Our Opinion: Maine’s extreme weather linked to climate change?

Posted on January 20, 2014 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

So let’s talk about the weather. We know, we know–not the most inspired conversation starter, but this time it’s about more than just weather. It may just be about climate change.

Last week saw 45 degrees at times, uncommonly warm, but remember last semester when it felt like the snow-pocalypse had started?

USM saw its fair share of winter weather last semester. By mid-December, a nor’easter hit, and Portland was covered in a foot of snow. The snow is never far off, and we’re the best at being prepared, right? This is Maine after all.

Actually, we’re not entirely convinced of that. With all the wintry weather, snow-removal, sanding and salting doesn’t seem quite what it used to be at USM. In some places, sidewalks and walkways were only just cleared for use for last Monday. In other spots, inches of ice coated walkways and crosswalk entrances; piles of snow barred passersby from getting into buildings or walking down side streets. Students making their way to the parking garage could be seen skidding down the icy road––the sidewalk blocked with mounds of snow. In Gorham, many of the walkways to and from campus buildings are on treacherous, steep hills that were only clear after a few days of the warm weather, but USM doesn’t seem to be alone in this. Off campus, Portland seems to have struggled with the extreme weather just as much, leaving the elderly resident to climb the snowbank in order to pay that parking meter.

Has snow-removal, sanding and salting become peripheral, or did we simply fall behind? We dealt with the Christmas Eve icestorm fairly well, trucking in hundreds of workers to help get Mainers back on the grid. So it isn’t that snow-removal has been neglected; it is that the conditions are just too outrageous to keep pace with.

It seems like it’s time to talk about the weather. Is global climate change connected to Maine’s extreme winter weather? Do the conditions that we’ve seen show that Mainers have been intimately affected by climate change on a daily basis? It may be time to start looking for the solution beyond the snowplow. What’s next? The answer is simple, even if the solution isn’t––let’s start a conversation.