Cold weather brings us challenges

Without a doubt this will be a winter to remember. We have experienced some of the coldest temperatures ever in our region. The last time I remember cold temperatures like this was the winter of 1994.

That was the first time in many years that they shut down main campus at Ohio State University. That was unheard of. Well, these frigid wind chills the past couple weeks have caused businesses, schools, and college campuses to close for multiple days in some cases.

Many consequences

With several nights of subzero temperatures I am sure many of you have trouble thinking of the deep freeze as anything but miserable. Heating costs go up, cars won’t start, driving is miserable and being shut-in becomes downright depressing after awhile.

I am just hoping that someday my children will actually go to school for a whole week!

The frustration may all be worth it though. There may be a silver lining strewn within this cold and snowy winter.

According to climate scientist John Lenters, the extreme cold may benefit the environment in many ways such as; helping to raise low water levels in the Great Lakes, protecting shorelines and wetlands from erosion, killing insect pests and slowing the migration of invasive species.

Ice cover on the Great Lakes has been shrinking for decades, but this year more than 60 percent of the surface is expected to freeze over at some point. This could help the lakes rebound from a prolonged slump in water levels.

Good consequences

The bone-chilling conditions could also keep water temperatures low well into the summer, which should limit the evaporation that occurs on the lake. The deep freeze has also piled ice along the Great Lakes shorelines, providing a buffer that will prevent heavy waves from eroding soil and disturbing wetlands.

Killing pests

Cold temperatures are important to farmers and the crops they grow because extreme cold helps reduce pests. Deep frost has been known to kill harmful pathogens and larvae by the billions. This could slow the spreading of many invasive pests as well such as the Emerald Ash Borer.

Emerald Ash Borer is an insect that has killed millions of ash trees. While the freeze won’t wipe out the ash borer, it should have gotten cold enough to kill off much of the larvae. There are definitely legitimate fears as well. The wheat crop can be damaged by the freezing temperatures.

However, I believe we will fare OK with this in most parts of Ohio. It is highly unlikely that widespread damage occurred because of the snow cover that was already present. Wheat is very hardy when dormant, and this year’s crop had good growth before entering dormancy to withstand cold weather better.

Cold temperatures are also very hard on livestock. The greatest challenge is making sure they have plenty of feed, because they need the extra energy to ensure they stay warm.

It is also extremely difficult making sure they always have water because it is almost impossible to keep them thawed. Most livestock will adapt by growing thicker coats of hair and huddling together to share body heat, but they do need to have protection and shelter from the wind.

Some will not fare as well though. The cold temps could cause the loss of many animals as well as slowing the gain of weight on market animals. This will potentially affect the prices of meat this next year.

While I do enjoy the scenery of trees accented by snow and the thrill of sledding, skiing, snowmobiling and the other great winter activities, I will say I am tired of the cold.

Prepare for change

This is Ohio, however, and we should all be prepared for weather to change at any given time. This is winter and we should expect cold and snow, but I am hopeful that the great meteorologists are correct that the latter part of our winter will be much milder.

Could we perhaps have an early spring? We may need it in order to dry out enough from all of the snowfall. I encourage all of you to make the best of every day and know that those days are just around the corner when we will all be complaining that it is too hot and humid.

Are we ever satisfied?

Each season has its pros and cons for us as individuals as well as for our environment. In many ways we were due for a good, cold winter and will hopefully see the benefits of it all very soon.

About the Author

Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management. More Stories by Cathy Berg

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