Where’s your climate change now? Right outside your door

A lot of people on social media are pointing out that it’s colder in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest than it is in Antarctica, to which others point out that it’s winter in the Upper Midwest and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Both are missing an important point.

It’s colder in the Upper Midwest than it is in the Arctic region.

The sun comes up Wednesday in Barrow, Alaska, also known as Utqiagvik, at 11:50 a.m. Its overnight low temperature? Minus 4 — 22 degrees warmer than the Twin Cities.

That’s something to keep in mind when someone wonders where your climate change is now? Take a walk outside. That’s climate change.

Jennifer Francis, the senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, writes this week that the polar vortex here is accompanied by a heat wave where it should be cold.

There’s science behind it and everything:

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have warmed the globe by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 C) over the past 50 years. However, the Arctic has warmed more than twice as much. Amplified Arctic warming is due mainly to dramatic melting of ice and snow in recent decades, which exposes darker ocean and land surfaces that absorb a lot more of the sun’s heat.

Because of rapid Arctic warming, the north/south temperature difference has diminished. This reduces pressure differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, weakening jet stream winds. And just as slow-moving rivers typically take a winding route, a slower-flowing jet stream tends to meander.

Large north/south undulations in the jet stream generate wave energy in the atmosphere. If they are wavy and persistent enough, the energy can travel upward and disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex. Sometimes this upper vortex becomes so distorted that it splits into two or more swirling eddies.

These “daughter” vortices tend to wander southward, bringing their very cold air with them and leaving behind a warmer-than-normal Arctic. One of these eddies will sit over North America this week, delivering bone-chilling temperatures to much of the nation.

She says this could be a normal pattern for the future although she acknowledges this is a “hot research topic.”

“It’s clear that at times, coping with global warming means arming ourselves with extra scarfs, mittens and long underwear,” she says.

  • Gary F
    • Ben Chorn

      There are many other studies that support global warming

      • crystals

        Like, 97% of them. I’ll stick with those scientists and not the 3%, thanks.

    • jon

      If the only thing you have to attack with regard to a scientific study is it’s funding mechanism, then you don’t have much of a case…

      If the study was flawed, tell me why the study was flawed. Funding source might be a good reason to look for flaws, but it is not itself an indication of bad science (it is just an indicator that a basis might exist, not evidence that it does exist…)

      P.s. of course “democrats” are funding climate change research… you don’t expect the GOP that doesn’t believe climate change exists to fund research into it do you? It’d be like funding a study to confirm or disprove the easter bunny….

    • That’s stupid. Be better. Or smarter.

    • Rob

      Seriously? The Daily Crapper is called that for good reason.

  • jon

    I came up with a theory of my own.

    If this cold snap proves that global warming/climate change isn’t presently happening, it certainly doesn’t undo the data that showed that it was happening…

    And since correlation is now causality (I mean the previous assumption basically demonstrates that it is) I’m going to say that me and my wife getting the electric car in 2017 and the solar panels on the house in 2018 have stopped and even reversed global climate change.

    You are all welcome… we fought climate change, and we won… but I would like to request that my ticker tape parade not be held until the temperatures improve.

  • crystals

    The term global warming should be banned, in part because it enables incredibly stupid tweets like this one to be born.

    • There’s nothing gonna stop ignorance. Certainly not a change in terminology.

    • boB from WA

      “Consider the source’, as my grandmother would have said.

    • Ben Chorn

      I think the real issue is once adults get out of school they stop learning. I wish I could find the source, but I remember seeing a study where something like 60% of adults are only exposed to science via the weather-people on TV. We need to start having more science in everyday life like on TV news programs. A simple 3 minute segment on science would greatly benefit the average American. It is far too easy to spread false information and convince people who don’t bother to learn to difference between weather and climate.

      I’d love to see a news station spend 3 minutes to mention the science behind greenhouse gases, or really any science (local wildlife and their environments, glacial or geological history of the area, how we breathe oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, etc.).

      • Ben Chorn

        This covers some of how Americans get their science: http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/20/science-news-and-information-today/

        “Most social media users see science-related posts on these platforms, though only a quarter (25%) see “a lot” or “some” science posts; and a third (33%) consider this an important way they get science news. About a quarter of social media users (26%) follow science accounts; these users are much more likely to click through to articles on science posts and to consider social media an important way they get science news.”

      • Jack

        Spend some quality time with The Weather Channel.

