One of the things that I hate most about snow storms and ice-cold weather besides shoveling snow or scraping ice off my windshield is that conservatives use it as a talking-point to disprove climate change.
Most people who watch Fox News will think that cold weather disproves global warming because they think “oh hey, it’s not warm outside so therefore the globe can’t be getting warmer.” This logic however is flawed.
Now, I can’t blame people because most people don’t have any background or education in any type of atmospheric science, and they get tricked into thinking that their flawed logic is correct.
Now, the atmosphere and global climate systems are very complex subjects to learn and understand, but as a college student majoring in physics with a minor in meteorology (atmospheric physics), let me explain some science that will hopefully change the way people view cold weather and global warming.
First, we must distinguish the difference between weather and climate:
Climate is the average weather conditions over a long-period of time in a more generalize area.
Weather is the current state of the atmosphere in the short-period of time in a more specified area.
Just because we have winter, it does not mean that global warming doesn’t exists. Winter is a season, and seasons are related to the Earth’s position relative to the sun. Seasons exists because the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees, and as the Earth revolves around the sun, the angle of sunlight changes in certain areas. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, we wouldn’t have any seasons.
In the summer, the Earth is positioned such that the angle of sunlight is more direct to the ground and thus provides more heat (total energy). In the winter though, the Earth is positioned that angle of sunlight is spread over a greater area. (See the diagram below)
Since the angle is less direct and the heat is being spread over a greater area, the ground isn’t going to be as warm, and the sun isn’t going to stay up as long which means that there is less heat coming in than there is in the summer. (Yeah for physics!)
Now, let’s talk about winter weather. So we know why it gets cold in general, but there are other factors that affect the weather. The weather that we are about to experience with temperatures below zero will be caused by an air mass chilled by the artic that has made its way down to the United States and Canada; this happens sometimes, and therefore does not disprove global warming.
the warming of the stratosphere of the arctic results in a high pressure system which can weaken the polar Jetstream while the midlatitude Jetstream strengthens which causes air to move from the arctic to the mid-latitudes. Long story short, air moves from high pressure to low pressure. If you want to get a higher understanding of how that works, you can read this article here
. Yes, global warming can caused stronger winter storms. Storms are fueled by heat, and more heat will result in more energy that needs to be distributed by the storm.