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Historic Warm Weather Evidence of Climate Change’s Effect on City

Michael McDevitt | The PHOENIXStudents on the East Quad grass in front of the Klarchek Information Commons sat, relaxed and studied outside to take advantage of the 60 degree February day.

Students sprawled out on the East Quad to study and lounge on blankets, in hammocks and on bare grass as others tossed around footballs and frisbees. It sounds like a scene from a spring day in May. But it’s not. It’s a 66 degree afternoon in the middle of February.

From Feb. 17 to Feb. 22, Chicago saw an unusual streak of warm days, many reaching in the mid-to-high-60s. The National Weather Service said the temperatures put this February on track to be the third warmest on record for the city of Chicago.

Students all over Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus went outside and took advantage of the unseasonable warmth.

“Me and my friends [have] really been enjoying this nice weather,” said first-year history and internationals studies double major Isabella Garcia, who sat with her friends on the East Quad relaxing in the sun. “We’ve been coming outside to the academic quad and just laying down and enjoying the sun and it’s been really nice.”

Although many students enjoyed the weather, students and faculty from Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) warned the warm streak of days showed the already-present effects of climate change in the Midwest.

A week like this is just another sign that the climate is becoming more unpredictable and extreme because of global warming, according to adjunct professor Rick DiMaio, a meteorologist and former weatherman for FOX Chicago and CBS 2 Chicago.

“There’s no real easy way of defining what happens when climate change produces short-term dramatic impacts on the weather,” DiMaio said. “What we do know is it becomes more and more difficult to predict what’s going to happen both seasonally … and agriculturally.”

DiMaio said a few environmental factors can account for this warm weather — the lack of any snowfall on the ground in Chicago this year, warmer sea temperatures adding water vapor to the air and longer stretches without cold temperatures.

“Every time now you get into an accentuated period of warm weather, the warm weather seems to be warmer than it was before. The drier weather seems to be dryer than it was before,” DiMaio said.

DiMaio said this means Chicago winters will become less consistent and less predictable with snow and cold.

Michael McDevitt | The PHOENIXGraduate student Steve Petrie sat under a tree on the East Quad studying. He said he recognized the nice weather he was enjoying had deeper signs of climate change.

Sienna Fitzpatrick, 21, is a junior studying environmental policy and said the warm weather is unsettling.

“It’s hard to ignore the fact that people are walking around in flip-flops and shorts, and it’s February,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think a lot of people are trying to pass it off as a fluke … but I think in the back of everyone’s mind they’re definitely freaking out about it.”

Fitzpatrick said she heard of birds and insects falling out of their natural patterns because of the weather fluctuations, which she said affects the balance of the ecosystem around the Chicago and Lake Michigan areas.

“It’s just a very blatant reminder of the things that we’ve been talking about but sometimes don’t necessarily witness on a regular basis,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s really hard to return an ecosystem to its original, so-called balanced state. This is a really strong reminder that there’s something very wrong.”

Michael McDevitt | The PHOENIXA group of Loyola students on the East Quad toss around a football while others kick a soccer ball back and forth on an unusually warm February afternoon.

Some Loyola students tried to relax in the sunny weather while recognizing it was most likely caused by climate change.

“It points to global warming,” said first-year Alexandria Flores, who sat with Garcia on the quad.

“I have [been enjoying the weather] … I decided to not do homework today, because who gets 60 degree weather in February? Not us,” said Flores, an 18-year-old social work major.

First-year graduate student in public history Steve Petrie laid on the grass under a tree on the quad working on his laptop. He said he’s never seen anything like this warm stretch.

“I can remember snowstorms in May more than I can remember [it] being warm in February,” the 23-year-old Wisconsin-native said. “I enjoy that it’s nice out, but I know that it shouldn’t be.”