Snow in April? Global warming & climate change is still a reality: an explanation

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 at 5:34 PM

When you live in Edinboro, it’s hard to believe that the world is currently hotter than it has been in millions of years. The snow is still falling with a vengeance while we count down the weeks until summer vacation starts, and the amount of snow we’ve amassed collectively in Erie County is 198.5 inches, only 1.5 inches less than the record breaking 200 of Buffalo. 

Given the hilarious reality that we might not see summer until July, it’s easy to see why people don’t think climate change is a thing, or as bad a thing as everyone is making it out to be. 

 Ask anyone. They can name that one person they know who is overzealous about their love for Earth, or that one person who doesn’t believe in climate change. Some people have both in their social circle. 

The point is that a lot of people swing one way or another without really understanding what climate change is. 

The first major concept to understand is this: there is a difference between climate and weather. Climate is defined as weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period. Weather, meanwhile, is defined as the state of the atmosphere at a place and time regarding heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc. 

To put that simply, climate is the weather patterns over a huge portion of the world, while weather is the local trend of precipitation and temperature at a given time. 

When the climate reaches a temperature greater or lesser than its average, a change in climate follows. So, Erie County is suffering through the never-ending winter, but the east coast is raising in temperature, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA). 

The second major concept is that climate change is a natural process that occurs slowly over billions upon billions of years. I think people struggle to understand that climate change is not a new natural phenomenon. Climate change occurs as Earth ages, and it’s the worsening or the speeding up of climate change that concerns the scientific community. The global temperature usually hovers around about 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), however, since 1970, the global temperature has increased steadily by 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit. That is significantly higher than the usual 0.07 degrees. 

That seems laughable right? The numbers are small so it’s easy to discount them, but despite appearing untouchable, the natural world is fragile. A small raise in temperature can confuse the lifecycles of plants and animals. Some plants, for instance, will start flowering too early in the season and be unable to reproduce because their pollinators (usually insects and birds) are still not around.

 Temperature increases also raise the severity of tropical storms. In the past few years, hurricanes and monsoons have increased multiple folds in intensity, causing more destruction and loss of life. Last year alone, we had two hurricanes that hit the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico, the latter of which is still recovering. A few years before that, Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars of damage along the east coast, specifically in New York and New Jersey. 

Finally, this: climate change doesn’t necessarily mean a raise in temperature. Yes, on average we see most climates becoming hotter, according to the NOAA, but some areas become colder. As lake water warms and freezes later, explains Dr. Michael Mann in an article for the Climate Reality Project, the warm air from the lake collides with colder arctic air, causing heavy lake effect snow. Kind of like what happened right after Christmas last year. 

So as temperatures rise, the trajectory of fronts, jet streams and wind currents change, causing a dipole effect in the U.S. where warmer air is seen on the western part of the country and colder air is observed on the more eastern part. That’s why we’re seeing record breaking highs on the west coast and record-breaking lows on the east coast. 

The winter we’ve had in Erie is in fact just another confirmation of the reality of climate change. 

It’s hard to see how one person, family or community can add to the speed at which the climate changes, especially since many of the systems and effects of climate change are so minuscule and hard to notice. It’s important though to make changes before the climate alterations are so large that we can’t reverse them. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com

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