.; Iverson, Louis; Thompson, Frank R., III; Dijak, William D.; Matthews, Stephen; Peters, Matthew P.; Prasad, Anantha; Fraser, Jacob S.; Brandt, Leslie A.; Butler-Leopold, Patricia; Handler, Stephen D.; Shannon, P. Danielle; Burbank, Diane; Campbell, John; Cogbill, Charles; Duveneck, Matthew J.; Emery, Marla R.; Fisichelli, Nicholas; Foster, Jane; Hushaw, Jennifer; Kenefic, Laura; Mahaffey, Amanda; Morelli, Toni Lyn; Reo, Nicholas J.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Simmons, K. Rogers; Weiskittel, Aaron; Wilmot, Sandy; Hollinger, David; Lane, Erin; Rustad, Lindsey; Templer, Pamela H. 2018. New England and northern New York forest ecosystem vulnerability assessment and synthesis: a report from the New England Climate Change Response Framework project. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-173. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 234 p. https://doi.org/10.2737/NRS-GTR-173
Snyder, Keirith A.; Evers, Louisa; Chambers, Jeanne C.; Dunham, Jason; Bradford, John B.; Loik, Michael E. 2018. Effects of changing climate on the hydrological cycle in cold desert ecosystems of the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau. Rangeland Ecology and Management.
Tussey, Dylan A; Aukema, Brian H; Charvoz, Anthony M; Venette, Robert C. 2018. Effects of Adult Feeding and Overwintering Conditions on Energy Reserves and Flight Performance of Emerald Ash Borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Environmental Entomology. 47(3): 755-763.
Wolcott, Daniel M.; Donner, Deahn M.; Brown, Donald J.; Ribic, Christine A. 2018. Kirtland's warbler winter habitat changes across the Bahamian Archipelago in response to future climate-condition scenarios. Caribbean Naturalist. 49: 1-20.
Wolfe, David W.; DeGaetano, Arthur T.; Peck, Gregory M.; Carey, Mary; Ziska, Lewis H.; Lea-Cox, John; Kemanian, Armen R.; Hoffmann, Michael P.; Hollinger, David Y. 2018. Unique challenges and opportunities for northeastern US crop production in a changing climate. Climatic Change. 146(1-2): 231-245. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2109-7.
Schaberg, Paul; Murakami, Paula; Hawley, Gary J.; Collins, Kendra. 2017. American chestnut restoration in New England - cold damage as an added challenge. New England Society of American Foresters News Quarterly. 78(3): 8-11.
Strimbeck, G. Richard; Schaberg, Paul G.; Fossdal, Carl G.; Schroder, Wolfgang P.; Kjellsen, Trygve D. 2015. Extreme low temperature tolerance in woody plants. Frontiers in Plant Science. 6. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00884 (15 p.). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00884.
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
Kelly van Frankenhuyzen talks with U.S. Forest Service experts about hemlock woolly adelgid and it's impacts on eastern hemlock forests.
- Andrea Hille, Silviculturist, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
- Nathan Havill, Research Entomologist, Northern Research Station, Hamden, Connecticut
- Therese Poland, Research Entomologist and Project Leader of Ecology and Management of Invasive Species in Forest Ecosystems research work unit, Lansing, Michigan
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Ice Storm Experiment
Kelly van Frankenhuyzen talks with U.S. Forest Service experts about the Hubbard Brook Ice Storm Experiment and the importance of studying ice storms.
- Jason Walker, White Mountain National Forest, Pemigewasset Ranger District
- Lindsey Rustad, Research Ecologist; Northern Research Station, Durham, New Hampshire
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