7 benefits of our brutally cold winter - KMSP-TV

7 benefits of our brutally cold winter

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Meteorologist Cody Matz Meteorologist Cody Matz

Since the first week of December, winter has had its icy and frigid grip on the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions with one of the top 10 coldest and snowiest winters in several cities from Minnesota to Chicago, Indianapolis, and into upstate New York. As terrible as it has been, there are some good things that come out of a winter like this ranging from better produce to more water and even more money in your pocket. Here are a few of the perks to a never ending winter.

Consumer Prices Could Drop


As The Great Lakes approach record levels of ice cover, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating a 13-inch rise in water levels when the frozen stuff finally melts that could ultimately translate into a $40 million in savings for consumers.

Roy Deda with the USACE told CBS Chicago higher water levels means ships can make fewer trips by carrying more cargo. Deda said less water "ends up increasing [stores'] costs because they are not able to carry as much in the ship due to the low lake levels."

Some Great Lakes Fish Have a Better Chance of Survival

Thanks to near-record levels of ice cover in the Great Lakes region, fish eggs (like those of the yellow perch, pictured) have protection from natural predators. George Leshkevich, who tracks current ice conditions for the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the sprawling ice cover could give the fishing season a boost since "some species of fish need a stable cover of ice to protect their spawning beds from winter storms."

On the other hand, whitefish eggs, which incubate in the winter, could have trouble surviving if the lakes remain too cold for too long.

…And Tree-Killing Pests Don't

Subzero weather is no friend to invasive insect species like the Emerald Ash Borer (pictured) or the gypsy moth, and this season's (seemingly) never-ending cold spell will mean fewer of the tree-killing critters come spring.

"Around minus 20 F, we typically expect around 50 percent of the insects to be potentially killed and closer to minus 30 F almost 90 percent of the insects can be killed," U.S. Forest Service Research Biologist Robert Venette tells AccuWeather.

Indoor Winter Crops Get a Boost

Biting cold weather now could spell a cooler spring ahead, which the Journal Sentinel says is a boon for food crops as buds will emerge later and be less likely to wither under a killing frost.

As for farming through the winter, Illinois indoor farmer Lyndon Hartz told WGN when snow piles up on the roof and the sides of her hoop house, it actually provides more insulation. Hartz said he's actually able to plant earlier in the season by growing inside the snow-insulated hoop house and can harvest all year round. The cold also brings out a sweeter taste in veggies like carrots, Hirtz said.

The manager of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association told WGN while they don't have statistics on winter farmers, winter farming (at least in Illinois) is growing, and more local farmers means organic food prices will drop.

Fruit Tastes Better

Though Miami is experiencing one of its warmer winters on record, much of Florida was affected by the same early January cold snap that turned the Midwest and East Coast into an icebox -- and that's ultimately a good thing for citrus crops.

"A good cold snap lowers the acidity in oranges and increases sugar content, sweetens the fruit," Frankie Hall, policy director for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, tells The Weather Channel. "It's almost been a blessing."

Winter Sports get a Boost

After the last several warm winters, it's been tough for snow and cold lovers to get outside and enjoy their favorite winter activities. These warmer winters also make it more expensive because ski resorts, tubing hills, and many other outdoor venues depend on the snow to help boost sales. With warmer winters, prices climb to pay for the lack of demand and also to make up for lost revenue when the snow finally falls. Therefore, prices for winter sports like skiing (for example) have increased nationwide some 30 -50% in just the last 5 years, according to CNBC. So with many spots receiving ample snow this year, prices for most winter activities should stay flat in the coming year.

More Water

This is the most precious commodity on the planet considering we only have a limited supply and everyone needs it to survive. So when lake and river levels drop, many get rightfully nervous. The Great Lakes have been a BIG topic in recent years as water levels have been dwindling in the last decade, but because of the cold and snow, these large freshwater sources are expected to rise by as much as 2 feet in the coming months. That may not sound like much, but let's put this into perspective. Lake Superior's rise is more likely going to be about a foot since it's the largest of all of the lakes. That 1 foot rise would fill Lake Minnetonka about a thousand times! Speaking of local lakes, even these will get a boost with the extra runoff this year keeping boats on the water and adding fresh food for local fish to survive.

Some of the information in this article is from the Huffington Post.


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