Thick, cold fog this late-afternoon Saturday here in California’s Central Valley — yet better off than a sizeable chuck of the US right now.
A frozen bomb has put millions of Americans in the dark, and, in a near-unprecedented freeze.
Despite all the huge, nerve-rattling political news this past week — seemingly two personalities gained the spotlight, one, Cassidy Hutchinson, revealed herself as a heroine, while the other, George Santos, showcased the horrid ridiculousness in lying Republican ideology — the winter-storm weather grabs interest at the end-of-the-week news dump.
And a frightful interest to be sure — update in early evening per CBS News:
A battering winter storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the United States on Saturday, left millions more to worry about the prospect of further outages and crippled police, fire departments and an airport in snow-blown New York state. Across the country, officials have attributed at least 19 deaths to exposure, icy car crashes and other effects of the storm, including two people who died in their homes outside Buffalo, New York, when emergency crews couldn’t reach them amid historic blizzard conditions.
Deep snow, single-digit temperatures and day-old power outages sent Buffalo residents scrambling Saturday to get out of their houses to anywhere that had heat. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday that the Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be closed through Monday morning and almost every fire truck in Buffalo was stranded in the snow.
“No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they cannot get through the conditions as we speak,” Hochul said.
An ugly story repeating itself across a big space of this country. And an underlying concern is this type weather- behavior will only get worse. Climate change is climate change in summer and in winter.
Heat only makes the cold colder.
Science of the moment:
Just because it's cold for a day, a week, or a season, it doesn't mean global warming is over. All months have been warming since recordkeeping began in 1880, including December. The main cause: human activities. Stay tuned next month for the Dec. 2022 data point. pic.twitter.com/IPYiKMWa9B
— NASA Climate (@NASAClimate) December 22, 2022
Details via Yahoo! News yesterday:
On its website, NASA Climate explains that though “the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history,” the rate of change being experienced since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution is unprecedented, approximately 10 times faster than the average rate of warming experienced following an ice age. The causal mechanism that explains our accelerating rate of warming, the greenhouse effect, was established in the mid-1800s.
“It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the Sun’s energy in the Earth system,” NASA Climate says on its website.
While the impulse to deny climate change based on the immediate weather conditions outside one’s window is tempting, it’s also worth remembering that the Earth’s warming is a global phenomenon and that while one area may experience frigid temperatures, the planet as a whole continues to heat up.
In February 2021, a polar vortex descended on the Great Plains, extending as far south as Texas, leaving more than 4.5 million homes and businesses without power and resulting in the deaths of more than 170 people. Studies have since linked the severe winter outbreak to climate change. Due to the fact that the Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, those higher temperatures have been shown to disrupt the behavior of polar vortices, weakening them so that they wander south over the continental U.S.
Those seemingly counterintuitive findings have done little to assuage the climate change denialism that regularly proliferates across social media in the winter months, promoting versions of the view “If global warming is really happening, how come it’s so cold outside?” Perhaps the most famous instance of that faulty logic occurred in February of 2015, when Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., brought a snowball onto the Senate floor.
“In case we have forgotten because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” said Inhofe, then the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, “I asked the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball just from outside here. So it’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.”
And it will only get worse.
Further analysis and perspective from science writer Eric Mack at Forbes this morning on ‘normal’ vs ‘abnormal’ weather/climate:
To illustrate, about 25 years ago there was a really hot summer in the Midwest. A few people in the town where I was going to college at the time succumbed to heat stroke. There was lots of conversation about what an unusually hot year it was. Someone might have mentioned climate change in the conversation, but the assumption was that the event was an outlier, part of the natural variation and chaos of the climate system.
Now try to imagine someone remarking on what a hot year it’s been without most people responding with some comment about climate change or how every year seems hotter than the last. And statistically speaking, this analysis isn’t far off. The five hottest years on record have all come in the last decade, making natural variation a less convincing explanation for the heat, to say the least.
We can now have similar conversations about “once-in-a-generation” wildfires, once-in-a-century flooding and historic hurricanes. At some point, we have to adjust what we consider as qualifying criteria to use these terms. The truth may be, that as we rapidly transition to a new climate on planet Earth, we won’t really know what normal is until a generation or longer after we finally get runaway carbon emissions under control (or it takes control of us).
And it’s going to get warmer still with additional notes from the UK — via the Guardian last week:
Prof Adam Scaife, head of long range predictions at the Met Office, said: “Without a preceding El Niño to boost global temperature, 2023 may not be a record-breaking year, but with the background increase in global greenhouse gas emissions continuing apace it is likely that next year will be another notable year in the series.”
The Met Office’s Dr Nick Dunstone, who has led the 2023 global temperature forecast, said: “The global temperature over the last three years has been influenced by the effect of a prolonged La Nina – where cooler than average sea-surface temperatures occur in the tropical Pacific.
A woman holds a dog in her arms as forest fires approach the village of Pefki on Evvia, Greece’s second largest island, in August as the region suffered its worst heatwave in decades, which experts have linked to climate change.
Climate crisis: past eight years were the eight hottest ever, says UN
“La Nina has a temporary cooling effect on global average temperature.”
But he added: “For next year our climate model is indicating an end to the three consecutive years with La Nina state, with a return to relative warmer conditions in parts of the tropical Pacific.
“This shift is likely to lead to global temperature in 2023 being warmer than 2022.”
Dr Doug Smith, a leading Met Office expert in climate prediction, added: “The fact that global average temperatures are at or above 1C for a decade masks the considerable temperature variation across the world.
“Some locations such as the Arctic have warmed by several degrees since pre-industrial times.”
The Met Office is forecasting a global average temperature of between 1.08C and 1.32C above what it was in the second half of the 19th century.
And next year a new trend will only make things hotter — from Wired this morning:
According to NASA, 2022 was one of the hottest years ever recorded on Earth. This is extraordinary, because the recurrent climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—known as ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation)—was in its cool phase. During this phase, called La Niña, the waters of the equatorial Pacific are noticeably cooler than normal, which influences weather patterns around the world.
One consequence of La Niña is that it helps keep a lid on global temperatures. This means that—despite the recent widespread heat waves, wildfires and droughts—we have actually been spared the worst. The scary thing is that this La Niña will end and eventually transition into the better-known El Niño, which sees the waters of the equatorial Pacific becoming much warmer. When it does, the extreme weather that has rampaged across our planet in 2021 and 2022 will pale into insignificance.
Current forecasts suggest that La Niña will continue into early 2023, making it—fortuitously for us—one of the longest on record (it began in Spring 2020). Then, the equatorial Pacific will begin to warm again. Whether or not it becomes hot enough for a fully fledged El Niño to develop, 2023 has a very good chance—without the cooling influence of La Niña—of being the hottest year on record.
A global average temperature rise of 1.5°C is widely regarded as marking a guardrail beyond which climate breakdown becomes dangerous. Above this figure, our once-stable climate will begin to collapse in earnest, becoming all-pervasive, affecting everyone, and insinuating itself into every aspect of our lives. In 2021, the figure (compared to the 1850–1900 average) was 1.2°C, while in 2019—before the development of the latest La Niña—it was a worryingly high 1.36°C. As the heat builds again in 2023, it is perfectly possible that we will touch or even exceed 1.5°C for the first time.
Just another winter storm. Nothing to see, move along.
Although opposite, though, freezing climate shift — good CGI:
Yet hot, freezing or not, once again here we are…
(Illustration out front found here.)