For many Americans, it is a tradition to use a real-life Christmas tree to celebrate Christmas around. The idea of using artificial trees feels cheap and people would prefer the smell of a real tree.
But this year - to many Americans' dismay - there aren't that many real Christmas trees available. The reason isn't that there is a war on Christmas or anything but rather that the weather isn't cooperating at all.
Oregon state is the state that produces the most Christmas trees in the country. That state alone is responsible for about 40% of the nation's Christmas tree supply, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, an organization that's representing hundreds of tree farms and affiliated businesses.
And so far this year, Oregon Christmas tree growers are struggling.
So Much Heat
Due to the summer's heatwaves, Oregon has lost a lot of its Christmas tree crops. It's one of the main reasons this year real Christmas trees are so expensive.
Trout Creek Tree Farm owner Tom Norby said he experienced a 30% mortality rate this season. Even so, every seedling in his crop was damaged.
Norby also happens to be the president of the Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association too and states that the farms across Oregon have experienced losses overall. He's stressed that there are literally fields with hundreds of acres that are nothing but dead seedlings. It's disastrous and impossible to recover from it if your farm is one that typically produces a million trees per year.
Norby says that it wasn't the fires that did it in. Yes, the wildfires scorched 225,000 acres but avoided the Christmas tree crops.
What did do it in was the weeklong heat wave that started in June.
The Heat Dome
The timing of that heat dome was terrible for the Christmas tree farmers. It hit at the time where seedlings were in the process of taking root and pushing out new shoots. That entire process was interrupted due to the intense heat.
That heat scorched trees resulted in California getting less supply of the trees this year. However, in the case of Oregon, where the saplings were impacted the most, this could be the supply in seven to 10 years where we'll see the pinch.
This particular heat even occurred in late June and broke heat records. Portland set an all-time high at 116 degrees and Seattle hit 108 degrees.
Lytton, British Columbia, clocked in at 121 degrees, the highest it's ever been in Canada, and about 48 degrees above what's normal that time of year. It was so bad that the town burned down a day later.
California Christmas Trees Aren't Much Better
The president of the California Christmas Tree Association Jeri Seifert said that the Christmas trees in California aren't doing much better. The heatwave in the area caused a huge impact on the farms and the trees experienced sunburns.
When trees are exposed to too much sunlight and heat and a lack of moisture, parts of the tree - or the whole tree - will get sunburnt. This results in damage on the tree or the tree dying.
Seifert noted that the heat dome that came through caused the native trees to burn on their southern-facing sides. As a result, it spoiled the marketing of those trees since you can't sell a tree that's brown on one side and green on the other.
In heat domes, the high pressure that comes from them serves as a lid on the atmosphere. As hot air tries to escape from, this lid basically forces it back down, resulting in warming the area further as the heat sinks down.
Could Be Facing Shortage Of Trees For Other Reasons Too
The other big problem with the selling of Christmas trees isn't so much the heat but also the industry itself. Even though we all love Christmas trees, the industry doesn't make a lot of money from selling Christmas trees.
As a result, younger generations aren't keen to step up and run a farm. And we can't blame them since they need higher-paying jobs.
Paired up with a lot of owners are getting close to retirement age, seeing their crops being ravaged from fires or from heat means it's smarter to close plantations and farms down and stop producing. That idea sounds more persuasive when you consider the extreme weathers we've experienced and the prices of trees increasing.
In the end, this is a global warming event that's been pushed to the point that it impacts how many Americans celebrate Christmas.
All we can hope for is a gentler season next year because if it gets any worse or doesn't change at all, many farms will not be able to continue on and you'll have to celebrate with a fake tree instead.
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