Imagine there are severe magical blizzards coming from the south pole at regular intervals.

Since they're magical, let's assume they can cross the equator and don't lose strength over time.

They are completely independent of seasons and occur in addition to normal meteorological events.

As with any blizzard, they are composed of heavy snow fall, strong winds (at least 56 km/h (35 mph)), reduced visibility, and a drop in temperature.
However, their duration never exceeds 8 hours.

The frequency of blizzards is not defined for now because I don't know at which point a world would become unable to sustain human life (which I don't want). If you truly need a frequency, let's say one every 2-3 weeks.

Given a world similar to our Earth, how could life (flora/fauna) evolve?

Here are some resources on biome: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/images/worldbuilding/biome2.jpg

I found this page on worldbuilding (which is great) but I'm still not able to answer this question myself. Maybe it can help you :)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A natural blizzard typically doesn't span an entire hemisphere at once and typically cannot reach warmer regions in summer, unless it's magic. Please clarify whether this is a magical or natural phenomenon. And please concentrate on a single question or your post might be closed as too broad. $\endgroup$
    – Elmy
    Feb 5, 2019 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ That hasn't answered Elmy's question. Does each blizzard cover the whole hemisphere up to the equator? Is there a similar weather phenomenon in the northern half of the globe? $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Feb 5, 2019 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ The ancestor's tale by Richard Dawkins is a popular introductory-level book which follows the evolution of exactly one lineage -- that which resulted in modern humans. It is not a book about natural evolution in general, it does not examine alternative hypotheses, it does not include the mathematical underpinnings of population genetics, it gives very short shrift to plants, and of the animals it features only those which happened to be on the one evolutionary line which led to us. It has 829 pages. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I'm confused by the tags, - a science-based magical blizzard? $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2019 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ "How could life evolve" is a very broad subject. Might worth a Ph.D.... but I don't see it as a quality answer here. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2019 at 5:18

3 Answers 3


Let's assume that this is all explained by the presence of the element "handwaivium"

The plant life would likely evolve to go dormant for short periods of time, much like some trees have evolved to have layers of bark which burn off easily, letting the trees survive frequent forest fires.

The mammalian life would similarly have evolved for short periods of dormancy, there would be plenty of burrowers.

Your humanoids would rely heavily upon the seas, with fishing being largely unaffected for a reliable food source independent of season or periodic blizzard.

In addition to dormancy of some life, some may take advantage of the periodic blizzards. Plant life may have evolved to drop seeds or fruit when the blizzards hit, bribing the burrowers to take the fruit, and spread the next generations...

Nature is rugged, and would adapt, think along those lines

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    $\begingroup$ A lot of animals would also likely take advantage of the blizzard for birthing since predators will be less active. * hours is not much to a tree however, for them its just fresh water. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @John it would be for other plant life that wasn't as tall. $\endgroup$
    – user20762
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on how long it stays cold, snow makes for a decent insulator.But I like the idea of hte plant taking advantage of the high winds to spread seeds. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ The blizzards last no more than 8 hours - there's no need for real dormancy. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander the snow would still need time to melt, and the cells would still burst. A frost in Florida is enough to devastate the citrus crops. $\endgroup$
    – user20762
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:47

In our current world, many plants are adapted for freezes and many are not. In the Mediterranean-like climate where I live, we get hard frosts a handful of times in the winter. They are always just for a few hours at night. And the landscape is completely altered after just one.

The easy answer is to say that plants will evolve to handle freezing temperatures. The reality though is more complex. It's not just about survival.

Let's take the example of a fruiting tree like an apple or cherry. Both do great with freezing temperatures and even thrive in climates with heavy winters each year. But one late frost can affect them greatly. A late frost won't kill them, but it will ruin any flower or young fruit they've put out.

A single frost at the wrong time, even for just a couple of hours, will destroy a fruit tree's ability to put out edible fruit for the entire year.

An early frost, before full harvest, can destroy any fruit left on the tree.

Frosts every couple of weeks year-round? Oy. Very few trees could manage that. Oh they'll survive, but they'll have a difficult time reproducing. They'll produce very few viable seeds and the frosts will kill off all or most of any seedlings that come from those seeds.

Seeds only sprout when the ground temperature is warm enough for them. It takes weeks or months after winter for this to happen. If the ground keeps freezing, they may never sprout. Or they'll sprout and die before they can grow enough to establish themselves.

This is true for all flowering plants that produce fruit, not just fruits humans eat. Flowering plants that produce seeds directly will have similar issues.

Flowering plants are quite old and established as such. Sure, there are flowers that can survive frost, even bloom in it, but they're rare. I'm not sure any fruiting plants (whether tropical, temperate, or with 4 traditional seasons) would survive frosts of this frequency. 1000 years of this and very few, if any, will have survived the reproductive process. (Most would be gone in under 10 years.)

For a lifeform to evolve, some of them have to survive.

Okay, how about non-flowering plants? Plants that reproduce via roots (many do but you need some sexual reproduction for species diversity) or spores (moss, ferns) or seeds (conifers).

Some of these should survive and evolve. You still have the issue of frost killing seedlings, but I can see a few making it through regardless.

Characteristics of plants that survive this process:

  • Non-flowering.
  • Produce tons and tons of seed/spores/etc.
  • Grow well in shade, at least when small (why? because spots up against a large object will have microclimates that aren't as affected by the frosts).
  • Very root heavy. All plants have extensive roots (more than people often think) but plants that survive this magic will have large and deep root systems. An 8 hour blizzard won't freeze the ground very deep. So deeper roots are more protected.

Characteristics of warmblooded land animals that survive this process:

  • Adapted to eat the plants that have survived (or other animals).
  • Skin/fur/feathers/hair that is well insulated.
  • No molting periods (at least none that are extreme).
  • Can go a day without water.
  • Keep eggs warm after laying (or lay them underground).
  • Care for young after birth.
  • Mammals will have very fatty milk.

If blizzards are infrequent, temperate lifeforms won't be affected much, but tropical ones would need adaptation.

In moderately high latitudes on Earth (50s) blizzards and cold spells are perfectly natural in late spring and sometimes even in the summer. If affects primarily cultures from warmer areas which are not accustomed to such extremes, but species that are native to the area are weathering those events just fine. This magical blizzard is even shorter that a natural cold spell, so I wouldn't expect any noticeable changes in temperate climates.

Tropics are a very different story. Many animals and plants there can't survive freezing temperatures even for a short period of time. Thus, I would expect many species to become more "temperate", and others, which depend on large green leaves, to disappear completely. Animals can learn to hide during the blizzards, so I don't expect to have them affected too much.

There can be an interesting consequence for deserts, which normally don't see significant precipitation. If they would receive a regular snowfall, they will stop being deserts and become savannas or dry steppes.


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