September 5, 2006

It’s a Wet Ithaca Summer

Print More

The start of the school year is a bittersweet time for Cornellians. As memories of exotic vacations, endless days of doing absolutely nothing and tans begin to fade, a pleasant, painless transition seems little to ask for. Alas, it is not in the forecast. All that is in the forecast is rain, rain and more rain.
In fact, according to Prof. Mark Wysocki, earth and atmospheric sciences, Ithaca has broken a record. This recent rainfall closes out this summer as the wettest ever. That is truly saying something — the records date back to 1890.
“For the year 2006,” he explained, “we had about 19.1 inches of rain for the months of June, July and August. The next closest was 19.05 inches in 1917.”
Cornell is lucky to have immediate, accurate access to weather information. Data is gathered on campus at the Northeast Regional Climate Center. Wysocki claims a “stagnated weather pattern” is causing our bad weather, originally begun by a high-pressure system in the southwest that spread.
But Cornell and its surrounding community are no strangers to gray skies.
“January through April are notorious for cloud cover,” said Wysocki. “Behind cities like Seattle and Portland, Ithaca is second or third in the nation for cloudy days during that time.”
He credits the Great Lakes to the North, our own Finger Lakes and the Ithaca hills and valleys, which, in combination, are highly conducive to cloud formation.
After speaking with Wysocki, the extent to which weather effects our lives is very clear, in more ways than one might have thought possible. With increased precipitation comes many potential problems for Ithaca. Large amounts of rain bring with them mosquitoes, and the West Nile Virus remains a concern. Other problems include flooding and damage to agriculture.
“The longer crops are on the stalk, the more the crop degrades in nutrient value and the greater risk for insect and fungus damage. Though there are no apparent problems as of yet, the concern increases the closer we get to September harvest time,” Wysocki said.
Perhaps the greatest concern of all is erosion. The collapse of an overpass on Interstate 88 this summer is proving to be a huge construction cost to the state of New York, and if the rain continues, it will only further delay the project.
As the rain and school year continue, it is important to note the psychological aspect of weather. Though generally prominent in winter months, studies have found a link between bad mood and bad weather. Sometimes called Seasonal Affective Disorder, this change of mood is related to variations of light. Changes in sunlight patterns can affect our circadian rhythm, or biological internal clock, causing it to be out of sync with our daily schedules. Symptoms of this disorder can include frequent symptoms of depression — like over-eating, over-sleeping and weight gain — during extended periods without sunlight and a craving for sugary and/or starchy foods.
Some students are feeling the effects.
“The gloomy weather is a reality check that summer’s over. It throws you right back into the thick of things,” said Aeriel Emig ’09.
Though from the Southwest, Emig, like other upperclassman, is fairly accustomed to infamous Ithaca weather. On the other hand, the new freshman class has enough adjustments to make without any added help.
“It just makes it more difficult to get around,” said Elise Tagatac ’10.
There are a few ways to combat the bad weather blues. Spending time outdoors during the day, being active and arranging classrooms, homes and workplaces to let in more sunlight may be helpful.
When you wake up to the sound of rain on the roof and fight the temptation to roll over and go back to sleep, think about these words from Prof. Maas, psychology, “The findings of psychological research shed a little light on the relationship between weather and mood; a little sunshine in our life seems to brighten our days in more ways than one.”