The winter of 2013-14 will go down in the history books as one of the most frigid cold and snowy winters in decades. Records have been broken all over the country, record cold and snowfall levels.
But what is really strange is that one of the coldest places on earth, Alaska, has seen record warmth, while in the south, states like Alabama have seen snowfall and ice so extreme they were just completely unprepared to deal with that kind of weather. Cars piled up on freeways for hours and some for days with people stranded in them. Schools that could not release children to parents because it was too dangerous to drive, forcing the schools to keep the children overnight.
California is in a drought, and a state of emergency due to their lack of normal rainfall and snow.
There is no doubt this winter has seen its fill of the polar vortex and below freezing temps, but what is causing all of this strange and dangerous weather?
Climate scientists expect weather patterns such as drought, and extreme colds to occur, brought on by global warming. But what does this extreme cold have to do with the planet warming trends?
Climate Central explains: as sea ice melts, it exposes darker ocean water, which absorbs more of the sun’s heat, causing the water temperatures to increase.
The process of the arctic melt is not yet proven since it is a fairly new event, but the event that is the suspect to all of this crazy weather is known as “Arctic Amplification” in which the heat of the oceans in the arctic is changing weather patterns.
The question that has yet to be answered in long scientific studies, has global warming’s effect on the Arctic set the stage for persistent weather patterns that lead to extremes?
One study by Francis and Vavrus proposed that the added heat is altering jet stream patterns, but other mechanisms are certainly possible, as both researchers said via email.
“It’s implausible that such a redistribution of heat in the Arctic system wouldn’t change weather patterns somehow, somewhere,” Vavrus said. But he cautioned that people should view their study as a “launching point” for more research, and not interpret it as having any predictive value for the upcoming winter, as some media outlets have portrayed it.
We do know for certain that changes in weather have been happening over the past decade that cannot be ignored, and not just record colds, record heats have been record breaking as well.
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