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Everything on earth evolved around changing seasons and the different versions of resources they bring with them, so I'm curious, how did natural processes take advantage of winter qualities to shape earth as we know it? It seems like the advantages captured from other seasons are more obvious, specifically to plant life (spring- showers, summer- direct sunlight) so what's the unique aspect of winter that helps continue the process?

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  • $\begingroup$ Does it have something to do with the 'death' process (regarding plant life?) Is it necessary to 'kill' the old to grow the new? $\endgroup$ – Taytee13 Feb 1 '17 at 3:02
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    $\begingroup$ Premises are too broad, oversimplified, and not necessarily true. Voting to close. $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe Feb 1 '17 at 3:26
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I don't know if one answer can list all the positives, but one I can think of is this: In many (not all) places of the world winter produces the most violent storms. Because deciduous trees lose their leaves during winter, they thus have less wind resistance, which in turn lessens--but does not eliminate--their vulnerability to being toppled over by severe winds.

And of course, hibernating species take advantage of winter by sleeping through it and pretty much staying awake for the rest of the year. (I sometimes wish we humans could do the same.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course, life here is reactive to all seasons as earth was the environment it came to fruition in- another idea / thought process to add is that both summer and winter, since they are the most extreme variations of environment, can be harmful to life- spring and fall, the more moderate and average environmental conditions, are what (most) life has evolved to thrive (survive more) in because it is the average environment. Also tips a hat to why dramatic shifts in environments (like those produced by climate change) are dangerous to that very survival. $\endgroup$ – Taytee13 Feb 1 '17 at 1:07
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There is nothing "necessary" in winter, as much as nothing is "necessary" in any other seasons or natural phenomena. It's not like there's an all powerful being (God) that decided we needed a winter. Winter is a fact of life that occurs because of Earth's rotation tilt. It's there whether we want it or not and whether we're even here to contemplate it's "necessity".

That said, things have evolved around the existence of winter, and the occurrence of winter has become necessary for their life. For example, some cherry cultivars taste better when exposed to cold. Winter causes fish, mammals, insects, birds, etc to migrate and subsequently breed. Ski resorts are open in winter and without it people who work there will be unemployed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I understand everything on earth is completely reactive to the environment it evolved in, my question stemmed from thinking about how some factors (I.E. sunlight, rain, temperature, etc.) are so core to earth that everything has evolved to require them. Since other seasons (spring, summer, fall) seem to provide those different, 'necessary' resources (as everything evolved using them), I'm currently only seeing winter takes resources away. Does winter 'provide' a 'necessary' resource, does it only take 'necessary' resources away, or has the yearly displacement become fundamental to life? $\endgroup$ – Taytee13 Feb 1 '17 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Taytee I'm pretty sure you can find something that is "provided" by the existence of winter. But that thing evolved because winter is a fundamental thing of life. Think about equatorial regions that don't really have seasons. Life goes on, regardless of the lack of winter. Or summer. Or any other season. Seasons are a cause, not a result. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Feb 1 '17 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ True- all seasons further north and south are all just more and more extreme versions of what those equatorial regions experience, correct? All seasons, therefore, just represent yearly variations in one central environment. $\endgroup$ – Taytee13 Feb 1 '17 at 0:52
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Seems to me the creation of soil may be largely due to the effects of winter. If not for the seasonal death and decay of part of plants exposed to winter conditions, soils would be less rich. Look at the soils in the tropical rain forest areas, which area relatively poor in nutrients, in comparisons to the rich dark soils of the great plains, where winter temperatures kill the surface plants, but reintroduce that vegetation into the soil to aid the growth of the soil for the next seasons growth.

Another important aspect for winter is the snow, which, besides providing skiers with entertainment, provides moisture which, being retained in the snowpack late into the spring and summer, and allows life to flourish into regions which would otherwise receive little or no precipitation in the summer months.

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  • $\begingroup$ This perspective adds an interesting topic to the mix- what fundamental aspects of average life here on earth would not exist without that shift to winter? In winter, 'death' in plant life seems to be prevalent- is this environmental shift fundamental to 'killing off the old' and 'bringing in the new'? $\endgroup$ – Taytee13 Feb 1 '17 at 1:10

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