Summers to last six months, winters to last two by 2100 if global warming continues - study

Summers will last half the year by the end of this century if current global warming trends continue, according to new research

And we'll almost be skipping right over autumn and spring, which will shrink to make way for the longer summer season.

"People argue about temperature rise of 2C or 3C, but global warming changing the seasons is something everyone can understand," lead author Yuping Guan, an oceanographer at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told NBC.

Dr Guan and colleagues looked at data collected between 1952 and 2011, to see what effect the warming atmosphere was having on the seasons in the northern hemisphere. When temperatures hit the top 25 percent for the year, they defined that as the start of summer, and the bottom 25 percent marked the onset of winter. 

In the 60 years they looked at, summer in the northern hemisphere went from being 78 days-long to 95, while winter shrank from 76 to 73 days. Spring and autumn shrank to make way for summer.

At this rate, winter in 2100 will be shorter than two months and summer will last six months, they said. 

While that might sound like good news, it really isn't.

"Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks," Dr Guan said. For example, birds are shifting their migration patterns and plants are emerging and flowering at different times. These phenological changes can create mismatches between animals and their food sources, disrupting ecological communities."

Mosquitos will carry deadly malaria further away from the tropics and hayfever will be a much bigger problem. Crops will also sprout earlier, raising the prospect of water shortages as summer drags on. 'False springs' will be more common too - that's when temperatures briefly rise near the end of winter, fooling plants into sprouting, before it gets cold again and kills them off, ruining that year's crop. 

"A hotter and longer summer will suffer more frequent and intensified high-temperature events - heatwaves and wildfires," added monsoon researcher Congwen Zhu of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences.

Warmer winters will also increase the frequency of snowstorms, particularly in the northern hemisphere.

"I think realising that these changes will force potentially dramatic shifts in seasons probably has a much greater impact on how you perceive what climate change is doing," said Scott Sheridan, a climate scientist at Kent State University, who reviewed the paper.