The Fourth River

Beware Pittsburgh Winter

By on February 28, 2016

By Chara Kramer, assistant editor, The Fourth River


Every time someone learns that I hate winter—and I mean hate it—they ask me if I’m from the south.

“No,” I always answer. “I just wish I was.”

When I was eighteen, I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Syndrome. Not a very dangerous illness, but an uncomfortable one. When I get too cold, my fingers and toes turn white and burn, due to the smaller arteries narrowing. This means that my body sometimes has trouble circulating my blood.

When I moved to Pittsburgh for graduate school this past August, everyone told me: BEWARE PITTSBURGH WINTER. For me, that is huddling up by the heaters when it turned 2 degrees outside. I’m the one walking around campus in two pairs of gloves, three scarves, and a fuzzy hat. I’ve heard the stories, though; I know that this particular winter is absolutely nothing in comparison to winters past. And when I hear that, I can’t help but feel both grateful and concerned.

As I write this, it is currently 63 degrees outside. In February. In Pittsburgh. While I love when the weather turns warmer, I can’t help but realize this is a serious issue for our world. We might be getting nicer spring weather in the middle of winter, but according to NASA, heat waves are to now be expected more often, as well as droughts. Not to mention the summer temperatures are just going to climb higher and higher.

These changes also seem to be happening faster than expected. In 2014, while it was still a fairly warmer Christmas Eve, the winter months of January and February seemed to stay winter months. This year, we experienced a 70-degree Christmas Eve, and temperatures in the Pittsburgh area have reached almost 70 degrees again in January and February more than once. According to the journal, Nature, the faster the climate changes, the less time plants and animals have to adapt. The fact that we’ve experienced spring weather several times since Christmas is not encouraging for the ecosystems. What will it be like next February in Pittsburgh? In Florida right now, it is 77 degrees. But could that change in the next few years?

I do want to move down south one day. That has been my plan for the last ten years. To run from the winter, forget what a snow day even is, and never have my fingers turn ice white again. But with the changing climate, I’m beginning to wonder if moving down south will even give me the warmth I need. It’s unsettling and worrisome, not just for me and my health, but for the health of all species.

I’m loving the warmth, but I think I would prefer the cold out here in Pittsburgh, where it belongs.