, Newburyport, MA


January 8, 2013

Why we'd prefer a miserable New England winter


Ticks were already in a growth cycle, due to an unusual factor – a large yield in acorns the prior year, which in turn boosted the mouse population. Mice are one of the most important “blood meals” for deer ticks. The acorn crop was small last winter, which crashed the mouse population, and sent ticks searching for new blood hosts. The mild weather is said to have had a significant impact on tick behavior, because they tend to start looking for new hosts when the temperature rises above freezing. And so the unusually large tick population began looking for victims far earlier in the season than normal. Reports of Lyme disease increased.

Changes were also evident in the ocean. Our local ocean waters saw species of fish arriving off our shores that should be 100 or more miles south of here, and other longtime natives -- like Maine shrimp -- disappeared to the north.

And of course, there were a few uncomfortably warm days in midsummer.

It was a strange year, one that didn’t feel quite right for our region of the country. And the mild winter last year was one of the leading causes.

So there is something good, healthy, and maybe even purifying about having a long, cold New England winter.

Bring on the zero-degree days. Let’s light the fires in the old fireplaces, break out the quilts and good books, skis and sleds, and get lots of exercise scraping the ice off the windshield. We can gripe about it now, and hopefully, we’ll have a little less to gripe about when the warm rays of spring and summer come around.

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