Wild Weather: The Impact of Climate Change
Author: Calli DeSerio Lambard
Published: March 11th, 2023
The other night there was an ice storm, which isn’t too unusual for a March evening. I heard the ice pelting against my window and the wind whistling along with it. The sounds settled into a rhythm outside my window as I read. Then, the rhythm was broken by a clap of thunder.
It was strange, sure, but it was made more strange by how odd the weather had been recently. I’m sure it’s not terribly uncommon for lightning to strike in a cold storm, but to have that happen after warm days in February where you didn’t need a jacket was striking. It just felt like the weather was spiraling into something we hadn’t seen before.
This winter’s weather could be attributed to an extended La Niña, which would bring more moisture, or from a disrupted polar vortex creating extreme cold weather in some areas. However, it is becoming more clear that we are experiencing the effects of climate change. Where meteorologists used to be able to look back and use past data to inform current seasons, climate change is a new variable that could lead to some variation. It’s not as easy to predict how a season will go.
NASA scientist Alex Ruane notes that climate change is contributing to a more intense water cycle, where things move more quickly through the system. There is also more energy in the system, leading to more heat and more moisture in the air, which all contributes to heavier downpours. This can lead to flooding that has devastating impacts and is more frequent than past floods.
We often see two extremes occurring at once. Take drought and heat—one exacerbates the other. Things swing from extreme to extreme too. Consider this past February, where we saw snow forecast some days and fifty to sixty degree weather on others. This swing back and forth can be confusing and frustrating for people. Every time it got cold, I heard someone on campus lament that it was fifty degrees yesterday!
The problem is, these students are trying to use their past knowledge of how weather should be happening to inform their current experience. We can see, though, how the weather is not performing the way it usually does. We may have been used to a steady time of certain temperatures, but we can’t expect temperatures to remain the same anymore. Things are just different.
This is scary as someone who loves the changes of the seasons. I’ve always loved the gradual changes in temperature, the way that the world slowly warms up and cools down. I wonder if I’ve seen the last of these predictable seasons. I suppose there’s no way to know but to keep going.
The good news is, though, that this is a cutting-edge field. Scientists are getting better at understanding the human influence on these weather events by comparing them to conditions from before there was a strong human influence. By doing this, we might be able to better understand the changes currently going on and prepare for future seasons.
We might want to try to adapt to a new normal, but it isn't clear what that normal will be yet. For now, stay informed, keep learning, and keep advocating for climate action.
Calli DeSerio Lambard is a senior Environmental Studies and Creative Writing dual major at Susquehanna University. She is a fiction writer interested in the peculiar ways we interact with each other, and how we can use stories to share information about the climate crisis.