Those who prefer not to experience the extreme cold weather that winter often brings might think a mild winter would have no disadvantages, only benefits. Lower fuel bills, safer traveling conditions, no business or school closures due to inclement meterological conditions - who could argue against these perks of a mellow wintertime season?
Actually, quite a few knowledgeable people might see disadvantages in a mild winter. Consider the following examples:
In the far north country of Alaska, where wintertime temperatures commonly cascade below the zero mark on the Fahrenheit thermometer, a mild winter often coincides with minimum snow falls. This means that when the mild, yet nevertheless below freezing, temperatures occur, the ground may have very little or no insulating blanket of snow. Without this cover, the icy cold conditions tend to drive the frost line deeper into the ground, threatening otherwise safe water, drainage and septic pipes. On the other hand, an adequate snow fall that melts due to rising temperatures invariably turns to ice when the temperature falls again. This can turn entire landscapes into ice rinks, creating extremely hazardous walking and driving conditions.
Areas in the Lower 48, as Alaskans sometimes refer to mainland U.S. states, also may suffer unwelcome consequences of a mild winter. The expected snow fall in some states may give way to slashing cold rains, sleet or ice storms as temperatures rise and fall. One may not have to shovel rain or sleet, but an ice storm can raise havoc in rural and suburban localities alike. Mild winters also create conditions conducive to heaving of the earth as freezing and thawing occurs, popping perennial plantings right out of the ground. If left exposed the plants usually enjoy a very low survival rate.
Plants have natural insect and fungus enemies, many of which may survive a mild winter and attack immature or awakening plants well before springtime temperatures arrive and the plants can develop resistance. Mold and mildew can thrive in mild winters and decimate flowering or fruiting plants. Agriculturists warn that various fungal forms cause over half of the diseases that plants succumb to. Insects not suppressed by normal (cold) winter weather can flourish to overwhelming numbers before the gardener or orchardist can realize the extent of the threat. Insects or fungi love mild winters, even those that commonly survive the most frigid conditions.
So remember, mild or wild, when considering the kind of winter weather you would prefer to have, be careful what you wish for!