Taking Earth’s temperature

Growing up, I was fascinated by winter storms that brought a foot or more of snow and with them, the possibility of a snow day. Anticipating these spontaneous holidays made me wonder how meteorologists predicted how much snow would fall, and when. I still spend much of my time thinking about such questions but now for very different reasons—our winters are changing.

You’ve probably noticed that lakes are freezing later and thawing sooner, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling seasons are getting shorter, and flowers are blooming earlier than they did 20 years ago. Wisconsin’s climate is changing, influencing everything from growing seasons to wildlife, and the Arctic is partly responsible.

But the Arctic is changing. Temperatures are increasing and ice is melting, dramatically altering this energy balance. Every continent is feeling the effects of these changes. To adapt, we need to accurately predict how temperature and sea ice changes will unfold in the future. All climate models predict that the Arctic will be much warmer in the coming decades, but exactly how warm is less clear.

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