By Mary Waller
College students have been losing valuable class time due to the dangerous snow storms that have been pounding the Northeast, which seem to be falling on the same day, on Wednesdays. While many students normally would be thrilled and happy to get a day off, it has gotten to the point where students do not want to miss any more class and schools are mandating that professors provide make-up assignments or extra class time. With students already having busy schedules both in and out of the classrooms, making up the work is becoming a struggle for both professors and students.
Ramapo College has, so far, cancelled classes at least 5 times due to the weather, with three of the days being Wednesdays. The dangerous and unprecedented snowstorms have made college students miss so many classes that colleges have been considering enforcing make ups for the missed time outside of the remaining scheduled class time.
These cancellations have become a serious concern for seniors; as many classes that have been cancelled are requirements to graduate on time. Senior seminars and senior project classes have been rescheduled, postponed and overall cancelled.
But where did this unsafe, high-risk weather come from? It’s no secret that climate change is to blame for the growing danger from winter storms. These storms have become much more frequent and common in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States over the past century.
Approximately twice as many extreme U.S. snowstorms occurred in the latter half of the 20th century than the first, according to NOAA. After studying these storms it’s believed that the severity has rooted back to the warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic. The higher temperatures can lead to high amounts of moisture in the air, intensifying the winter storms. The increase in moisture allows for heavier precipitation, in turn more dangerous and heavy snowfalls.
In contrast to the heavy snowfall and intense storms that the Northeast and parts of the Midwest have been experiencing, the South and lower Midwest saw reduced snowfall in the last century. Even with the heavy snowfall increase, total snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere has decrease because of the higher temperatures shortening the time the snow stays on the ground.
There has been a somewhat shift in the weather cycle we are accustomed too; in recent years, unusually warm air in the Arctic has forced winter storms to travel in the southern parts of the United States. When we think of winter storms, we do not think of the southern United States. Eight of the last 10 winters experienced in the United States were warmer that the average winters between 1951-1980 in the U.S.
Not to mention, El Nino helps the snow storms gain strength and severity. Snowstorms are approximately twice as likely to occur in the Northeast and Southeast regions with a strong El Nino present, compared to neutral conditions.
The intensity of the storms relate back to climate change and the impact that humans have had on the environment. We’ve had such an impact on the environment, it can be said that it’s karma that the weather has negatively impact our schedules. Since humans have hurt the environment we may be getting these strong storms because we’ve been so cruel to the climate.
The class cancellations that thousands of students and faculty are trying to make up for now cannot compare to the impact and scar that we’ve left on the climate. The only thing that we can do in both cases is to work better, harder and faster to help improve our schedules and to help save the Earth's environment.