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Record-setting temperatures sweep across multiple Midwestern states — here's why experts say that's a worrying sign

All this happens as we near the end of what will likely be the warmest winter on record for the continental U.S.

All this happens as we near the end of what will likely be the warmest winter on record for the continental U.S.

Photo Credit: iStock

The "lost winter" is raging on. At the end of February, record temperatures baked the Midwest.

What happened?

Forecast temperatures skyrocketed in locations across the Upper Midwest and East Coast, including 20 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal during the final week of February, as reported by the Washington Post.

Indeed, more than a hundred high-temperature records were reset in two days, in cities across the nation, based on preliminary data from the National Weather Service. Nighttime lows were also warmer than average to "exceptionally high" in many areas.

Highs reached into the 60s in Minneapolis, the 70s in Green Bay and Toledo, and the 80s in St. Louis, according to AccuWeather.

All this happens as we near the end of what will likely be the warmest winter on record for the continental U.S. The abnormal mildness has led to record low snow cover and Great Lakes ice.

Why was this February heat wave concerning?

While many may enjoy the spring-like weather, climate experts say it's a worrying sign of our overheating planet.

Rising global temperatures, intensified by the current El Niño climate pattern, make these types of unseasonable warm spells more frequent and extreme. Since December, there have been around 7,600 warm records compared to just 2,300 cold ones across the Lower 48, per the Post. In a stable climate, those numbers should be roughly even.

Mild winters disrupt natural cycles, confusing plants and animals and hurting their development. Early snowmelt can reduce water supplies later in the year. And warmer, moister air provides more fuel for severe thunderstorms and extreme flooding as winter transitions to spring.

What can I do about rising temperatures?

You have more power than you may think. Here are some ways you can take action against rising global temperatures today:

Adjust your thermostat: Keeping it cooler in winter and warmer in summer prevents energy waste and reduces the amount of carbon you release into the atmosphere. A smart thermostat makes it easy.

Drive less — especially solo: Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit when possible to reduce carbon pollution. Well-inflated tires also boost gas mileage if you haven't made the transition to an electric vehicle

Eat lower on the food chain: Limiting red meat in favor of plant-based meals significantly shrinks your carbon "foodprint."

Reduce, reuse, recycle: Aim to reduce what you throw away, and properly sort the rest to keep it out of landfills. Composting is also a great option.

Vote for the environment: Support leaders at all levels who make climate action a top priority — and let your current representatives know you want them to do more.

Together, our individual actions add up. While enjoying the warm weather, we can keep working to ensure a cooler, healthier future for our planet.

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