Unusually Warm Weather Upsets Students' Hormones
Warmer weather spread across the country yesterday, alleviating one of the worst cold spells in the nation in decades, threatening to disrupt the foliage cycles of numerous trees in the Cambridge area, the delicate hormonal balance of Harvard students, and weekend plans for cross country ice skaters.
Carroll M. Wilson, Bussey Professor of Biology, said yesterday, "The sudden onset of the warm weather coupled with sunshine may have bizarre endocrine effects."
"In particular, the surge of androgens and estrogens may cause the onset of estrus. To prevent this one should do two things: keep cool, and wear a hat at all times to prevent the sunlight from striking the pineal gland," he said.
The sudden warming could have particularly adverse effects on witch hazels, weeping willows, and skunk cabbages, causing their roots to shrivel and all their leaves to fall off by early August, Reed C. Rollins, director of the Gray Herbarium, said yesterday.
The National Weather Service reported yesterday that the temperature would rise into the 50s Friday, with the abnormally warm and sunny weather to continue through the weekend.
Mark Rosenthal, a meteorologist for WCVB News in Boston, said yesterday the warm spell is affecting the eastern half of the country to the Great Plains.
Despite vast amounts of research in the area, Harvard biologists have failed to pinpoint the precise physiological cause for so-called "spring fever."
"The truth of the matter is you're just more comfortable without so many clothes on," Carroll E. Wood, professor of Biology, said yesterday. "Actually we haven't proven an exact biological explanation for spring fever. Perhaps it's a lingering primeval mating urge."
But Bonnie Spring, an instructor in Psychology and Social Relations, said yesterday warmer weather may cause people to become less friendly toward one another.
"One theory is that people treat cold as a shared stress experience. If you eliminate this common bond caused by external conditions, the natural tendency would be for people to drift apart," Spring said.
David Winter, a research fellow in Psychology and Social Relations, said yesterday he did not have an explanation for spring fever but "you could make a human analogy to sap rising in trees, very similar to cabin fever."
A wave of relief with the warm weather shuddered through the frozen city of Buffalo, N.Y.--which has been hit particularly hard by this year's cold spell--bringing hope to its citizens that the sun might really shine once more.
"It's an incredible relief to think after a few more warm days I might find my Volkswagen again," a secretary in the Buffalo mayor's office said ecstatically yesterday.
But every silver cloud has a dark lining. Professors complained of students gazing glossy-eyed out of the window while they delivered lectures, and extensive congestion resulted when everyone rushed to the Harvard Coop to buy rubber shoe covers for protection from growing puddles.
Most students are enjoying the brief respite from sub-freezing temperatures.
Kelly Reid '77 said yesterday, "It makes me feel like doing everything! I want to go on a picnic, go bicycling, stroll along the river, and climb some building and scream because exams are over and it's warm again like summer."
"This kind of weather fills me with hope," Judy Fox '79 said yesterday.