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Find yourself yearning for warmer weather? Winter does have a purpose. More....

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- by E.A. Zimmerman

A few weeks ago our outdoor thermometer registered 0.9 degrees F.  As I listened to Doug hack up flu phlegm and watched the indicator level on our oil tank sink, I tried to think of reasons why we actually need winter. 

Snow Day.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman
These two Quiet Corner residents see only opportunity in a snowy day.   Photo by Bet Zimmerman
  1.  Cold weather controls some disease-causing organisms.  Even though we have plenty of mosquitoes in Connecticut, the parasite that causes malaria cannot survive outdoors here. Temperatures below 68 degrees F prevent the Plasmodium organisms that cause this potentially deadly disease from completing their life cycle. 

  2. Freeze-thaw cycles or chilling may be needed for seeds to germinate.  We often associate frost with killing.  However, some seeds must be chilled before they will emerge from dormancy.  Certain tree seeds even require two cold winters before germination will occur.  Some seeds have a hard coat which is impervious to water and gases.  Unless that coat is scratched or broken (for example, after freezing), the embryo inside will never grow. 

  3. Cold weather controls potentially invasive plants and animals.  Exotics imported from warm climates like South America have limited tolerance for cold temperatures.  A good hard freeze can kill or help control invasive aquatic plants like Water Hyacinth, resulting in less of a bad thing. Gargantuan Burmese Pythons appear to be colonizing the Florida everglades.  Fortunately, abandoned tropical pets would not survive our New England winters.  Imported fire ants die if their underground nests get too cold for a prolonged periods.  Temperatures 10 degrees F and below that are sustained for a couple of weeks have limited the northward migration of these vicious pests.

  4. Ice and snow are the only fresh water reservoirs in some areas.  About 68.7% of all the fresh water on earth is stored in ice caps and glaciers. (Source:  Gleick 1996)  Arid landscapes may depend on seasonal snowmelts for drinking water and agriculture.  

  5. The freeze-thaw cycle creates more soil needed for growing things.   As rocks weather, they crack and eventually break down into soil particles capable of supporting plant life.

  6. Cold weather mixes up chores.  You don’t need to mow the lawn in the wintertime.   Instead you can work on indoor projects that may have languished during fair weather.

  7. Cold weather makes certain outdoor sports possible.  Options include skiing, sledding, snow shoeing, ice climbing, ice skating, ice fishing, snowball fights and igloo construction.  

  8. Snow and ice can be picturesque.  Snowfall and ice crystals decorate the winter landscape with magical beauty.

  9. Cold weather makes us appreciate warm weather.  By the way, I’m vacationing in sunny Florida right now.

References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on January 29, 2010


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