Why is it so hot and humid in mid-October?

By Michael Brennan and Ariana Spinogatti

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The fall season is officially here, and just by looking outside it seems to be pretty similar to years past: leaves are on the ground, people are wearing sweatshirts, and football is on every Sunday.

The only thing missing is a cool autumn breeze. Instead, we have temperatures close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and high amounts of humidity.

People are asking themselves: why is this happening?

Many Quinnipiac students say they do not know why the temperature is so high, and a few feel thrown off wearing shorts and flip flops like they would in the summer.

Video by Michael Brennan and Ariana Spinogatti

“I think it’s abnormally warmer in the fall than it typically would be… I’m from just outside Boston and I’d be wearing sweatpants and jeans by now,” said freshman Brendan Basich.
“It’s really sticky. Back home where I live [in Los Angeles], it’s like a toaster… it being super humid it’s a little different. My room gets really groggy, I don’t know if it’s the right word, but yeah, it’s been uncomfortable,” said junior Justin Cait.

Quinnipiac professor of biology Don Buckley says that the heat is yet another sign of man-made global warming.

“This past year was the warmest year on record and it’s not going to go away" he said. "20 years ago if I was walking around in a tee shirt and flip flops, people would tease me that I was still enduring the weather. The heating is very impressive."
Diagram used with permission from Don Buckley

Diagram used with permission from Don Buckley

Used with permission by Don Buckley

Used with permission by Don Buckley

Despite there being some naysayers, global warming's existence is heavily supported by NASA and various other American scientific societies.

According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas effect occurs when gases on Earth trap the heat the sun is transmitting and holds onto it, affecting the planet's atmosphere and melting the polar ice caps. The gas that causes the biggest problem is carbon dioxide.

The majority of fossil fuel burning isn't because of humanity's transportation needs, it is because of a myriad of things such as burning coal for power and creating products with wood. The gas stays in the atmosphere because plants, which absorb carbon dioxide, can only absorb so much.

Buckley says that global warming is why there has been such a large amount of hurricanes this season. Notably, he says hurricanes are not the cause of the heat in the area, but quite the opposite.

Graph used with permission from Don Buckley

Graph used with permission from Don Buckley

"[The] hurricanes aren’t a cause of the heating, they are a product of it. What turns a normal big storm into a hurricane is a lot of conditions, but it's mainly because the oceans are really hot," Buckley said. "The storms originate on the African coast and are blown towards North America."

On the Quinnipiac campus, there had been a rumor of the heat and humidity causing the fire alarms to go off in the residence halls. That myth has been quickly dispelled by Quinnipiac’s fire marshall Richard Hally, who believes the alarms are set off by many other factors.

“We found that the ones in Mountainview were faulty, they could go bad maybe because of dust. They are temperature controlled… Dana happened one time this semester, it was one night and it never happened again," Hally said. "Spiders get in there, dirt, dust, a lot of things activate smoke directors but it’s not because of the recent weather."

Regardless, Buckley thinks that the heat will create more weather problems in the future.

"It’s not going to be warmer everywhere but the signals are extremes in relationship to weather and that is also due to the large number of hurricanes. I think I just read an article that we will have 10 hurricanes by the end of the fall,” Buckley said.

It is too early to tell whether this warm autumn season is a part of the "New England weather" that is so temperamental, or if it is yet another sign of humanity's role in climate change.