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Cat in the Stax: Polar Vortex

By Ethan Shea

"Cold Weather Image"

Last weekend brought some freezing temperatures, a dramatic change from the 50+ degree weather we enjoyed earlier last week and will be encountering once again later this week. Meteorologists blamed the frigid cold on a “polar vortex,” one of the many meteorological terms added to our vernacular over the past few years. Akin to phrases like “arctic blast,” “bomb cyclone” or “heat dome,” weather seems to become stranger every year.

This time around, the Arctic air was sent in the form of a polar vortex, but it was only aimed at the Northeastern U.S. because of a bomb cyclone in the Labrador Sea. A bomb cyclone can appear in several forms, as it is only defined as a rapidly intensifying storm, but because of the location of this particular storm, the pressure of the system coupled with another sent some of the coldest air in the world to the American Northeast.

Last weekend’s wild weather was the coldest the Northeast has seen in decades. In fact, the highest point in the Northeast, the summit of Mt. Washington, set a record for the coldest windchill ever recorded in the United States, even including Alaska. Atop Mt. Washington wind chill reached a frigid minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit as hurricane force winds combined with minus 47 degree air temperatures.

At minus 18 degrees, frostbite can affect exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes. One can only imagine how quickly minus 108 degrees can become deadly.

Many of these extreme weather patterns are caused by climate change, even when they entail weather becoming colder than normal rather than hotter. For more information on climate change, you can check out Falvey’s Environmental Science Subject Guide or browse a plethora of resources on the topic in the stacks.

Here are a few, just for starters:

Recently, Falvey co-sponsored a townhall regarding the effects of climate change and what Villanovans can do to confront the issue. The main topic of the townhall was divestment, which is essentially the opposite of an investment. Rather than continuing to invest money in companies that contribute to climate change, this townhall urged Villanova to shift investments away from oil companies as a means of curbing climate change. If you believe this is the course of action that should be taken, add your name to this petition!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Cat in the Stax: Our Local Wildlife

By Ethan Shea

For this penultimate Cat in the Stax of the academic year, I’d like to take your mind off finals for a brief moment and encourage you to think of something much more relaxing…the great outdoors. Now that the weather is warming up, not only more people, but an increasing number of wildlife can be seen roaming about too. As birds return from their winter vacations, our mornings are full of song and beautifully painted feathers. Not to mention the increased presence of our favorite furry mammals!

Over the past few months, I’ve become a bit of an amateur birdwatcher during my morning runs. Almost every day, I run through Norristown Farm Park, which is about a twenty-minute drive from campus if you’d like to visit yourself. I’ve loved watching different birds migrate through the park recently, and some of my favorites are Eastern Bluebirds, Barn Swallows, and either Downy or Hairy Woodpeckers (I can never tell them apart). I even see some larger birds on occasion, such as the Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagle.

Regarding the flightless inhabitants of the park, my absolute favorite animal to run into is the Red Fox. I’ve been lucky enough to get pretty close to a few because thankfully, they’re not aggressive. When a fox has to choose between fight or flight, it’s almost always going to choose flight. That being said, they’re still wild animals and should be treated as such.

There are also plenty of White-Tailed Deer and groundhogs around. In fact, this morning I must have scared a groundhog while running through the woods. I watched it scurry away then climb straight up a tree! I’ve always thought groundhogs stayed on…well, the ground, but I learned something new today.

If you’re interested in learning more about our local wildlife, Falvey Library is the place to be! For example, this book by Gerald M. McWilliams, titled The Birds of Pennsylvania, has everything you need to know about birding in our state.

To explore nature for yourself, you need not go much further than our campus. In addition to the scenic walks around our own Villanova neighborhood, just down the road, Haverford College has a great nature trail that is open to the public. I also recommend checking out the Schuylkill River Trail, which currently has about 75 miles of completed trail in different sections. There should be more than enough places to visit along that path!

If you can, try to take some time between exams to relax and enjoy the nature we’re fortunate to be surrounded by. Good luck on finals, Wildcats!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Photo Friday: Icy Mornings

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning …

Wm. Wordsworth (1770-1850)

If you were lucky enough to be on campus this morning, you would have seen thick, magical ice, worn like a winter coat on every branch and shrub. When students return to campus on March 7 after Spring Break, morning scenes like this may be rare until next winter, so enjoy it while you may. 

Photo by Joanne Quinn. 



Last Modified: February 25, 2022

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