On Tuesday, Feb. 2, our dear Pennsylvanian Punxatawney Phil popped up out of his enclosure, took a little sniff and grimaced. His shadow said six more weeks of winter, but his nose said spring had sprung.
In the following weeks, we saw that his shadow was indeed wrong. Instead of huddling inside under the blankets and warm hot cocoa this February, students at West Chester University were frolicking the streets in T-shirts and sunglasses.
Although this beautiful weather called for unexpected walks in town and the ability to leave the house without a jacket, it also called for the inevitable discussion about climate change.
This February, the Philadelphia area hit 60 degrees or over approximately eight times, three of the days coming close to or over 70 degrees. On the colder side of things, less than half of the days in the entire month of February were below freezing temperatures.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, spring is now 26 days earlier than it was a decade ago. This particular year, spring arrived 22 days earlier.
The northeast is not the only region of the world being affected. Antarctic regions are starting to see a drastic shift in the climate as well. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Argentine research base on the northern tip of Antarctica hit a record high of 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
The warmest temperature ever recorded before this untimely spike was 19.2 degrees Fahrenheit in 1980. The lowest the temperature ever occurred on Soviet Union’s Vostok station in central Antarctica was in 1983, coming in at -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The disconnect between these temperatures is not only a statistical nightmare but also an alarming impact on our Earth.
For some perspective, Antarctica holds up 90 percent of the Earth’s fresh water. This means if it all were to melt, it would raise sea levels by 200 feet, submerging a majority of the world’s landmasses. Because of this, climate change scientists are worried about even a small portion of the iceberg melting, causing serious flooding and other extreme weather in shoreline communities.
As we all have read in many climate change breaking news stories, 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, beating out 2015. The most alarming statistic, however, is that 16 of the hottest years on record occurred in the 21st century. Are you recycling yet?
“While these earlier springs might not seem like a big deal—and who among us doesn’t appreciate a balmy day or a break in dreary winter weather—it poses significant challenges for planning and managing important issues that affect our economy and our society,” said Dr. Jake Weltzin, a USGS ecologist and the executive director of the USA-NPN.
Although we have all enjoyed the “Frisbee in February” weather, we must realize the true impact it has on humans and other living things.
Because of the warmer weather, ticks and mosquitoes are more active. This could mean a possible spike in Lyme’s disease and/or West Nile virus. The length of pollen season is also extended because of the warmer weather, meaning allergies heightened for longer this year.
These are only some of the possible effects the climate change has on us.
Although continuing to enjoy the warm weather, it is important to be aware of what you can do to prevent hurting the Earth. A few ways you can immediately reduce your impact is reducing fossil fuel use, planting trees, reducing waste and conserving water. Some more practical ways include carpooling with your roommates, recycling and using a reusable water bottle, BPA-free of course.
Al Gore says it well when he describes our current destruction of the planet in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” He says, “So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.”
Erin King is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at EK800454@wcupa.edu.