As most parts of the United States (and even Canada) ushered in the new year with bone-chilling weather, you might have heard people joking about “six feet of global warming accumulated in their backyard” or some other variant of the same old declarations climate change-deniers repeatedly use to disprove the science behind the phenomenon.
There is no denying that it is cold out there. In New York City, people had to brave a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit to watch the ball drop in Times Square on the New Year’s Eve. It was apparently the coldest weather since 1962, when the temperature at midnight was at the lowest of 1 degree Fahrenheit.
In fact, according to an Alaska climatologist, Brian Brettschneider, the eastern half of the country experienced one of its coldest New Year's in at least 70 years.
The last four runs of the GFS show the eastern half of the Lower 48 ringing in the New Year with the lowest average temperature in at least 70 years – edging out 1977 by just over 2°F. @capitalweather pic.twitter.com/efXAzn2weM— Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) December 29, 2017
Now, some people might use these facts to argue that climate change is not real, wondering how global warming could be real when it is so cold outside – something that President Donald Trump has already done.
To answer those concerns, there is a huge difference between weather and climate.
As a leading international expert in weather and climate, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, wrote on the Forbes, “weather is mood, climate is personality.”
To put it simply, weather is the current condition while climate is a long-term pattern spanned over a period of months, years, decades and even centuries.
Here is how NASA differentiates between the two:
“The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere 'behaves' over relatively long periods of time.”
Just because it is extremely cold somewhere at this point in time, definitely does not mean the planet is not getting warmer — because it is. As the planet continues to get warmer, we are expected to receive such cold snaps, which might be brief but definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum.
Meanwhile, as the United States and Canada are experiencing record-breaking cold snaps, almost everyone else in the world is experiencing warmer than average temperatures. In fact, Arctic is warming up at an “unprecedented” pace compared to at least the past 1,500 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The Arctic is going through its most unprecedented transition in human history, and we need better observations to understand and predict how these changes will affect everyone, not just the people of the north,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA's Arctic Research Program. "The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open."
Globally, temperatures are almost a full degree Fahrenheit hotter than usual.
An analysis by NASA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency claimed 2017 was the second warmest year in 137 years, with October 2017 being the second warmest October dating back to 1880.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Brendan McDermid