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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Change of seasons, change of semesters

The bustle of traffic this weekend announced the return of University of Wisconsin-Madison students to campus for the spring semester. 

As families and students slid around on the ice, it was a sight to see Madison turn into a snowy, icy winter wonderland. With temperatures dipping into the negatives and strong gusts of wind coming from Lake Mendota sharp enough to cut your face, students were surprised and underprepared for the late arrival of the winter season. 

Before students left campus for the holidays, temperatures spiked to an average of 51.3 degrees Fahrenheit, historic for December in Madison and the Midwest. With no snow on the ground, games of Spikeball and ultimate frisbee resumed in fields around campus, and students didn’t feel the need to wear jackets and other winter gear to final exams. 

This weather change in December was due to climate change patterns taking hold in the Midwest and northern parts of the United States. Another reason for the weather was a natural climate pattern known as El Niño, which occurs every two to seven years and mostly in the winter season. Associated with ocean surface warming, El Niño causes warmer conditions in northern areas of the U.S. and wetter conditions in southern areas of the country.

While we generally start to experience winter toward the end of the fall semester, winter conditions didn’t start until mid-January this year. For many out-of-state students who have never experienced a Midwest winter, the cold and snowy conditions may take time to get used to. 

“I was surprised coming back because I was tanning over break when I was home in Shanghai,” said Phoebe Tseng, a UW-Madison freshman. “Something I didn’t expect coming back for second semester was all the ice and snow in Madison. I wasn’t expecting how much snow builds up after one snowfall and the maintenance work they have to do to keep everything safe and working. I also wasn’t expecting how difficult it is to walk on icy roads. It is definitely something I’ve never experienced before.” 


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Many students were getting used to the idea of a warm winter this year and now have to accommodate the icy weather conditions as classes for the spring semester begin. 

The normal fast paces on the sidewalk and buses whipping around every corner will come to a halt as students will need to get to classes safely on the icy roads and snowy sidewalks. Buses and other modes of transportation will be at capacity as students rush to get out of the cold temperatures into warm vehicles instead of walking to classes. 

And, when the weather eventually changes from winter to spring, everyone will start to see crazy weather conditions in Wisconsin are just another part of what makes them UW-Madison students.  

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