Science Newsletter #6: The Winter Solstice 2020 and How Climate Change Worsens Snowstorms

Science Newsletter #6: The Winter Solstice 2020 and How Climate Change Worsens Snowstorms

Christopher Owen

The Winter Solstice 2020: More Than Just A Day

Just within the past few days, the world experienced a day filled with astronomical activity. On top of a stunning and vibrant meteor shower on December 17th and the Jupiter-Saturn conjugation in which both planets are visible to us here on Earth on December 21st, the Winter Solstice was the shortest day of 2020, otherwise known as the Winter Solstice. On this day, the sun remains in the sky for roughly 8 hours, resulting in the least amount of daylight received in a single day to mark the beginning of winter. This event is so astronomically astounding since the sun’s path of movement across the Earth is the closest to the equator, at a shocking 20 degrees above the horizon. This results in not only the shortest day of the year but facilitate other celestial activity to occur. The past week has brought a total solar eclipse to parts of Argentina and Chile (the next one which is predicted to occur in 2024), the Ursid meteor shower that lit up the light sky with hundreds of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere, and the beginning of winter where Northern Hemisphere is at its furthest tilt away from the Sun. In addition to these galactic marvels that bring great joy and excitement to a world stricken with heartbreak and loss amidst the pandemic, the Winter Solstice provides a beacon of hope to many that this winter will help many recover and recharge to enter the New Year on a strong note.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/21/science/winter-solstice-jupiter-saturn-ursids.html

 

How Climate Change Makes Winter Storms More Severe and Dangerous

There is no doubt that climate change is a pressing issue of our time that continuously threatens the health and safety of our planet the longer it does not receive attention. In the weather world this winter, many climatologists believe that due to the warmer-than-usual atmosphere as a result of global warming, winter storms will become more frequent and severe, including higher snowfall amounts and greater wind speeds. A major aspect of storms that scientists analyze when determining how storms grow to be as dangerous as they are today is their source of fuel. To answer this, they look to the weather phenomenon global warming, which has led to warmer temperatures worldwide, contributing to the Earth’s atmosphere becoming warmer and more humid. The high levels of moisture present in the surrounding air, feed the intensity of the storm when water vapor is formed. According to Jennifer Francis, who is a senior scientist working for the Woodwell Climate Research Center, when water vapor condenses, it loses energy, and “it releases heat into the air, which provides fuel for storms.” Some scientists believe that the winter storms expected to barrage the East coast might be some of the worst storms seen in the past few years as the Earth’s climate gets warmer and climate changes continue to be left on the back burner. Most people attribute the tedious act of shoveling snow and having to walk in the freezing cold to it “just being winter,” but winter has grown to be this way because worldwide temperatures are on the rise, Earth’s climate is becoming more unsuitable, and global warming is worsening. If we want any hope of obtaining the picture-perfect winter rather than winters filled with stress, we have to turn our attention to climate change and spread awareness about how dire this issue has become.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/17/climate/climate-change-winter.html