Southern New England has been battered by three major winter storms in as many weeks. Severe coastal flooding and widespread power outages have prompted many to ask whether this is a new normal brought on by climate change. A growing body of research suggests it may be, and extreme warming in the Arctic may be responsible.
Winter in New England began with bitter cold and a record-setting storm in early January, then turned relatively mild. But March has come in like a lion, plunging the region back into what feels like the depths of winter.
That scenario is largely what Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Lexington-based Atmospheric and Environmental Research, predicted based on conditions in the Arctic last fall.
“The headline was, watch out for a roller-coaster winter that would be whipsawing from extremes,” said Cohen. “But I have to admit that February was a much warmer month than I had anticipated.”
The link between the Arctic and New England winters is somewhat counterintuitive and has been controversial. Unusually warm conditions in the Arctic correlate with colder, snowier weather in the northeast. But there’s been some question as to whether Arctic warmth causes those severe winters.
Now, a new study — published the day the most recent storm hit — adds to the evidence and helps shed light on the nature of the connection. It finds that extreme warmth in the Arctic often precedes New England cold by about five days, and that warming that extends high into the atmosphere has the strongest effect. The study also finds that the connection is strongest in mid- to late-winter.
Senior author Jennifer Frances of Rutgers University is hesitant to declare March the new January, but she says that mother nature “has been giving us quite a few examples” this year of how climate change may play out.
Mid-March is when many in southern New England would usually get their gardens started.
With the weather we’ve been having, that may seem a distant dream right now, but a new book has plenty of ideas about how – and why – to incorporate native plants into our landscapes. It’s called Native Plants for New England Gardens and the co-author is Dan Jaffe, propagator and stock bed grower at the New England Wildflower Society's Garden in the Woods.
Jaffe tells Living Lab Radio that one of the best reasons for planting native plants is that they survive without a lot of fuss.
“Any of that weird stuff that New England has a way of throwing at us tends to be something that they’ve dealt with before, so they tend to be a lot lower maintenance,” he said.
There’s been a steady decline in mental health among teens and young adults in recent decades. Since 1960, anxiety, depression and addiction have increased, as has the number of young people who say they aren’t in control of their lives. That perceived lack of control may be at the heart of the problem.
In The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives, Ned Johnson and William Stixrud draw on the work of numerous neuroscientists, psychologists, and social scientists, as well as their own experiences. The upshot: parents who are afraid to let their children flounder or fail may be causing more stress than they are alleviating, the book says, and the results can be lifelong.
“We’re so worried about the outcome, that we have a tendency to want to exert more control,” Johnson said. “The challenge is that it’s a bit of a zero-sum game, and so if I try to exert more control over my kids, they naturally feel less control themselves.”
Johnson and Stixrud not only explain the underlying biology of the brain and how stress changes it, they also provide examples, scripts, and “what to do tonight” lists for parents interested in helping their children take control of their own lives.