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Extreme Cold Gripping Midwest Does Not Debunk Global Warming, Experts Say
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=46408"><span class="small">James Rainey, NBC News</span></a>   
Wednesday, 30 January 2019 14:23

Rainey writes: "Climate authorities, including those inside Trump's government, said the record-setting cold does nothing to contradict the consensus on climate change."

Polar vortex descends on the Midwest. (photo: Getty)
Polar vortex descends on the Midwest. (photo: Getty)


Extreme Cold Gripping Midwest Does Not Debunk Global Warming, Experts Say

By James Rainey, NBC News

30 January 19


“A cold snap in the teeth of global warming is no more unusual than a cool day in summer. Both happen,” one climate scientist said.

he massive cold weather front descending over the Midwest this week has commentators straining for analogies (“Deep Freeze,” “Arctic Outbreak” and “Ice Age”) and at least some people wondering what has become of global warming.

President Donald Trump and radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh seemed bemused by the notion that the climate is warming at a time when most of America will be hunkering down against sub-freezing temperatures.

But climate authorities, including those inside Trump’s government, said the record-setting cold does nothing to contradict the consensus on climate change. According to a tweet Tuesday morning from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening.”

The discussion of climate and weather, and how much one influences the other, has become politically charged at a time when some political conservatives have rejected the scientific consensus about climate change: that greenhouse gases have warmed Earth’s atmosphere and helped fuel heat waves, extreme storms, droughts and extreme wildfires.

This week’s blast of cold air has been linked to a familiar phenomenon — the polar vortex.

That is the mass of cold air that typically blows counterclockwise over the Arctic. When the flow of the jet stream slows, it can be reconfigured and push the frigid air south, into the continental United States.

That’s how Chicago can end up forecast for minus 22 degrees, as cold as the South Pole, with Milwaukee expected to get even colder, minus 28.

Trump made note of the extreme chill in a tweet Monday that concluded: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!”

On his Tuesday morning radio program, Limbaugh picked up the thread. “What Trump is basically saying is, ‘How the hell can there be any global warming when we’re gonna have record low temperatures and wind chills for two days in a row?’ " opined the man who calls himself "El Rushbo." In an extended monologue, Limbaugh said the term “climate change” was created because “warming has stopped” and liberals want a catchall phrase to explain weather abnormalities.

One NOAA official denied that the agency's tweet about the cold snap was intended to refute Trump's declarations on the issue. "Our mission is to share timely and relevant contextual information with the public," said David Herring, who is program manager of the Climate.gov website for the science agency. "We get questions routinely when there are extreme weather events and whether there is a connection to climate science."

“A cold snap in the teeth of global warming is no more unusual than a cool day in summer. Both happen,” said Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist at Climate Central, a science education non-profit. “It's a bit like opening the freezer door — it cools you off if you stand there, but it tells you nothing about whether someone is turning up the room thermostat.”

Accounts about the polar vortex and other weather events focus on the here and now. But climate scientists study patterns over decades, centuries, even millenia. And scientists said the data clearly show long-term temperature increases on Earth.

“We ARE seeing an increase in record heat, and we are NOT seeing an increase in record cold,” Michael E. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State said via email. “The trend is in exactly the direction we would expect as a result of a warming planet. Over the past decade in the U.S., we have broken high temperature records TWICE as often as cold temperature records.”

In a stable climate, the ratio of new record highs to new record lows is approximately even, scientists said. But in the past year in the U.S., the clear warming trend has remained in evidence, with record high temperatures recorded nearly twice as often as record lows. Several days of low temperatures this week will not be nearly enough to reverse that trend.

Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist who is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, agreed that anomalous cases should not distract from what has become the norm. “The basics — it’s getting warmer on average, there are more anomalous highs than anomalous lows and there is more intense rainfall — covers 90 percent of the cases,” Schmidt said.

Agreeing that a Midwestern cold snap does not debunk climate change, some scientists are trying to determine whether overall climatic shifts could actually help bring on more extreme cold.

