Boston’s Wicked Winter: A Case of Climate Extremes

Boston’s Wicked Winter: A Case of Climate Extremes

As we welcome spring this month, we bid a not-so-fond farewell to a tough winter in New England, where Boston’s standing snowfall record got trouncedmostly in the span of a few February weeks. The new bar stands at over 9 feet. If your door wasnt snowed shut, and you were able to trudge between shoulder-high snowbanks, you might have overheard one or two of your neighbors questioning global warming amid endless hours shoveling, and re-shoveling, snow. The daily weather matters to how we perceive and understand Earth’s changing climate. And so its understandable when weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and freakishly-high snow drifts sow doubt about whether the planet is getting warmer. Jack Spengler, our Centers Director, and Teresa Chahine, our Program Leader for Social Entrepreneurship, sat down to put The Winter of 2015 into the context of climate change, and were kind enough to let us listen in.In their conversation, they point to Bostons heavy snows as an example of how greenhouse gases can drive more extreme weather, which can bring an entire region to its knees. In Boston, public transit came screeching to a halt, leaving businesses and workers idle. Facebook newsfeeds lit up with snowed-in parents lamenting day upon day at home, sentenced to watching Frozen, as snow days extended into snow weeks. Also left idle was our citys economy. Our advisory board member Frank Nutter appeared on NPRs On Point, to talk about Tallying Up The High Costs of Extreme Weather. Its worth a listen. Jack and Teresa noted that what happens locally cannot be assumed to be happening globally: While the surge of cold weather blew into New England (and as far away as Florida and Texas), western states such as California, New Mexico, and Arizona experienced unusually warm temperatures. Washington State, which usually sports a climate similar to the one we are accustomed to in Massachusetts, didnt receive enough snow to replenish its watershed, which will likely lead to water shortages this summer and could leave crops thirsty. And so the coasts become two ends of the climate spectrum: too hot and dry in the West, and too cold and wet in the East. The wicked winter of 2015 paints all too clear a picture of a topsy-turvy climate that is expected to warp further in coming years. Boston is now back on its feetthe subway is running, and the snow is nearly gone. We have a way to go in making this city resilient to climate change, and this past winter taught us some goodand hardlessons on how to get there.

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