New York City’s October Snowstorm, Climate Change And Missing Birds

New york snow october cat

“The timing of natural events, such as flower blooms and animal migration, is influenced by changes in climate.” -Climate Change Indicators in the United States

This weekend a nor’easter hit the Northeast U.S. with a wintery mix of snow, sleet and rain leaving many feeling like just at the end of October we’ve managed to skip the autumn season entirely. Where I live in New York City the storm wasn’t so bad, although I wasn’t outside, let alone Occupying Wall Street. The protesters survived but over 3 million homes and businesses across the Northeast lost power on Sunday and 11 were killed. Many are also dealing with the downed trees since nearly 2 feet of snow fell in some places stressing many trees to the brink.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve been taking long walks, sometimes several miles at a time, enjoying the colorful foliage in the city, the crisp fall air and what I thought was all this season had to offer. On those walks I noticed something was different but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

They say, “if you don’t like the weather in New York just wait”, since our weather changes so much. I think that leads New Yorkers to enjoy complaining talking about so this weekend the conversation moved onto Facebook. That’s where I read this comment from Executive Director at The BLK ProjeK Tanya Fields:

“It’s amazing how many of ya’ll are amazed by the snow. It comes every year…EVERY YEAR. I’m just saying.”

I replied “It’s early this time though! lol…We kinda just skipped Fall.”

As the conversation continued Fields dropped this gem:

“Fall and Spring BEEN disappearing. Climate. Change…I saw the birds migrating two weeks ago and it felt a bit like doomsday. I said to myself umm it’s only the middle of October…my neighbors and “non-environmental” friends look at me like I am a hippy when I start talking about it.”

I knew something was wrong on all the walks around the city recently- it was too quiet! The birds were gone and if we were paying attention we might not have been so blindsided by this storm that’s being called “A freak October nor’easter”.

Climate Change Indicators in the United States

In my readings I came across “Climate Change Indicators in the United States”, a downloadable report released by the EPA. It said bird migration along with events like flower blooms are climate indicators. Scientists are finding not only are some birds migrating early than before they are also traveling farther distances and other animals are already adapting to climate change, apparently, way faster than we are.

Also, “In recent years, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events. Eight of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have occurred since 1990.” I’d say 2 feet of snow on a Sunday counts as heavy precipitation and an ” intense single-day event” much like the so called “Snowmageddon” which featured the unusual phenemenon of thundersnow.

People can more readily admit the weather has been strange in the past few years and yet they may still be reluctant to identify this as climate change. They know something is wrong though. Not only do we need to learn our climate indicators better we also need to understand global warming leads to what’s called climate instability which gives us some extreme weather patterns and this is what we’re seeing when we see a storm like this on one day in October when there are no birds around. If we understand we can change and be more prepared…or at least act not so surprised.

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