Every time the weather turns cold, morons crawl out of the proverbial woodwork, and make lame jokes and snide comments about “Where’s your global warming now?” Well, the thing is, climate change is not so simple as all that, is it? The Earth’s weather patterns are complicated, and not even entirely understood. But extreme weather is certainly part of the pattern, including cold snaps. Weather is seasonal as well, which is why it is summer in Australia right now. And not a typical summer day, but extremely hot – in the neighborhood of 50ºC1
Eric Holthaus has a fairly clear explanation of why climate change leads to cold snaps:
This particularly aspect of climate change science is not yet definitive, but here’s what may be going on:
1) The Arctic rapidly warming: It’s always going to be colder at the North Pole than it is in Miami, but the difference in temperature between those two places may already be shrinking. The Arctic is quickly losing sea ice, which is being replaced by relatively warmer open ocean. Liquid water tends to trap heat more effectively than ice, which in turn discourages the future formation of ice. It’s a feedback loop that is not working in our favor, and as a result, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
2) The jet stream is slowing down: The coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere is typically trapped in the far northern Arctic by the jet stream. However, with a little help from climate change, that barrier is starting to break down. As the temperature contrast between the warmer tropics decreases, the jet stream, whichexists due to that contrast, weakens and becomes more elongated and chaotic. Think of navigating a car through slow-moving traffic: it’s a lot less straightforward to find a quick route from point A to point B.
3) As a result, extreme weather ensures: With a slower, more chaotic jet stream, there’s a much greater likelihood of weather systems getting stuck on their paths around the planet. When weather systems stagnate, they have a tendency to intensify, sometimes breaking records for heat, cold, snow, and rain in the process. Also, when increasingly elongated paths are taken by jet stream winds, it’s easier for them to pull exceptionally cold air further southwards, which is exactly what’s happening this week.
(click here to continue reading Thank Global Warming for Freezing You Right Now – The Daily Beast.)
- 122º F [↩]