Yes, it’s Climate Change!

Lake Michigan frozen in Chicago

Lake Michigan frozen in Chicago

If you’re on Facebook you’ve no doubt read the posts about how cold it is.   When a reporter in Bangor threw a cup of hot coffee in the air it crystallized and blew away.   Another in Minneapolis did the same with a pot of boiling water!   It’s not just the cold.   Having grown up in South Dakota and lived a long time in Minnesota, I’m no stranger to minus 35 degrees (NOT including wind chill).   Rather it’s the duration and wide spread scope of this cold weather.

As NPR explains, this is because we are experiencing a polar vortex.    Usually a low pressure cell with extremely cold air sits atop the north pole all winter.   Minnesota will get the occasional minus 40 degree weather because at times bits of it come south.   Due to the way continents and climates interact, the coasts stay mild as the middle grows intensely cold.   Since moving to Maine I’d many times see my friends back in Minnesota experiencing minus 35 while here we didn’t go below 10 above.

That’s still the case.   While we’ve been going below zero in the single digits in Maine the temperatures have remained frigid all over the northern plains.   The cold here is more intense than usual.


The polar vortex comes from a larger piece of that low pressure cell moving south, and bringing with it more cold war than we’re used to.  And as Time explains, this could be real evidence of global warming.   The reason is that the warm gulf stream has helped keep cold air caged up north, allowing milder air to reign through most of the US.   That’s why when I moved from Minnesota to Maine I was moving to a distinctly warmer climate.   A lot of Arctic ice has been lost in past decades due to global warming, cooling down the north Atlantic.

Think of it like big ice cubes breaking off and melting in warmer water.   While with ocean currents and depths it will take awhile, eventually that can cool the ocean enough to impact the jet stream.   If that’s what’s happening, it may well be that we’re getting yet another real indicator not only of the reality of global warming (which only a few holdouts deny), but that its impact may be multifaceted in unexpected ways.


For us in the Northeastern US (and probably everywhere between Montana and Poland) global warming may mean colder winters.   So how is that global warming?   When the cold air leaves the polar regions, they warm up.  This has been a warm winter in the Arctic, and usually frigid places in Alaska have had mild temperatures.   Polar warming seems to defy expectations, but the impact of cooling oceans on the jet streams and climate patterns suggests a hard to predict but likely destabilizing climate change.

It could also mean warmer summers, altering the nature of local climates and forcing changes in just about every aspect of life.  Few scientists doubt global warming, or that human green house gas production is a major factor causing it – the evidence is overwhelming.  A few ideology-driven political types try to deny it, and hopefully karma will give them what they deserve for endangering future generations far more than would be the case if we acted to clean up our energy usage.

But the reality is that humans live in denial, and it won’t be until it’s too late to stop the disaster that people realize we were warned and did very little.   Something like the polar vortex shows that the consequences of global warming may be very unexpected and vary from place to place.   But it’s here – and expect the headlines to get more dramatic and worse in coming years.

  1. #1 by pino on January 9, 2014 - 23:52

    And as Time explains, this could be real evidence of global warming.

    Here’s what Time said 40 years ago.

    “Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.”

    But the reality is that humans live in denial, and it won’t be until it’s too late to stop the disaster that

    That’s the rub. There is a difference between acknowledging that the planet is getting warmer – though I challenge science to explain the pause – and then acknowledging that there is no cataclysm coming.

    people realize we were warned and did very little.

    Did you know that the United States has exceed Kyoto levels of emission control without ever having signed it?

    • #2 by Scott Erb on January 10, 2014 - 01:29

      No, while the EU had met the Kyoto standards, the US has increased by 38% since then. The US has not met the Kyoto levels.

      • #3 by SShiell on January 14, 2014 - 13:07

        According to the US Energy Information Agency (USEIA), a government entity, says carbon emissions are the lowest since 1994.


        You “say” the US has increased by 38% – how about providing a link proving your statement.

  2. #4 by List of X on January 10, 2014 - 00:48

    If I understand correctly, the oceans are not cooling – the Arctic region is warming up faster than the rest of the world, and therefore Ice is melting faster. The problem will be when Arctic will have no significant ice left, so it won’t cool Gulf stream enough so that it weakens and makes the entire US East coast cooler – but it’s possible that a weakened Gulf stream will make Arctic cooler and that will somewhat restore the balance

  3. #5 by Snoring Dog Studio on January 10, 2014 - 07:49

    It’s already too late I hear. We here in the U.S. live in denial and anything involving self-sacrifice is just too much for us to bear. It’s dreadfully sad and terrifying that we’ve come to this. We still have dozens of Congress people who deny climate change and our role in it.

  4. #6 by Elizabeth Jamison on January 10, 2014 - 16:57

    Hey Scott! I hope you don’t mind but we are using this post in our discussion next week. See my class blog under Thursday, Jan. 16.

    • #7 by Scott Erb on January 10, 2014 - 20:09

      Cool, thanks. Let me know how they tear it apart!

  5. #8 by Alan Scott on January 11, 2014 - 20:52

    Some consistency would truly be nice. Those of us Karma endangered folks love to bring up inconsistencies in the Global Warming believing community with instances of Global Cooling, of which the above example would qualify. Any unusually cold or warm weather is cited as proof of Global Warming. I refuse to call it climate change. Our friends on the Global Warming side always point out that short term weather is not climate. Short term weather events do not disprove Global Warming. Yet obviously short term weather events can prove Global Warming.

    This cold snap is a short term weather event. It is not even that remarkable. The cold snap, snap, snap of the winter of 1993-1994 was much worse, at least in the north-east US. It was colder and it stayed cold. Even the cold snaps of the mid 70s and early 1980s were worse. I know. I worked outside through all of them.

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