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People trudge across the snow-covered sidewalks and streets outside Schoonover Center and Bryan Hall. 

Students, staff dissect odd weather

As the years go by, it can seem as if the changes in weather grow more unpredictable every season. Temperatures fluctuate, hurricanes run rampant, droughts dehydrate the land and warmer weather overstays its welcome. 

While in earlier years these meteorological events may have been explained as simple coincidences, the further time moves into the 21st century, more patterns emerge that some believe suggest otherwise. 

“There's quite a bit of debate on this among scientists that study climate change,” Ryan Fogt, a meteorology professor and climatologist at Ohio University, said.

Fogt said many people are torn regarding whether or not strange weather is the result of climate change, especially as winter is the season that fluctuates the most between weather patterns.

“As the Arctic Sea melts, there are some people that believe that the Jetstream becomes wavy or moves more north and south, causing these really strong cold air outbreaks like we had over the Christmas holiday,” he said. “Others would say there's not strong enough evidence yet to link it to climate change.”

While climate change could be one of the contributing factors, it isn’t the only one, Fogt explained. 

“Winter is our most variable season,” he said. “This winter, we are somewhat influenced by a La Nina pattern.”

According to Fogt, a La Nina pattern occurs in the tropical Pacific Ocean when the air near the equator is colder than usual. This cold air blows across the ocean toward the Americas, leading to an overall cooler year or sometimes years.

This meteorological event has a brother, El Nino, who brings warm air rather than cool. El Nino typically doesn’t last as long as La Nina.

These La Nina or El Nino episodes occur every two to seven years, regardless of climate change.

“A lot of people will say it's climate change, but in reality, that's not true,” said Donnie Schiffbauer, a sophomore studying meteorology, said.

Schiffbauer said fluctuating weather patterns are a part of natural climate occurrences, pointing to other, larger events as more indicative of climate change.

“In reality, it's just cold air masses moving in and out and alternating with warm air masses,” Schiffbauer said.

Schiffbauer added people often joke about Ohio’s inconsistent weather, particularly compared to other states that may experience different weather patterns, but that there is a scientific explanation.

“Pretty much any place in the US that's in the mid latitudes is going to have that same weather pattern where it's cold for like half a week and warm for another week,” Schiffbauer said.

While climate change may not be the leading cause for frequent temperature movements this winter, it doesn't deter some from discussing its possible effect in the long term.

“These past few winters haven't really been as cold as I remember them being as a kid,” Cecily Merrick, a sophomore at The Ohio State University studying health sciences, said. “I think that has something to do with climate change. I think it's a small difference year to year but it's definitely a difference.”

While climate change's possible effect on 2023 is still widely unknown, the La Nina season is coming to an end this spring, so Ohians can expect a return to normal weather conditions soon.


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