With cold weather it is inevitable that the American right wing, which has a poor grasp of science and math (along with economics, American history, and current events), will claim this to be evidence against global warming. The right wing is quick to adopt knee-jerk arguments, while tending to avoid investigating exactly what it is they are attacking. (Then there is the delusional far right-wing blogger Donald Douglas who shows he has no idea as to the difference between science and astrology and then wonders why I won’t bother with his trollish comments.) Climate change has predicted an increase in extreme weather conditions, which we are experiencing, and an overall average increase in temperature, which we continue to experience despite cold days.
Quartz explained one theory as to how global warming can make cold snaps even worse:
In fact, despite the trolling of Donald Trump and other climate change deniers, global warming is probably contributing to the record cold, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. The key factor is a feedback mechanism of climate change known as Arctic amplification. Here’s how to explain the nuts and bolts of it to your under-informed family and friends:
Snow and ice are disappearing from the Arctic region at unprecedented rates, leaving behind relatively warmer open water, which is much less reflective to incoming sunlight than ice. That, among other factors, is causing the northern polar region of our planet to warm at a faster rate than the rest of the northern hemisphere. (And, just to state the obvious, global warming describes a global trend toward warmer temperatures, which doesn’t preclude occasional cold-weather extremes.)
Since the difference in temperature between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes helps drive the jet stream (which, in turn, drives most US weather patterns), if that temperature difference decreases, it stands to reason that the jet stream’s winds will slow down. Why does this matter?
Well, atmospheric theory predicts that a slower jet stream will produce wavier and more sluggish weather patterns, in turn leading to more frequent extreme weather. And, turns out, that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing in recent years. Superstorm Sandy’s uncharacteristic left hook into the New Jersey coast in 2012 was one such example of an extremely anomalous jet stream blocking pattern.
When these exceptionally wavy jet stream patterns occur mid-winter, it’s a recipe for cold air to get sucked southwards. This week, that’s happening in spectacular fashion.
Time also explained the polar vortex along with the continued overall warming:
Unsurprisingly, the extreme cold has brought out the climate change skeptics, who point to the freeze and the recent snowstorms and say, essentially, “nyah-nyah.” Now this is where I would usually point to the fact that the occasional cold snap—even one as extreme as much of the U.S. is experiencing now—doesn’t change the overall trajectory of a warming planet. Weather is what happens in the atmosphere day to day; climate is how the atmosphere behaves over long periods of time. Winters in the U.S. have been warming steadily over the past century, and even faster in recent decades, so it would take more than a few sub-zero days to cancel that out.