Climate change skeptics are pointing to the frigid record-breaking temperatures blowing through the Midwest as proof that global warming is a myth. However, points out how a changing climate can make cold snaps even more intense.
For example, the cold front that swept through Pittsburgh on January 7th was part of a larger polar vortex, which typically forms around the Arctic. This dense pocket of cold air and fast wind is usually held in place by the temperature difference between warmer southern air and cold polar air, forming the jet stream. However, as Arctic sea ice melts and the poles warm due to climate change, the polar vortex can be thrown off-kilter and dip further south because of a weakened jet stream.
While climate change has resulted in a worldwide upward trend in temperature, that doesn’t mean short-term cold weather snaps are out of the picture. Rather, think of global warming as “global weirding,” where a changing climate makes individual weather events more extreme and less predictable.