What If Winter Lasted for Years Like It Does on 'Game of Thrones'?

Space.com | 4/21/2019 | Yasemin Saplakoglu
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Winter is not coming to the northern hemisphere — and we have our planet's tilt to thank.

But what if the seasons — and specifically, winter — lasted for years on our planet like they do on "Game of Thrones"?

Christopher - Walcek - Research - Associate - University

It depends on how it happened, said Christopher Walcek, a senior research associate at the University of Alabany's Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. In other words, to answer the question, you'd need to know what caused winter to last for years.

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Planet - Orbit - Farther - Sun - Nope

It could happen (though it wouldn't) if our planet fell into an orbit farther from the sun (nope) or stopped orbiting entirely in mid-February (this might happen… just kidding).

Let's say the latter happened, and the northern hemisphere wound up permanently tilted away from the sun.

Case - Northern - Days - Nights - Frequency

In that case, in the northern hemisphere, the days would be short, the nights would long — and you'd have a high frequency of snow storms. Because the warmer weather wouldn't roll around to melt the snow, it would begin to accumulate, Walcek told Live Science.

After just a couple of years, lingering winter weather would cause major ecosystem changes, he said.

Trees - Plants - Spring - Ramifications - Rest

Deciduous trees and plants that normally sprout in the spring wouldn't do so; this would have ramifications for the rest of the food chain. "Bears and squirrels wouldn't be able to eat and would starve, deer would similarly be culled," Walcek said.

As animals adjusted to reduced sunlight and availability of energy, "populations of [every species] would be reduced to a much lower level," he said.

Example - Animals - Months - Winter - Energy

For example, many animals spend the months of winter preserving their energy through various means as food becomes scarce.

Take frogs and turtles. They survive the winter season by lowering their metabolic rate so that they don't need to eat. These animals pretty much become "behaviorally inactive" during this time, said Jon Costanzo,...
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