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Navigating the warm winter blues

The elusive and magical “white Christmas” is a holiday dream shared by many — but our love for the cold goes beyond this day. Winter activities such as ice skating and skiing hinge on the cold, while beloved holiday movies and songs reinforce the magic of frosty weather. 

As our climate warms, typical winter weather can feel like a rarity. More than 60% of locations in the U.S. have decreased chances for a white Christmas compared to the 30-year average of 1981-2010. 

In a survey sent to students in an environmental biology class, five out of nine said that Christmas was among their favorite holidays. These students also felt that some of the joy was taken out of the day when there was no snow. 

“It does upset me if it does not snow on/around Christmas. It does not feel like a Christmas when there is no snow to go sledding or make snowmen while we are on break,” wrote sophomore German major Grace Albrecht in the survey.

Snow-related activities such as sledding, ice skating, skiing and just being out in the snow were listed. Overall, eight out of nine students said that increased temperatures have negatively impacted their holidays at some point.

Shafkat Khan, director of conservation at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, believes that the impacts of climate change become clearer to us during the winter months. He says increased storm intensity can throw off travel plans, and as optimal coffee growing areas shrink, getting cozy with a warm latte may become more expensive. 

“It just creates a lot more insecurity, right? It’s not just holidays. Holidays just happen to be when the food insecurity happens,” Khan said. 

This sense of insecurity is often caused by unpredictable weather patterns. Khan says that under higher temperatures, any snow that did fall melts rapidly, causing flooding. This is an issue for areas such as Cincinnati and other places in the Ohio River Valley. 

The holidays highlight that climate change is more than an issue for scientists. Its ripple effects can reach everyone. 

“People talk about how climate change is an environmental problem. It’s not. It’s very much of a sociological and economic problem, besides being an environmental problem,” Khan said. 

Khan believes climate change is an issue everyone should be thinking about. Along with advocating for local mitigation and global carbon emissions reduction, he encourages individuals to utilize accessible and affordable solutions. For example, “winterizing” your home with weatherstrips saves money and energy used on heating, while the materials can be as low as $5. 

Despite uncertainties with the winter weather and related activities, many traditions beloved by Miami students are centered around a spirit of community and giving that could be fostered in any condition. Setting aside time to celebrate with family and exchanging gifts are both great examples of this. 

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“We live super close to the Columbus Zoo, and it is one of our family traditions to go and see the zoo lights every year,” said first-year architecture student Hannah Lietz in the survey. 

Working toward long-term solutions for our heating climate is important, but in the meantime, we can cultivate evergreen ways to maintain our spirits.