It’s 2:00 a.m. and three sleep-deprived students sit in the lounge, alternating between typing frantically and chugging caffeine. It might be a typical Stanford scene, except that there is a snowman outside the window, seven empty mugs of tea on the table, and a local tabloid on the couch whose headline reads, “Colder Than Moscow.”
The arrival of thirty-three Stanford students at Oxford this term coincided with what some in England believe to be the coldest winter in thirty years. Low temperatures earlier in the month resulted in icy roads, a sharp spike in motor accidents, closed schools and flood warnings. Just this December, the snow left 3,000 people and their vehicles stranded in Basingstoke, while “acute weather conditions” left five Eurostar trains and 2,000 passengers stuck underneath the English Channel for up to fifteen hours.
Fortunately, Stanford students have yet to feel the effects of the chill in the same way. Kate O’Connor ’11, who has lived in England for fifteen years, says that acclimatizing to the weather is only a matter of time.
“My roommate began wearing five or six layers and has gradually paired
down as she learned to cope with the weather,” she says. “It’s like watching a striptease of cultural adjustment.”
While the cold can be a hassle, it has not yet been problematic inside the Stanford House.
“Yes, it’s cold, but we have central heating and snowmen,” says O’Connor. “What more does one need?”
Oxford students seem to share the same opinion. Patrick Briône, a second-year student studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), remarks that while British people tend to complain about the weather, it’s something they should be used to by now.
“Besides, when you’re at University, people quite like the snow,” he says with a smile. “It’s an excuse not to go to lectures.”
Unfortunately, outside of Oxford, low temperatures have proven to be a more serious problem. The cost of heating has left some low-income families to choose between warmth and food. Just this month, two elderly residents of Northamptonshire were found dead in their homes, presumably frozen to death. The figures are only worse in other European countries; in Poland last month, police estimate that thirty people died from the cold.
The weather has been particularly worrisome for the energy sector. The National Grid reported that the seasonal demand for gas rose by 30%, leading some to believe that the nation’s natural gas supplies would run out in a matter of days, and raising questions about England’s dependency on Norway and the Netherlands for imports.
Briône, who recently gave a speech discussing climate change policy for the Stokesly Society, finds the likelihood of running out of natural gas to be low, but does believe that recent low temperatures might support emerging hypotheses about Global Warming.
“A lot of theories at the moment suggest that winters in Britain could in fact become cooler if the Gulf Stream collapses.”
For the time being, however, with temperatures beginning to normalize, the fear of a major weather-related catastrophe seems to be a distant prospect. And Stanford students merely advise each other to don an extra scarf, buy earmuffs, or take the advice of one Oxford student: “Man up.”