The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Climate Change Is Making Winter Storms Stronger
Dear Diary. This time of year, climate scientists start trotting out counterintuitive ideas and suppositions about cold waves and storms, linking many of these with our warming planet. After a few writing years on this site, it appears that these suppositions, or uncertain beliefs, are becoming more and more hard scientific fact. We will delve into this relatively new science for today’s main subject.
This Christmas week the U.S. will see a historic cold wave ushered in by the wake of a strong Midwest winter storm. Such occurrences were much more common when I was a teenager during the 1970s, so climate change has influenced the number and severity of cold outbreaks. Last week I let my readers know that this week’s cold outbreak was influenced by stark Arctic warmth:
Also, overall global warming can add kinetic energy into storm systems, deepening them such that copious amounts of snow are generated along with very strong winds. So, for example we would see at location X a foot of snow for a storm total in 2022 while the same location would see six inches from the same jet stream setup in 1972. Additionally, as we know, climate change has added higher moisture content into the atmosphere for storms to interact with. We can’t really compare apples to oranges as of 2022, so it is very tough to statistically find out how ratios of snowfall totals would actually turn out between winter storms from different decades, but climate scientists are busy trying to do so.
Also, keep in mind that as the Earth warms many months winter storms are not as frequent as their prior decade counterparts. December 2021 was the warmest December in U.S. history with very little winter storm activity. December 2022 will be a much different, colder story.
Here is a Salon article relaying some of the latest thinking by climate scientists concerning this eras winter storms:
Winter storms are back — and scientists say climate change is making them a lot worse
Winter storms are a normal part of this time of year. Yet climate change is making them more severe
A man shovels snow in near whiteout conditions during a noreaster in Marshfield, Massachusetts, on January 29, 2022. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
As winter storms continue to pummel much of the United States, is climate change partially — or majorly — to blame?
As with any natural disaster that relates to the weather, it is natural to wonder whether climate change plays a role. Certainly, the weather this winter has been extreme, with Texans and Oklahomans being warned of potential tornadoes and Americans everywhere bracing for possible power outages (which on their own can be devastating). Winter storms mean blocked roads, damaged property, crumbling infrastructure and possibly even injuries and deaths.
The big question for both policymakers and the public, therefore, is how much of the horrid weather can be definitively attributed to global warming.
Climate change experts say that it’s not merely a coincidence — climate change really is worsening our winter storms this year, as multiples experts told Salon.
“Winter storms develop in a climate change environment: it is warmer and moister,” Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) told Salon by email. “But it is plenty cold in winter over the continent. It means snow amounts can be much greater: e.g. see Buffalo recently. They may be more intense: not guaranteed, but more developments ensue. Watch for a bad nor-easter.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to attribute more snow to the planet warming, Trenberth observed that this only seems to be the case because the general public is insufficiently informed about how climate change works.
“[People need] education that winter warming may mean more snow, not less,” Trenberth added.
This does not mean that scientists can precisely quantify the extent to which climate change has played a role. According to Dr. Michael E. Mann — a climate scientist and director of the Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media at the University of Pennsylvania — it is “tricky” to figure these things out with precision.
“There’s still quite a bit of debate about whether we can expect more events like the Texas cold spell last year due to climate change,” Mann wrote to Salon. “On the other hand, there is evidence that warming leads to more powerful, snowier nor’easters—something we’ve seen quite a bit of in the northeast in recent years.”
“There is evidence that warming leads to more powerful, snowier nor’easters—something we’ve seen quite a bit of in the northeast in recent years.”
The good news is that, while there are many unanswered questions, scientists do know the means of accomplishing this. As Mann put it, they will use “high-resolution climate model simulations that better resolve the dynamics of powerful winter storms like nor’easters.”
Mann added, “It’s something I hope to look into in my own research over the next few years.”
While the exact role of climate change in causing winter storms is murky, there is little question that the storms have been getting worse — and, in the process, have wreaked havoc on an American infrastructure that is simply not equipped to handle them. This was dramatically demonstrated last year when millions of Texans were left without electricity during an unprecedented winter storm because their power grid had not been designed for resiliency during adverse winter conditions.
“I would say that extreme weather in general—whether summer season extremes like droughts, heat waves, and floods, or winter storms like nor’easters—are disruptive to transportation, and labor, and all of the elements that comprise a supply chain,” Mann told Salon. “So more extreme weather means more disruption of supply chains.”
Trenberth added that the weather problems do not stop simply because there is an end to the “snow and ice and cold.”
“In spring, the snow and ice melt can lead to flooding, as has happened in recent years over the upper Midwest,” Trenberth wrote to Salon. This year, a La Nina year, [there was] more [precipitation[ in northern states.” He added there could also be “possible continued drought in southern states” as well as “fire risk, especially as people get careless with heating.”
Ironically, although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tried to argue last year that the blackouts somehow discredited the need for a Green New Deal, one expert told Salon at the time that as climate change worsens, extreme weather events will further test America’s infrastructure. Eventually there may be no choice but to rebuild it.
“From a Green New Deal perspective, we would want to have public utilities that prioritize public safety and resiliency and disaster readiness over the optimal price in a perfect market equilibrium situation and really nice weather — so I think that’s an important distinction,” Daniel Aldana Cohen, associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of “A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green Deal,” told Salon at the time.
Read more about climate change:
- California desert tortoises are hurtling toward extinction. Saving them won’t be easy
- Ex-White House chef Sam Kass says coffee, wine and more will be “largely unavailable” in 30 years
- Deadly heat waves engulfed the planet this year: Climate change is a national security crisis
By MATTHEW ROZSA
Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei (“Star Trek”), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain (“All My Children”), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert (“Saw VI”), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass (“SpongeBob Squarepants”), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr (“F Is for Family”), novelist James Patterson (“The President’s Daughter”), comedian David Cross (“Scary Movie 2”) and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.
MORE FROM MATTHEW ROZSA
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:
Here is some more global November 2022 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Sunday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
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Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”