The winter season can be viewed in two ways.
Meteorological winter is considered to be the three months of December, January, and February. Astronomical winter runs from December 22, the date of the winter solstice, to March 21, the date of the vernal or spring equinox.
So, ever the optimists that we are, we’ll take the former version of the winter season, which means that as of this week, we’ve crossed the midpoint of this winter.
With the war in Ukraine disrupting world energy supplies, government policy-makers and energy experts across the globe analyzed the approaching winter season with trepidation. A harsh winter had the potential to leave Europe with severe energy shortages and America with sky-high prices for oil and natural gas, with some even predicting rolling blackouts in New England in the event of a cold winter because of a lack of energy supplies to power our electrical grid.
However, the winter of 2022-23 has been exceptionally mild in the Northern Hemisphere, reducing world demand for energy. Here in New England, other than a brief cold snap at Christmas-time, we have been fortunate to have experienced a warmer-than-normal weather pattern that has extended from the beginning of November through all of January.
A colder-than-normal winter could have had a devastating impact on the pocketbooks of New Englanders. The inability to construct a natural gas pipeline from the Marcellus Shale in nearby Pennsylvania (which is estimated to have the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world), coupled with the outdated Jones Act (which essentially means that we cannot transport liquefied natural gas via ship from our own Gulf of Mexico), has left us vulnerable to the wild swings of the global energy market and an unnecessary reliance on dirtier-burning oil.
There has been a large, negative impact to the environment because of our shortsightedness in assuring access to our domestic natural gas supplies here in the U.S.: We have had to use so much oil to power our electric grid — which normally relies on natural gas — that we have negated many of the gains of recent years in reducing our carbon emissions. Coupled with the increase in the use of coal for electricity generation in Europe (which they have used to replace their natural gas shortfalls because of the cutoff of supply by the Russians), the climate has been made far dirtier this year.
The warm winter thus far has been a good news/bad news situation: Our energy supplies have been sufficient to keep us warm at manageable (though still-high) prices, but it has come at a great cost to the environment.
And beyond the immediate aspect of this winter, that we are having such a mild winter in the first place is just further evidence that climate change is here to stay.