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Imagine a world that looks suspiciously like Earth. Summer turns to autumn, autumn turns to winter, and winter turns to more winter. The winter endures for several years before summer finally comes again, and itself lasts for several years.

Yes, 'Westearthos' has suddenly become a binary star system, and in just the right way such that the only significant change is the extended and erratic length of the seasons (I know, but bear with me here). The winters are no more severe than normal, and while the Northern hemisphere experiences winter, the Southern experiences summer.

The seasons work as in this question - they normally vary between about one and ten years in length, and a long summer is normally followed by a long winter.

There are several related questions already on SE, but I don't think we've yet seen one addressing this precise question:

How would a modern (2017), Western style society cope with a Westeros-like seasonal cycle?

For the sake of specificity, let's say the society in question is the UK and this is a new phenomenon, so life hasn't had any chance to evolve in response, but we've managed to predict the arrival of winter a couple of years in advance and so have some time to prepare (winter is predicted in 2017, and winter arrives in 2019).

Because 'cope' can cover a broad range of things, I'll limit it to how the society will feed and care for it's citizens. Yes, the England cricket team will be playing an awful lot of away games, and sales of Pimms will take a hit,but let's focus on the important issues.

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closed as too broad by Mołot, Vincent, Aify, JBH, Lio Elbammalf Nov 23 '17 at 21:10

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Just to be sure, you are saying all of earth experiences winter? That means tropical snow or something, Northern and Southern hemisphere at the same time? I fear everyone would simply die. Anyways, please specify a region since Zimbabwe would deal with it differently than Mongolia $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Nov 23 '17 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 nope, just that the seasons become longer and more erratic. $\endgroup$ – walrus Nov 23 '17 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the edit. I think you should also state if you mean your average (mostly mild) British winter and how long that winter will last, 10 or 100 years or what? You should also state an area to focus on in your society. "Society" is, well, a bit broad. You should also state what happens with the summer side of earth since they might have to provide the food and well, they might have gotten the worse deal. We are experiencing globalization, nothing exists in isolation anymore $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Nov 23 '17 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ "erratic" and "several years winter" are opposing statements. $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. Nov 23 '17 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Fl.pf. How so? A world which experiences 3 years of winter, 5 of summer, 7 of winter and then 2 of summer would have both multi year winters and erratic seasons $\endgroup$ – walrus Nov 23 '17 at 12:41
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I'm going to assume you are going for the standard globe setup, except erratic season length and intensity.

Globalization enters heavily here...in a previous era, most people ate locally grown food as they had little access to international products. In today's world however, it's actually difficult to determine if the tomato you are eating originated from a nearby farm or somewhere in the southern hemisphere. This trend would be heavily exaggerated...it's not that the people of this planet can't grow food, it's they can't grow it locally and need to depend on foreign imports to survive the elongated seasons.

It's also important to realize that not all crops are summer growers...there are actually quite a few 'winter crops' https://www.thompson-morgan.com/top-10-winter-vegetables that grow best in the winter, and the more and more popular indoor hydroponics or greenhouses can also provide a decent amount of green foods in the darkest of winters (http://www.towergarden.ca/ for example). This may promote more people growing locally (in house) even in the middle of these elongated winters (works to decentralize food production).

Winter livestock, assuming you can import the needed food, is also a complete possibility. http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/w08livestock

Flexibility will be key for these people and their logistic systems probably will reflect that. Not knowing if next years harvest will come from one part of the globe currently in a summer or another part of the globe thats in winter now but will see spring in a few months. They will need to be able to predict the weather well enough to know where and when to grow their crops.

** add

Should be noted that the UK's geography is important on this question. Thermohaline circulation actually keeps the UK quite warm regardless of season, as long as the equator is getting the sun, the UK won't really freeze over.

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So basically what will happen if an ice age hit the planet/hemisphere once every x amount of months/years...

For starters the longer the winter the shorter the chances of that country to stock up on enough food for all the population(if the size of the uk ofc). Energy to not freeze to death would be an even greater issue. The oxygen levels could jump around if it's a planet wide phenomenon.A lot of animal species will die out and probably the sustainability of life on the planet will be rather low.

Now if it's a more advanced race where they can use more advanced and exotic energy sources... with heating up artificially the atmosphere then they have a fighting chance.

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