If Global Warming is real, why is it so f**king cold right now?

Yes, I spent some time shoveling ourselves out of the recent snowstorm and yes, my feet got very, very cold in the process. Yes, it is supposed to get to -5 F tonight (-20 C).

So what about global warming???? How about a little global warming here? I want Al Gore to refund the money I spent on seeing An Inconvenient Truth!

Not really.
Think of it this way: suppose my house was well insulated and was at, say, 70F in the living areas. But in the middle of the house I had one super well insulated room whose doors were perfectly sealed and the temperature in that room was a Minnesota like -40 F. 🙂

Still, in the comfort of my living room, I don’t notice; I feel the 70 F.

Now apply heat everywhere; the cold, insulated room rises from -40 to -38, and my living room rises from 70 F to 71 F. But now, I open the previously sealed doors to the “cold room”.

What happens? Well, my comfortable living room isn’t so comfortable now; I feel a cold wave. But in fact, the overall temperature inside the house has, in fact, gone up, even though I feel colder; it is just that this cold air is no longer concentrated in one area but instead “smeared out”.

Yes, the above is a grossly simplified example, but that is more or less what is happening now.
(for a primer on these terms, see here)

Usually, airflows (e. g., the jetsteam) keep the arctic air mass bottled up away from us. But winds have changed direction:

“Arctic air masses always exist; it’s just a matter of where they go,” Miller said. “Most of the time, they stay well to our north, but winds above us at 18,000 feet (the jet stream) change direction, and they are now pushing the arctic air our way.”

Miller said meteorology is a very young science and that can make it hard to predict. Climate events like El Nino happen all the time and aren’t always the culprit behind changing weather.

The National Weather Service describes an El Nino as a large scale ocean atmosphere climate phenomenon linking to warming sea surface temperatures in the east Pacific Ocean.

“It’s very difficult to point to one event and say ‘this is what’s causing it,'” she said. “El Ninos for us in North Texas generally bring above average winter precipitation and slightly below average temperatures, however many El Ninos differ from each other! It makes forecasting challenging to say the least.”

So right now, that bitterly cold arctic air is pounding us. But ironically, this may well raise arctic temperatures even as it freezes out the rest of us; that cold is more spread out than usual.

Of course, temperatures will always vary; just because, say, the mean temperature in Peoria, IL rises by say, 1 F, doesn’t mean that we won’t have periods of bitterly cold weather; we are just likely to have fewer of them.

Note: I am NOT a climate scientist; I warmly welcome correction from those with climate science credentials.

(yes, “warmly” is right). 🙂


January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Illinois, Peoria, Peoria/local, science, world events


  1. I like your explanation of this concept, I hadn’t heard it in these terms before. Simple is ok, most people need simple to start understanding this topic.

    Comment by noahsarkwetlands | January 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you! I’ll have to read your first couple of articles; the “biological engineering” of plants to use less water sounds interesting; it will be interesting to see if there are other side effects to this.

      Comment by blueollie | January 9, 2010 | Reply

      • Thanks for visiting! We’re just brand new, but are hoping to help the environment in the long run. Or short run, whatever we have left…..

        Comment by noahsarkwetlands | January 9, 2010

  2. […] Climate Change: Rachel Maddow had a nice segment on the recent snowfall in Washington DC and those who claimed that this somehow refuted climate change. Her argument: you cannot draw conclusions on long term trends from singular events. Also, how cold a particular area is depends on many things (e. g., jet streams, arctic air masses, etc.) […]

    Pingback by 11 February 2010 « blueollie | February 12, 2010 | Reply

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