Henry Brown '23
Snow days are arguably the best thing in the world. As kindergarteners, our elation was unmatched when flurries started to blow in the wind. We would all rush to the classroom window, starting in awe, hoping that the next day would be filled with snowball fights and sledding. Now, as high-schoolers, seeing a blanket of snow cover the roads through our sleep-deprived eyes is possibly even more exciting, as it promises a few extra hours of sleep. Even over break or on a weekend, a small dusting is much appreciated, as the tranquility of the white landscape slows everything down.
Unfortunately, the future of snow days could be in jeopardy. Zoom appears to pose the greatest threat at present, as we can theoretically have virtual classes regardless of the weather. However, this will almost certainly not be the case on the Close. Contrary to popular belief, most teachers actually enjoy the occasional snow day, even if they do become a day behind on their lessons. If the faculty doesn’t oppose shutting when there’s inclement weather, then the administrations at the three schools will most likely follow their lead. They could also cancel classes for just the students while continuing to conduct meetings for administrative faculty on Zoom. Additionally, unless the Close pre-cancels school the day before, few students will have brought home all of the supplies necessary for remote learning.
So, why should we be concerned about snow days? Two words: climate change. In an article recently published in The Washington Post, the author, the Capital Weather Gang, explains that DC’s climate is rapidly becoming more Southern. While global average temperatures have increased by about 2.2 ºF (1.2 ºC), the average winter temperature in the District has risen 2.9 ºF (1.6 ºC) and could rise an additional from four to ten degrees by 2080, depending on the extent to which humanity caps carbon emissions. This would mean that our climate could resemble that of present day Mississippi. We are already seeing the cherry blossoms bloom earlier, fewer days below freezing, and snowfall totals trending downward over the past century. The last time the temperature dipped below 0 ºF was in 1994.
Let’s face it – our kids will almost certainly enjoy fewer snow days than we or our parents did. There will simply be fewer days when it is cold enough to snow. However, just because it is getting warmer does not mean that snowstorms will become lesser in magnitude. In January 2016, a huge blizzard covered DC in 18.8 inches of snow, cancelling schools for days. While that January saw lower-than-average temperatures, that winter’s December was the warmest on record. Furthermore, during the 2009-10 winter, the District saw 56.1 inches of snow, the most since NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, started tracking snow totals back in 1888. Yet, that winter abruptly ended with a final freeze on February 27th, the earliest on record. The second earliest was on March 1st, 2020. While DC is known for its sporadic climate (i.e. when it is 35 ºF one day and 70 ºF the next), similar patterns across the country are showing that a warmer winter does not necessarily correlate with smaller snowstorms.
However, more winter days above 70 ºF is nothing to celebrate. Without significant action, billions would be forced to emigrate from their home countries. The United States alone would have to spend tens of billions (if not, more) each year rebuilding infrastructure wiped out by natural disasters. And sea levels would rise considerably, making some cities and even countries, like the Netherlands, almost entirely uninhabitable. Although we have an existential crisis on our hands, the challenge of halting all greenhouse gas emissions provides us a tremendous opportunity. A mobilization similar to the magnitude of World War II is necessary, one, to cut pollution, but two, to stimulate the economy in the wake of the pandemic. Is it feasible? It’s not a matter of whether or not we can do it. It’s a matter of preserving human society as we know it.
So, is the snow day in peril? It’s up to us. If DC’s climate is set to become like that of Mississippi’s without action, we can essentially say goodbye to the snow day. While it is possible to see snow in Magnolia State, it’s a once in a lifetime event. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s get to work and save the snow day, together.
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