Everyday Enviro with Elise: warm winters mean more than sunshine

Everyday Enviro with Elise: warm winters mean more than sunshine

By Elise Catterall  August 16th, 2023

Elise takes a look at our unusually warm winter and what it means for the environment.


I have been writing this column for a long time and I always try to present messages that have some sort of positive angle or a positive solution, but sometimes the point of the column is to raise awareness and motivate overall behaviour change. This is one of those columns.

If you are in Australia, you would be hard pressed not to be aware of the unseasonably warm winter we are having. In fact, July was 1.19 degrees warmer than the 1961-1990 average. And as lovely as that seems that we aren’t freezing our toes off, it really isn’t a good thing. Let’s take a quick look at why that is the case.

It probably goes without saying that a warmer winter is indicative of a warmer planet. The lovely sunny, warm weather we are feeling today, when it should be colder, foretells a less stable climate overall and greater risk of the extreme weather events we are seeing with increasing frequency worldwide.

More directly, our warmer winter has resulted in lower rainfall in some parts of the country, which increases potential fuel loads ahead of summer. This creates significant risk of grass fire and raises concerns about an early bush fire season. Water scarcity (due to lower rainfall and increased evaporation) can also contribute to drought conditions, which we know has impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and even personal wellbeing.

Warmer winters also have impacts on ecosystems in ways we may not think about. For example, mosquito reproduction slows down in cold weather, so a warmer winter can increase numbers of members of our population we really don’t want greater numbers of.

Other species that are affected by warmer winters are butterflies, bees, bats and birds. If these species migrate or reproduce earlier than usual due to warm weather, there may be insufficient food for them. And this can affect the roles they all play in controlling pests, fertilising, pollinating, etc. Our ecosystems are delicately balanced, and warmer weather can disrupt these balances.

So, while waking up to warm, sunny weather in July in August is pleasant, we need to keep in mind why it is happening and what we need to be doing to mitigate climate change at the individual level, the community level, the national level and even the global level. By supporting sustainable practices, advocating for renewable energy sources, and embracing measures to combat climate change, we can work together to ensure that our beautiful planet continues to thrive for generations to come.

Consider some of the following:

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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