AccuWeather: Record Warm Winter Costs Businesses Billions in Losses

Unseasonably warm winter weather cost businesses and event planners in the northern Plains and upper Midwest billions of dollars in estimated losses, according to estimates from AccuWeather.

Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa experienced the warmest winter on record, while ice coverage and snowfall were far below historical averages. The total economic damage and loss caused by the warm winter weather in the region is roughly $8 billion, AccuWeather found.

“States from Michigan to Minnesota, North Dakota, and even parts of Illinois and Iowa depend heavily on tourism, especially in the winter months,” said AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter. “The lack of cold, snow, and ice in these areas was a significant hardship, leading to dozens of major outdoor events and traditions being significantly scaled down, or cancelled all together. This took a significant bite out of the economy in this region, with some businesses even shutting down early for the season.”

Accuweather uses independent methods to evaluate direct and indirect impacts of the weather, including both insured and uninsured losses.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz last month urged local businesses in the state to apply for business assistance. Businesses can borrow borrow up to $2 million from the Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Small Business Administration to cover their actual losses.

“From skiing and snowshoeing to winter festivals, snowy winters are part of our way of life in Minnesota. The low precipitation we’ve experienced this winter has had a real economic impact on small businesses that rely on snow and winter tourism to grow and survive,” said Walz.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin called this year’s lack of snowfall a “major blow” to many Wisconsin businesses.

Winter temperatures have steadily risen across the lower 48 states since the start of the 20th century, nowhere more so than the northern Plains and upper Midwest.

“On average, there has been a five-to-20-day reduction in the number of ‘extreme cold days’ in the upper Midwest and northern Plains, compared to historic average back in the late 1940’s,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson. “The snow-to-precipitation ratio in this region has also decreased slightly. The gap between storms with all snow, compared to storms with rain, sleet, ice, or a wintry mix with snow, has narrowed by about five percent.”

A strong El Niño this winter likely contributed to less snowfall because the pattern often results in a primary storm track that bypasses the region, Anderson said.

A switch to the La Niña pattern later this year will bring a greater likelihood colder temperatures and snowier conditions to the northern Plains and upper Midwest next winter, Anderson said.