Well, this is why we now use the term climate change.
Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground has a good post on what is happening with our weather that is making it so cold. And there is a good graphic at NOAA website that explains it.
The explanation that is gaining currency among climate scientists is that low levels of Arctic sea ice during the summer are causing more heat to be absorbed in the Arctic during the fall, and changing atmospheric circulation patterns, driving cold Arctic air into Europe and the Eastern United States and funneling warm air up into the Arctic regions.
This warm Arctic-cold continents pattern is likened to leaving the refrigerator door open. The room gets colder but the fridge warms up.
This new pattern is very different from the one we are accustomed to — case in point: the atmospheric circulation around the North pole actually reversed for a period of time last winter.
It also has the unfortunate byproduct that it generates a feedback loop that will tend to speed up warming, as it reinforces an atmospheric circulation that drives more warm air into the Arctic, melts more ice, allows darker land and water to absorb more sunlight, further warms the atmosphere in the Arctic, and thereby reinforces the new atmospheric circulation pattern.
So last night we had the unusual effect that the capital of Florida (Tallahassee) was colder (21° F this morning) than the capital of Greenland (with a low of 34° in the capital city Nuuk) or Iceland (43° in Reykjavik).
And as the globe continues to warm, we in DC and our counterparts in London might just need to get used to frigid winters.
Eric Haxthausen is director of U.S. Climate Policy for The Nature Conservancy.
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