When the biggest global concern with Climate Change is the gradual warming of Earth’s surface, why are winters getting colder every year and freezing thousands to death?
Climate change is real. Despite, what certain pro-Trump supporters say, it’s true that human beings have changed the composition of the atmosphere which is affecting the planet. But what is the reason behind the winters getting colder? Why are parts of America feeling like Antarctica? Well, let’s start with some basics.
In order to understand the relationship between global warming and climate change, one needs to understand the difference between weather and climate.
Climate Change 101
Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years whereas Weather refers to the daily variations. Therefore, we say harsh climate at the poles but make statements like the weather is windy today.
When Global Warming as a term became popular, many people understood it as the increase of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases leading to a global temperature rise. Since then, scientists across the world have realized that climate change due to change in the atmospheric composition is not just limited to warming.
It is believed that the effects of global warming can be more disastrous and can come in many forms. Temperature records show that there has been an average rise of 1-degree Celsius since 1880.You will find more infographics at Statista
Exceptions can’t be considered Normal
In 2019, some regions of the USA experienced record-breaking cold, the Northern Plains and the Midwestern United States. Temperatures plunged below minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degree Celsius). But the average temperature for the month was nearly three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. In fact, January 2019 was one of the warmest years for the USA.You will find more infographics at Statista
Jason Furtado, assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, explains it using this widely used analogy, “One down day on the Dow Jones doesn’t mean the economy is going to trash. (Likewise) one cold day doesn’t suddenly mean that the general trend in global climate change is suddenly going in the opposite direction”.
Carl Schreck, the atmospheric scientist at North Carolina State University’s North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, agrees. “Cold snaps don’t disprove global warming,” he says, “they just mean that weather and seasons still happen.”
There’s another explanation for the cold snaps, which is a phenomenon called the Arctic vortex. This means ‘when unusually warm temperatures are present in the Arctic, the Arctic Oscillation — the back-and-forth movement of a large area of low pressure and cold air between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes — is said to be in a “negative phase.” Scientists are finding that during a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. The polar jet stream, which encircles the cold air mass called the polar vortex, becomes more wobbly’
Watch: If There’s Global Warming … Why Is It So Cold?
Global Warming hasn’t Eradicated Cold, but it will do other things
People assume that winters will simply vanish as global temperatures rise. Winters will exist but it has been observed that winters overall have been milder despite the extremities. In India, Delhi experienced the warmest February despite hitting the lowest temperature in January in the last 45 years.
Schreck further says that the extra wobble has two effects. For one, it allows colder Arctic air masses within the polar vortex to dip farther southward than usual into North America and the Northern Hemisphere. It also makes weather patterns more slow-moving and “sticky,” meaning cold air outbreaks might last longer. The effect of global warming is seen in other areas. As ocean levels rise and the precipitation levels drop, more floods and droughts can be expected.
All of these occurrences and anomalies provide evidence that global warming is here to stay but winters are not going anywhere for a long time.