In the future, we could have five seasons: fall, winter, spring, summer, and fire.
In the popular consciousness of the American west, we already sort of do. Spring weather arrives earlier and earlier every year, and summers are likewise starting sooner and lasting longer. 2021 in particular, though, is shaping up to be a case study in how we're living through the end of summer as we previously knew it.
Take this year's unseasonably warm spring: March was 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the twentieth-century average, NOAA reports, while by the end of April, wildfires were already raging in three western states. The Conversation recently detailed how authorities are enacting water conservation measures more typical of August in what's supposedly the last full month of spring:
It's only May, and states are already considering water use restrictions to make the supply last longer. California's governor declared a drought emergency in 41 of 58 counties. In Utah, irrigation water providers are increasing fines for overuse. Some Idaho ranchers are talking about selling off livestock because rivers and reservoirs they rely on are dangerously low and irrigation demand for farms is only just beginning. [The Conversation]
Meanwhile, organizers of the L.A. County Fair announced this week that the end-of-summer festivities, which have been held in September for the past 100 years, will be held in May going forward. Regrettably, the triple-digit heat the past several years has kept the revelers away. "Rescheduling a century-old event to a cooler month is only the beginning and I don't think anyone is fully prepared for how quickly our definition of 'summer' will change," warned writer Alissa Walker on Twitter.
Forget the idyllic summer image of kids jumping through sprinklers; tightening water restrictions mean an end to that. Enjoying a picnic in the park with your friends can't happen if the wildfire smoke makes it too dangerous to be outdoors. Escaping to the mountains for a long weekend? That's a no-go; the campground burned down. And don't bother trying to find a hotel nearby, either; all the rooms are filled with evacuees.
That's not just a worst case scenario, either. One terrifying recent analysis by Chinese researchers suggested that by the year 2100, summer could last for six months. So enjoy Memorial Day weekend's lovely false summer weather while it lasts. It's only going to get more infernal from here.