Cold Periods Are Different Due To Global Warming

Scientists reveal that cold periods are no longer what they used to be due to global warming. In the Eastern United States, the first week of January brought freezing temperatures in most locations. The temperatures decreased so bad that sea ice formed around the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Cod. On the Massachusetts beaches, sharks froze to death. Furthermore, alligators entered a resting state while remaining on ice.

Those who have experienced this cold snap might no longer believe in the existence of global warming. Climate change made us forget about all the dire scenarios about winter as the Earth responded to sharp increases in methane gas and carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, scientists indicate that the reality is more complex than we may think. The new study was published on Thursday, January 11.

This analysis reveals that the harsh cold outbreak that hit the US in late December and early January was severe. The World Weather Attribution project is an international consortium of researchers. They have analyzed the role that global warming may play in extreme weather events. Hence, the study has concluded that a cold period like this one is 15-times less probable to happen nowadays because of global warming.

Winter is coming, striking parts of the U.S.

Even if the chances were slight, the cold outbreak still happened. Scientists from the Climate Central, University of Oxford, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Princeton University have examined the cold wave. The cold outbreak took place between December 26th, 2017 and January 8th, 2018, affecting southeastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.

Researchers have revealed that the cold outbreak looked like a very rare weather event since global warming triggered less cold snaps lately. The attribution analysis shows that the effects of climate change on cold snaps is to make them milder. The study shows that the cold outbreak should be warmer by 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

In order to develop this analysis, scientists have compared the temperatures registered during the cold wave to the records they had for the last 30 years. Furthermore, they have also examined the time series of the temperature of the freezing two weeks of the year. They looked at records that date back to 1880. Hence, scientists revealed that in the past there were some equally cold two-week periods in this exact same region.

However, the striking aspect was that no such cold period has occurred since the winter of 1993-1994. Geert Jan van Oldenbourgh is a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). He declared that similar cold waves have occurred in the climate about a hundred years ago. Furthermore, the temperature of two-week cold waves seems to have increased across North America.

Researchers have compared other cold periods

However, during this cold period, many records were broken. The freezing conditions were brought by the ‘bomb cyclone’ which hit the East Coast with powerful winds and snow on January 3rd through January 5th. For two weeks, New York City’s temperatures were lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one of the top five records for a consecutive number of days below freezing.

For instance, the 12 consecutive days of temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago were only seen twice in the past, in 1895 and 1936. The findings reveal how winter cold has changed over the last few years as the climate warms. Scientists have revealed that during the cold snap, the temperature increased two times faster compared to the global mean temperature’s increase.

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Hence, the coldest periods seem to warm faster than the overall warming rate. In this way, cold extremes became more rare and less severe. The researchers have calculated that a similar cold wave like this one happened about once every 17 years at the beginning of the 20th century. However, due to climate change, we might expect a similar cold snap once every 250 years.

A woman trying to take the snow off her car

Therefore, the chances for such a cold period to happen in a given year were off 5.8%. Nevertheless, now the chances have dropped to 0.4%. Some scientists also indicate that the melting of Arctic sea ice can cause colder air to move southward. Hence, it reaches into the midlatitudes during the winter season. The cold air intensifies winter weather in the U.S. and also Europe. Nevertheless, the scientists who have developed the new study do not believe this argument is solid.

When the severe cold outbreak strikes

Researchers have discovered that the weather pattern which triggers the two-week cold period did not occur more frequently lately. However, the cold season has only started. Similar cold waves can continue to hit the US until spring will install and nature will revive. Until then, the temperatures may continue to stay low. Even if the odds of another cold period are decreased, scientists cannot say that they are zero.

Unfortunately, what had been a warmer-than-normal December has slowly transformed into a white, freezing dream. Americans did not expect such a drastic change in weather. The first 22 days of December revealed temperatures averaging nearly 4.8 degrees above normal. This had turned into a severe cold period when temperatures dropped lower than normal.

During the last week of December, some parts of the U.S. have registered approximately 11 degrees below average for this period of the year. However, this sudden change was foreseen even before Christmas. This change in the weather has clearly captured everyone’s attention as 2017 was coming to an end. Many areas in the United States has ended the year and started the new one being accompanied by this freezing cold weather.

The cold wave attracted Americans’ attention especially because President Trump suggested that this weather signals that climate change does not exist.

Summing up

Numerous climate change defenders contradict Trump and others who do not believe global warming to be real. The analysis developed by scientists indicated that the cold period brought freezing temperatures, about 11 degrees lower than the normal temperatures around this time of the year. The cold wave caused animals to hibernate, and numerous shark was found frozen on the beaches. This cold weather, even if forecasted, was a surprise since no one expected temperatures to be so low.

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William E. Eubanks
 

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