Centre County’s Drought Potential Warning Sign For Pennsylvania Climate Change
There are fewer topics that are talked about among college students more than climate change and its impacts on the world.
Recently in Central Pennsylvania, we’ve seen some impacts of climate change in the form of a drought that is currently affecting 19 counties, including Centre County and our Happy Valley.
To learn more about the situation, we sat down with two of Penn State’s lead meteorology and climate experts.
“In general, a drought is when we don’t have enough rainfall coming in to replenish the surface. The conditions are driven by the large scale pressure systems and weather patterns we have,” meteorology professor Chris Forest said. “The state has its wet and dry spots. We’re heading into the wet period now as the summer period finishes.”
Forest’s colleague, professor Mark Sentesy, added more than two million people in the Keystone State are currently affected by the lack of rainfall in one way or another.
“We know that a lot of people in Central Pennsylvania are in drought, so that’s just about 2.2 million people are in abnormally dry areas, and about 740,000 people are in areas that are currently in drought watch,” said Sentesy, a professor at Penn State that teaches the philosophy of climate change.
According to Sentesy, Pennsylvania’s temperature has risen about two degrees over the past 120 years. He said it will rise up to five and a half degrees by 2050, making Philadelphia about the same temperature as Richmond, Virginia’s average temperature.
This drought has been under watch since August 21, and its effects are being felt here in Centre County. Rainfall has been minimal, and Centre County has been under drought watch for weeks. This, along with the wildfires or “climate fires” that swept through California, has reopened the conversation about climate change both on campus and around the country.
While the major effects of drought have not been felt on Penn State’s campus, it could prove damaging in neighboring counties. Potter, McKean, and Clinton — the three provinces to Centre County’s north — are currently under a drought warning.
However, some feel the situation isn’t too dire for Centre County just yet.
“At the moment, I don’t see any need for concern,” Forest says.
On the other hand, Sentesy warns of what could come if something is not done about climate change.
“I would say that the drought should have us quite worried about the bigger picture of climate issues. Climate change is not an individual issue, it’s a collective issue,” he said. “So the best way to prepare for it is to plan. This is something to be alarmed about, but it’s not something to be paralyzed about.”
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