Loyola students have already felt the first hints of the approaching winter with the drop in temperatures the past few weeks, but a slightly warmer winter may be in store for Chicago this year.
The warmer temperatures of the Pacific Ocean are predicted to cause a slightly shorter winter this year, according to Rick DiMaio, an adjunct faculty member of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability and a former weather forecaster and meteorologist.
DiMaio forecasts that winter will have “a mild start” along with “above-normal temperatures.” Overall, he predicts an estimated two or three days below zero and about 30 to 40 inches of snow. DiMaio said this is typical Chicago winter weather. The only difference this year is that winter will most likely come and go within a shorter period of time.
This particular climate pattern forecast is attributed to the weather event El Niño, which has caused this warming of the Pacific at the equator.
“When [El Niño] happens, it generally gives us less cold,” said DiMaio, who began teaching at Loyola in 2008. “It doesn’t necessarily mean less snow.”
He said climate change has transformed winter weather patterns the last few decades from fairly consistent, such as snow and cold November through February, to more random, isolated incidents.
“With climate change, we’ve seen our winter patterns becoming more irregular,” DiMaio said. “You’re seeing these months of really mild weather and really cold weather and sometimes super cold weather.”
DiMaio also said a misconception can develop between the term “global warming” and more intense winters. When the ocean is warmer, the atmosphere is able to hold more water vapor, explained DiMaio. This leads to an increased amount of snowfall because of the temperature change in the atmosphere.
“Where it gets warm, it stays warm. Where it gets cold, it stays cold,” DiMaio said.
For students going to school in Chicago, extremely cold weather is the most apparent effect of changing climate patterns. DiMaio said that although we won’t see as many below-zero days this winter, this weather can be dangerous.
“When the temperature gets below zero, all it takes is about three and a half to four minutes for your ears or your nose to get frostbite,” said DiMaio.
He explained that when students become aware of wind chill advisories and warnings, it’s imperative to cover up with hats, scarves and gloves.
First-year student Molly Skjerven, from San Jose, California, has little to no experience with snow or extreme cold.
“The coldest we get is like 53 degrees,” said Skjerven.
To prepare for the upcoming weather, Skjerven said she bought several coats and plenty of winter wear in Chicago.
“I had to buy all of the coats and stuff here because in California, they don’t get that kind of weather,” said the 18-year-old forensic science major.
Elijah Cox is a Loyola sophomore, originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan. He’d experienced snow and cold before coming to Chicago and has spent one winter here so far. Cox said students should be aware of the wind chill caused by the lake, and that students should prioritize staying warm.
“Don’t buy cheap winter gear,” said Cox, a 19-year-old theater major. “I understand we’re college students … but, like, don’t skirt around the expenses of winter gear because you’re going to really, really regret it.”
Skjerven said she thinks she will hate being cold, but sees the positives too.
“I’m really excited for parts like seeing snow, playing in the snow, snowball fights and that kind of stuff,” she said. “I never had that as a kid.”