Recent warm weather has had Keene State College students walking around without jackets and spending time out on the Fiske Quad. However, while the students have enjoyed the warmth in the late winter months, it could be detrimental to the environment.
KSC senior and president of Eco-reps Victoria Drake said that the warm weather is of concern to her.
“It’s concerning because yes, it’s awesome that it’s warm weather and everyone wants to be outside and that’s great, but I don’t think that everyone else is aware of what it means for our planet and our environment,” Drake said.
In a matter of weeks, the Keene area has seen weather patterns change back and forth drastically, from cold to warm and back again. There has been heavy snowfall and temperatures in the high 60s, which melted much of the snow away.
According to KSC environmental studies professor Dr. Jill Weiss, these sporadic weather patterns can be explained in part by the heating of the oceans because of the effects of global warming.
“Because of these severe weather patterns, the water in certain places [is] kind of getting super-heated. Not boiling, but eight degrees makes a difference. So, if you get this warm water suddenly going under one of these [weather] oscillations where there’s a big exchange of temperature and moisture, that’s going to send a front of weather across,” she said.
Weiss said that these oscillations above the United States used to have predictable patterns and are becoming less consistent.
Weiss said that weather will be harder to predict and more severe than it normally would be, like the warm front that Keene experienced recently.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, eight of the 10 warmest years on-record have occurred since 1998.
“So it’s more of everything,” Weiss said. “If it’s a warm week, it’s going to be a really warm week. If it’s a cold week, it’s going to be a really cold week,” Weiss said.
These sporadic patterns can cause environmental problems like heavy snowfall followed by a strong warm front, which melts the snow and causes flooding.
The EPA reported that since 1901, total precipitation has increased by 0.08 percent on average over land areas worldwide each decade. Shifting weather patterns have caused droughts in other parts of the world as well.
“Part of the job of the U.S., of New Hampshire [and] of Keene is to be ready for these kinds of things and we have to mitigate and we have to adapt,” Weiss said.
The normally unprecedented weather patterns around the country has caused the emergence of seasons earlier then they normally would be, and with that comes migration of many species of plants and animals back to the area early, Weiss explained.
“When you have seasons arriving earlier, it means that the insects are early, the birds are early [and] the plants don’t always catch up,” Weiss said.
She added that when the warmth comes, followed by another drastic cold weather pattern, the birds that come back often don’t have much food to survive after the insects and plants freeze and die. Insects that reproduce in water are also not able to reproduce as the water freezes over again.
Also, Weiss said that if the warm patterns are persistent, it could open the door for invasive species and drive native species out of the area.
KSC senior and president of Campus Ecology at Keene State Seanna Flynn said she has noticed these early arrivals during her time working at the Harris Center For Wildlife Education. She said that wood frogs, who normally migrate in April, have started their migration to find a spot to lay their eggs. She said that this marks the earliest time of year that they have ever started doing this. She said that the tulip bulbs around campus have already started blooming, which puts them at risk of dying if another frost comes through.
If this trend continues, it could lead to a lack of biodiversity, according to Weiss.
“You have to wonder how resilient systems will be if this is going to be the new norm,” Weiss said. “If we’re lucky, things will move slowly and species will adapt. If we are not lucky, things will not adapt and we’ll have less things.”
So to help to lower the human contributions to climate change, both Weiss and Flynn said that people need to be more proactive.
“There’s so many things you can do. Most of it has to do with how you play as a consumer,” Flynn said.
Campus Ecology has done things like clothing exchanges to help cut down on the manufacturing of apparel and the waste that goes with it. The group is also circulating a petition for the college to refrain from any new investments in fossil-fuel companies.
Weiss also said that scientists and activists need to find a way to better relay their scientific message and data to other individuals [and] small things, like not using plastic cups, has a real impact on efforts against climate change.
Weiss said, “We have to figure out a way to communicate with the public to make them feel like small things matter.”
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org