CHICAGO -- Winter-weary northerners take heart: There's actually a silver lining to all this record snow, ice and bone-chilling cold.
Portions of the Midwest and the East Coast extending up to Canada pummeled by a few rounds of polar vortexes stand to see cold weather-related benefits everywhere from the produce aisle to their pocketbook.
Consumer Prices Could Drop
As The Great Lakes approach record levels of ice cover, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating a 13-inch rise in water levels when the frozen stuff finally melts that could ultimately translate into a $40 million in savings for consumers.
Roy Deda with the USACE told CBS Chicago higher water levels means ships can make fewer trips by carrying more cargo. Deda said less water “ends up increasing [stores'] costs because they are not able to carry as much in the ship due to the low lake levels.”
Some Great Lakes Fish Have A Better Chance Of Survival...
Thanks to near-record levels of ice cover in the Great Lakes region, fish eggs (like those of the yellow perch, pictured) have protection from natural predators. George Leshkevich, who tracks current ice conditions for the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the sprawling ice cover could give the the fishing season a boost since "some species of fish need a stable cover of ice to protect their spawning beds from winter storms."
On the other hand, whitefish eggs, which incubate in the winter, could have trouble surviving if the lakes remain too cold for too long.
...And Tree-Killing Pests Don't
Subzero weather is no friend to invasive insect species like the Emerald Ash Borer (pictured) or the gypsy moth, and this season's (seemingly) never-ending cold spell will mean fewer of the tree-killing critters come spring.
"Around minus 20 F, we typically expect around 50 percent of the insects to be potentially killed and closer to minus 30 F almost 90 percent of the insects can be killed," U.S. Forest Service Research Biologist Robert Venette tells AccuWeather.
Indoor Winter Crops Get A Boost
Biting cold weather now could spell a cooler spring ahead, which the Journal Sentinel says is a boon for food crops as buds will emerge later and be less likely to wither under a killing frost.
As for farming through the winter, Illinois indoor farmer Lyndon Hartz told WGN when snow piles up on the roof and the sides of her hoop house, it actually provides more insulation. Hartz said he's actually able to plant earlier in the season by growing inside the snow-insulated hoop house and can harvest all year round. The cold also brings out a sweeter taste in veggies like carrots, Hirtz said.
The manager of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association told WGN while they don't have statistics on winter farmers, winter farming (at least in Illinois) is growing, and more local farmers means organic food prices will drop.
Fruit Tastes Better
Though Miami is experiencing one of its warmer winters on record, much of Florida was affected by the same early January cold snap that turned the Midwest and East Coast into an icebox -- and that's ultiately a good thing for citrus crops.
"A good cold snap lowers the acidity in oranges and increases sugar content, sweetens the fruit," Frankie Hall, policy director for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, tells The Weather Channel. "It's almost been a blessing."