The theory goes this way: Temperatures in the Arctic have warmed more dramatically than anywhere else on Earth. Those higher temperatures have made temperatures in the Arctic closer to the temperature in the lower latitudes. The lowering of the temperature disparity weakens the atmospheric barrier that kept the jet stream flowing in a relatively straight path around the globe. The troughs in this "wavier" jet stream dip into the Northern Hemisphere, bringing more cold weather. And the systems tend to linger, because the jet stream has slowed.

“There is a scientific discussion going on as to whether climate change is actually making it more likely for the jet stream to sometimes shoot Arctic air at us,” said Climate Central’s Strauss.

Trump has given no indication he is aware that scientists within his government are routinely affirming the general warming trend and the resulting challenges presented to humanity.

Jerry Taylor is president of the Neskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning Washington think tank that supports action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said Trump’s put downs of climate science solidify his ties to a right-wing base, in which “climate denialism is now a fundamental matter of identity.”

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+8 # Texas Aggie 2019-01-31 00:16
Look at some of the articles about this that have a map of the world temperatures. The piddly blue area in the northeast US is greatly overshadowed by the red over the rest of the world. For example, in Australia they are having record high temperatures way beyond what they are used to and there are record associated brush fires just like CA had. That covers a much wider area than the present dip in the polar vortex. So even with this cold spell in the NE US, the world is still warmer than it should be going by historical temperatures.

Individual 1's comment about since it's cold wherever he is, then it must be cold everywhere is but one more indication of his narcissism. Everything revolves around him.

And the bit about "colder than the South Pole" doesn't make it clear that right now is summertime in the Southern Hemisphere.
 
 
-6 # lnason@umassd.edu 2019-01-31 05:11
The article is correct that the polar vortex does not disprove global warming theory but it incorrect in trying to link it to global warming. Polar vortices were first discovered in the early 1940's and are known as Rossby waves in meteorology. They are completely natural.

As for Trump's tweets, one must suspect that this author lacks a sense of humor -- Trump's playground tweets were obviously intended to tease his opponents.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+3 # economagic 2019-01-31 11:24
Lee, have you ever taken a basic course in physics? If so, you should be ashamed of yourself, although I know you have no shame and never revisit an article to see what people with actual knowledge are saying.

Regardless of whether you have ever taken a science course of any kind, read the second paragraph in my comment below, then google "Tacoma Narrows Bridge" to see what happens when energy is continually pumped into a physical system. Don't be confused by the discussion of "aeroelastic flutter" as opposed to resonance between the natural oscillation frequency of the bridge and that of the wind (as I was taught in high school as the cause of the collapse). The specific mechanism causing the collapse is not the point. The cause of the flutter (or the resonance, had that been the ultimate cause of collapse) is the continued "over-excitatio n" of the bridge system by the energy injected by the steady wind.

The same principle causes the increasing incidence of increasingly extreme weather events.
 
 
+3 # economagic 2019-01-31 09:15
OK, this article is not as bad as I expected. After giving the know-nothings -- who unlike the faction with that moniker in the mid-19th century really DO "know nothing" -- considerably more than their due, it does go on to cite several actual scientists who actually do know something explaining different aspects of why the idea that even a ten-day cold snap in mid-winter does not disprove global warming.

Unfortunately they fail even to mention that more frequent and more extreme record-breaking weather events are a fundamental aspect of global warming, and in fact of continuing to pump energy into ANY physical system. But of course we cannot expect the MSM to actually discuss honestly anything that occurs, but only to whip the people with the attention span of a gerbil into a frenzy with the titilating story of the day.
 
 
0 # draypoker 2019-02-04 19:47
The way to stop, and reverse, climate change is to stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere. That means getting energy from sources other than coal and oil. No more Fossil Fuels. Biological energy that is derived from solar energy is probably the least expensive. It can be collected on every farm.