February was nothing short of bizarre. Heavy snowstorms dumped piles of snow across the mid-atlantic states and others saw deep freezes previously unknown in their area. What is with the oddball weather? The National Wildlife Federation knows: they say it's all thanks to global warming. Oddball Winter Weather: Global Warming's Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States was just released. According to the report, winter is becoming milder and shorter on average while at the same time we are experiencing record-breaking snowstorms. Indeed, winter seemed rather condensed into the month of February here in the Northeast - and what a month it was! Huge snowfalls closed schools, roads, and businesses, while also taking down trees and power lines - not to mention the rampant cabin fever experienced by children across the region. On a serious note, the report argues that global warming is altering temperatures, moisture availability, and storm tracks - all of which disrupt ecosystems. The lack of bone-chilling cold has been credited with an explosion of pests and invasive species normally tempered by cold. One particular concern is the explosion of ticks who carry Lyme Disease. Warmer winters mean winter tick survival is more likely and populations will rapidly expand as global warming trends continue.
Is global warming to blame? Most Americans don't think so. The number of people who are confident about global warming is declining. A recent study conducted by Yale and George Mason Universities shows that only 57 percent of respondents believe that global warming was "happening", down 14 percentage points from October 2008. American who don't believe in global warming argue that these are just normal weather patterns. The Washington Post recently reported that area residents are quickly tiring of this year's heavy snowfalls - more than double the normal average. But a quick chart of average DC snowfall from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows marked increases about every eight to ten years, with the last occurrence in the winter of 2003-04. So are this year's storms just part of a weather trend or is global warming a scientific reality?
The Stanford University's Solar Center argues that global warming is "now well documented and accepted by scientists as fact." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also concurs and agrees that warming trends are due to human behavior. Changing our everyday lives, individually and collectively, can make a difference. The Environmental Defense Fund suggests some actions you can take now to help reduce global warming: for example, buying the greenest vehicle you can for your budget or choosing energy efficient appliances in your home. Mother Nature isn't very predictable these days, so it seems. But with a few simple changes we can try to impact our climate and, hopefully, our weather.