A Winter’s Tale

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One morning a few years ago while I was visiting my parents in Cleveland for the holidays, my father pointed to a newspaper picture taken in Germany of snow piled high on the sides of a road after a major snowstorm. “So, is that an example of global warming?” he asked. “No, it’s an example of climate change,” I replied.

On Tuesday when most of NYC awoke to only a few inches of snow but closed roads, subways, and schools. people were joking about the Snowpocalypse that never came. Well, it may not have hit us here in the city, but out on Long Island where I teach, especially  on the East End, residents were socked in with over 2 feet of snow and blinding driving conditions. I was happy (as were my students) that classes were cancelled.

Parts of Massachusetts were hit even harder. Some areas got over 3 feet of snow and the entire island of Nantucket lost power. Most homes had no electricity for more than two days. Along with the snow came 76 mile an hour winds and flooding of the downtown streets. Not your average Nor’easter of days of old.

So, no, this is not exactly an example of “global warming,” but it is an example of our changing climate, and many of these changes are due to warming temperatures, both air and sea. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air, making downpours, whether of rain or snow, potentially more disastrous. Also, higher sea levels will add to more flooding during these storms, even in the winter months.

Although not every storm can be tied directly to climate change, with a warmer world we can expect (as we are already witnessing) more extreme storms of all kinds: superstorms, hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, and likely tornadoes too. Climate scientists, like Kevin Trenberth, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are finding that even though winters are getting shorter, heavy snowstorms are going to be more extreme and more common. This article in The Guardian helps explain why in further detail.

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When I woke up Tuesday morning it was still snowing so I decided to go out and investigate my Brooklyn neighborhood with my camera. The streets were quiet but not completely empty. I saw a guy clearing his block’s sidewalks with a snow-blower,

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three day-laborers looking for driveways to shovel and cars to dig out,

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a few dedicated joggers in Prospect Park,

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a  lone little snowman,

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and several pre-teens heading out to go sledding.

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Lachlan, Nate, and Henry

 

I asked them if they were learning about climate change in school to which they replied yes. Lochlan said that he’d even attended the NYC Climate March last September for which I gave him a high-five. I asked him what concerns he had about how global warming could affect his world. “Well, I love sledding, so it would be bad if there weren’t a lot of snow in the future to play in.”

I also ran into a few folks just out enjoying the beauty of it all. I asked this rosy-cheeked group if I could take their picture and mentioned that I was doing a project about climate change.

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from left to right: Paul Younger holding his son Wyatt, Meredith, his wife holding Emmett, and his sister Alyssa.

 

When I emailed Meredith copies of these pictures, I asked her what her thoughts on climate change were to which she replied,

Climate change should be getting all of our focus right now.  It is truly terrifying, and any news of fossil fuel development is distressing.  I want to see more reporting on climate change in the media, and more research into renewable energy sources, particularly solar.  Surely the sun has enough power to satisfy our puny human energy needs here on earth!  

 I couldn’t have said it better myself. And like Lochlan and his pals, I agree: I like snow, to play in, photograph, and because it’s a part of our natural climate. It also provides opportunities for some sweet cuddling. Who wants to lose that?

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One thought on “A Winter’s Tale

  1. Enjoying your blog — as usual, beautiful winter-scene photos! We actually got nearly 1 inch of snow last week here in Payson, AZ, followed the next day by glorious sunshine.

    Thanks, Vee

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