Have you complained about the cold lately?
With the arrival of the polar vortex weather system twice within the past month, it's likely you've been one of many UT students who have uttered a curse word or two upon the moment of stepping outside your door into the wintry morning air (not to mention the recent #snowpocalypse we had on Tuesday).
Everyone loves to complain about the bipolarity of East Tennessee weather, and yet we don't really think about the true implications of it past the inconvenience to ourselves. This weather is not normal. And it is just a small piece in the bigger picture of the whole world and its changing climate.
According to Pew Research Center polls, belief in global warming is increasing, with about 69 percent of Americans in 2013 believing, an increase of almost 10 percent since 2010. But many are still skeptical that the warming is going to bring an imminent impact in their lifetime (64 percent in 2013 believe it won't) and that it is caused directly by human actions (only 42 percent in 2013 believe it is).
People like to negate the concept of global warming by saying that if it were true, then how is it that we have had some of the coldest winter temperatures in recent years? But something people don't always know is erratic weather is also a symptom of climate change. And we've had plenty of that in recent years.
Within the past year of 2013, there have been numerous accounts of weather anomalies – strange patterns of weather outside the normal conditions which are native to areas.
Global temperatures have been on the rise, with 2013 on the record as the fourth-warmest year since temperatures were first recorded in 1880. Including 2013, all 13 years of the 21st century have been among the top 15 warmest years recorded.
In the American West, existing drought conditions worsened, with California declaring 2013 as the year with their "worst drought ever" and Oregon proclaiming it as the fourth driest year on record.
The Typhoon Haiyan, which last November hit parts of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, was the strongest storm to ever come onto land. It had wind speeds of more than 195 miles per hour and killed almost 5,700 people.
Perhaps most chillingly (pun intended), the ice in both Antarctica and the Arctic during the melting season reached record low amounts. Antarctica had the sixth smallest sea ice extent on record, and the Arctic had its second lowest ice extent. The extent of Antarctica's ice losses even stretched into the growing season, when the ice is supposed to accumulate and replenish its melted amount.
A recent National Geographic article even talked about the possibility of certain parts of the United States becoming completely submerged due to melted ice and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the latter of which are proven to cause a rise in temperature. According to models, all of Florida and parts of coastal California would be completely lost.
So instead of spending our time tweeting about the latest antics of Justin Bieber or swiping our way through Tinder hotties, we should spend more time becoming knowledgeable about the changing world around us.
Every little act counts. Not everyone can be environmental lobbyists in D.C. or groundbreaking researchers who try to counteract the effects of global warming, but we can all do something. As corny as it sounds, if we all do the small things, it can become one big movement.
So recycle. Bring reusable tote bags to the store so you don't waste those plastic bags you just bring home and throw under your sink. Plant some trees. Read about climate change and then tell others about it. Pass the knowledge on. And maybe next time just think about the real implications of that Eastern Tennessean sunny, 70-degree weather on Monday and icy wintry mix on Tuesday — though feel free to still complain about it.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at email@example.com.