On March 1st, a snow storm hit the North East, marking only the second major snow storm this winter. A week later, temperatures were in the 50’s and 60’s. To say we’ve had some interesting winter weather in New England this year is an understatement. Typically this time of year students are walking around in boots, gloves, and winter coats. This year, though, there have been several days worthy of sandals, light jackets, and even shorts.

This warm weather has made walking to class, and just about everything else, ten times more enjoyable. But it’s not without consequence. This unseasonably warm weather has created a few unwelcome problems, including:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have cited this as the fourth warmest winter on record in the United States. A mild winter every now and then has been known to happen. The jarring thing is the stark contrast between last years’ winter weather and this year. Last January, the Springfield area saw 54.8 inches of snow and several days where the temperature dropped below zero. This January saw a mere 5.8 inches of snow with many days creeping into the upper 60’s.

February and March were no different, with a plethora of mild days uncharacteristic to this time of year. With usual average highs of 40°, our 60° and higher days have been a welcome surprise for many – and a possible warning sign.

There has been a lot of debate about the existence of global warming over the past few years, but this winter’s bizarre weather is providing more proof than ever that it may be a real threat. One warm winter isn’t compelling evidence in and of itself that climate change is on the horizon, though. Trends over time are the only thing that can be indicative of a significant change in climate, and these trends seem to be developing – and not only in the winter time.

In the past century trends have indicated warmer weather for all four of the seasons. The regularity of warmer seasons can have many risks, though, including:

  • Droughts
  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme precipitation
  • Wildfires
  • Floods
  • Extreme storms including hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes

These risks are incredibly plausible dangers. Drought conditions have already developed in the South Plains, especially in Texas. Around 71% of the state is under severe or higher drought levels – a high increase in comparison to the 46% last year. The droughts are a result of below-normal precipitation levels and above average winter and springtime temperatures.

While there is not much we can do to stop unnatural weather patterns, it’s important that we prepare for spring and summer a little earlier than usual. Protection against bugs, strong sun, and extreme heat/drought conditions is crucial as we move forward into what could be an extremely hot summer.