In the past few years we have seen a dramatic demonstration of the deadly effects of prolonged cold weather. From Chicago to China, Egypt to Argentina, India to the Antarctic, new low temperature and snowfall records have been set.
This has led to severe hardship for millions — and increased death rates.
The first half of this year’s Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter season was especially brutal. December 2013 and January 2014 were the third-coldest Decembers and Januaries in the past 30 years averaged over the contiguous 48 United States, with temperatures plummeting to −10°C in Atlanta and −26°C in Chicago. Residents of North East India struggled with unusually severe snow and −10°C temperatures without home heating. Snow and extreme cold also impacted the Kashmir Valley in India, where many elderly and very young people died of hypothermia. At the time of this writing, most of India is two to five degrees C colder than usual, a serious problem when 95% of all Indian homes lack central heating.
In mid-December, Cairo experienced its first snowfall in over a century, and Jerusalem was hit by a snowstorm called the “fiercest in 20 years.” On December 17, 59% of the contiguous United States was snow-covered, a level the National Weather Service claims has not been seen on that date in at least a decade.
Contrary to the claims of groups such as Ecology Ottawa — which last week held an event titled “the Future of Snow and Skiing in a Warming World” — winter snow cover in the NH has gradually increased since 1967.
Not just during this winter season has weather been unusually cold. March 2013 was the coldest month for Berlin in 100 years. In the same month, low temperature records were set in the United Kingdom, and UK Office for National Statistics reported: “An estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2012/13 — a 29% increase compared with the previous winter.”
All-time low temperature records were also set in Antarctica in 2013. As demonstrated by the global warming research mission aboard the MV Akademik Schokalskiy — the Russian ship stuck in Antarctic ice for two weeks starting on Christmas Day, 2013 — southern sea ice is now more extensive than at any time in the modern-day record.
At the opposite pole, summer sea ice increased by almost 2.4 million square kilometers during 2013 over 2012, the largest year-to-year increase since satellite records began.
The 2011/12 winter was especially severe in Eastern Europe, where temperatures plunged below −40°C and hundreds of people died.
Overall, the NH has witnessed four severe winters since 2000: 2002/03, 2005/06, 2007/08, 2009/10. Most operational forecasters agree that much of this is unprecedented in recent history.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this shouldn’t be happening. The IPCC asserted in their Fourth Assessment Report (2007) that, as an impact of the carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming that activists say is still going on:
There is likely to be a decline in the frequency of cold air outbreaks (i.e., periods of extreme cold lasting from several days to over a week) in NH winter in most areas.
Always looking for environmental phenomena to blame on human activities, the White House now says the opposite of the IPCC: man-made global warming caused this winter’s extreme cold. IPCC forecasts indicate that it should have warmed 0.3°C in the past fifteen years. Instead, global warming stopped 17 years ago. Indeed, 134 climate experts from 18 countries wrote in their as-yet-unanswered November 24, 2012 open letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years.
Yet, in his January 8 online video, Dr. John Holdren — President Obama’s Science and Technology advisor — explained that as a consequence of recent global warming that he maintains is occurring, the Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the mid-latitudes. This means that the temperature difference between the Arctic and the contiguous U.S is shrinking, thereby weakening the circumpolar vortex, a swirling mass of cold air that hovers over the Arctic. The result is that the boundaries of the vortex become wavier, allowing increased excursions of cold Arctic air into more southerly regions.
Holdren acknowledged that “there will be continuing debate about exactly what is happening,” but concluded:
I believe the odds are that we can expect, as a result of global warming, to see more of this pattern of extreme cold in the mid-latitudes.
A quick look at meteorological history shows that Holdren’s leap in faith is unfounded. A weather phenomenon similar to what happened this winter also occurred during the 1962/1963 winter, when global cooling was underway. Miami experienced −12°C in December 1962, and most of Europe was exceptionally cold, with the average daily temperatures 4°C lower than usual at many weather stations.
Similarly, towards the end of the global cooling period that lasted from 1945 to the mid-‘70s, Time wrote (June 24, 1974):
Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds — the so-called circumpolar vortex — that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.
Meteorology textbooks show that such cold weather outbreaks happen often due to distortions in the boundaries of the polar vortex — and have nothing to do with global warming, or cooling, however caused.