What can biology majors learn from this year’s blizzard?

Assumption College Undergraduate

ecological effects of blizzards

Caption: NASA captured this image of last week’s storm from its climate and weather satellite Suomi-NPP.

The Blizzard of 2015 is officially the snowiest storm on record in Worcester, Massachusetts. The final count: 34.5 inches of snow.

assumption blizzard effects

Assumption students are back in class after some welcomed snow days. And those in biology courses know of, or may be learning about, the many ecological effects a blizzard brings.

According to  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, a snowstorm is classified as a blizzard by:

  • Large amounts of snow
  • 35mph winds or higher
  • Visibility of less than ¼ mile
  • Conditions present for three hours or more

Online newspaper, Seattle pi explains many effects that can happen after a blizzard.

“Temperatures quickly drop below zero during a blizzard, especially with the wind chill. Ice and winds cause trees to fall and plants to die.”

When storms like these cause damage to forests, excess carbon from decaying trees can cause an imbalance in a local ecosystem, which impacts other plants and wildlife.

“When other plants and flora are killed during a blizzard, their lack of availability also impacts the food supply for local animals and wildlife,” Seattle pi says.

Ongoing damp and wet conditions during the storm and its melt also encourage the spread of mold and fungi. While some mold and fungi is important to an ecosystem, some also “damage the environment by destroying plants and trees that provide food sources and are important to sustaining the local ecosystem.”

If snow melts too fast, blizzards can also lead to flooding, which can devastate plant and animal populations and impact food supply.

Assumption College students working towards their bachelor’s degree in biology can learn more about changes in ecosystems and the effects of extreme weather in courses like BIO 360 Ecology and BIO 480 Seminar in Life Sciences.


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