      • Al

        Which is a damn shame. Once we have kids, we have all the reason in the world to jump back into the learning game with both feet (if we were ever out). Working from home today, but took a break with the 6yo (snow day) to do the whole boiling water/sublimation thing, and talk through the scientific method before we did it.

        TL;DR: Kids make learning fun again. Freaking joyful.

      • lusophone

        Good idea about the 3 min news segment. Kinda like a condensed version of 3-2-1 Contact from PBS back in the day, but for adults.

    • kevins

      If manipulative and shallow were money, he would never need bankrupcy.

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      The term “global warming” does not do a good job of describing climate change, because it is incomplete. Climate change includes rain and snowfall averages and extremes, wind patterns, drought frequency, growing seasons, etc, etc.

  • Gary F
  • “hot research topic.”

    Pun intended?

  • Ickster

    Thanks, Bob. I spent about 45 minutes last night trying to find current global temperatures, and struggled to find anything other than sites which showed major cities by continent, which wasn’t very helpful. I strongly suspect that while it might be cold as heck here right now, the average temperature over the northern hemisphere is above normal.

    • John

      I know it’s really hard to measure the temperature of the globe. The best analog I’ve found is the average ocean temp around the world – less bouncy day to day, so easier to track overall. Still a large variation around the world, but a little easier.

      • Ickster

        I know, John. I wasn’t looking for reports from weather stations in the arctic or anything, but was hoping there was something that published current surface temps from satellite IR measurements. I imagine it’s out there, but not necessarily real-time or published in a consumer-friendly format.

        • John

          I’d like to see that too. It seems like something that somebody would put into a user friendly format, but I’ve looked as well and never found it (either side of the “debate” would publish it if it supported their position, and the other would try to discredit . . . because that’s how it seems to be going right now.)

          • jon

            You probably won’t find it for a day or right now….

            But if you look for “average global temperature dec 2018” you’ll get some answers…

            and in a week you’ll likely be able to find Jan 2019 information…

    • I’ve seen some mapping provided by the GRand Forks office of the NWS, but I haven’t investigative enough to know which office or location it actually came from. the NWS sites are abysmal for searching.

  • Erik Petersen

    Just so I can be on the same page with you guys…. in pre- 20th century times when there was -35 winter weather here, that wasn’t because of climate change induced Arctic high pressure that pushed a Polar vortex down the Rockies… that was different, that was natural weather variability then…. but we don’t have that now.

    • Ickster

      The explanation provided is not a definitive claim that the current cold is caused by climate change, but is an explanation of how a warm arctic caused the current cold snap. The point is not to prove climate change, but rather to put a damper on the usual ‘it’s cold here, so global warming is a hoax’ (see Inhofe, Jim).

      • Erik Petersen

        Ah. That doesn’t seem to be the perspective of the blogger who wrote the post

        • John

          you comment here a lot, and yet, you never seem to grasp the intent or voice of any of the posts. It’s positively baffling.

        • Ickster

          Actually, she’s quite clear:

          Splits in the stratospheric polar vortex do happen naturally, but should we expect to see them more often thanks to climate change and rapid Arctic warming? It is possible that these cold intrusions could become a more regular winter story. This is a hot research topic and is by no means settled, but a handful of studies offer compelling evidence that the stratospheric polar vortex is changing, and that this trend can explain bouts of unusually cold winter weather.

          Undoubtedly this new polar vortex attack will unleash fresh claims that global warming is a hoax. But this ridiculous notion can be quickly dispelled with a look at predicted temperature departures around the globe for early this week. The lobe of cold air over North America is far outweighed by areas elsewhere in the United States and worldwide
          that are warmer than normal.

    • Jack Ungerleider


      Yes the polar vortex sagging into North America has happened throughout history. But the frequency may be increasing and part of that may be due to the general warming of the Earth and the specific warming of the Arctic region.

      • Erik Petersen

        What’s the evidence that polar vortex cold snaps are increasing?

        • She provides the links to the diminishing temperature gap and its effect and states that the science isn’t settled. You can find them by clicking on the link to her articles and then following the links to the information she provides.

          • Erik Petersen

            Yes but your premise is its settled right. Hence the post itself, in which you allude this vortec is because of climate change. And yet you support this with a scientific opinion that cautions persuasively that its not settled.

          • Her reference isn’t to the cause of the polar vortex (a warming Arctic) but to the question of whether it would be more common in the future. This is said in not one, but two places.

            Why don’t you take a break and read all of the material provided and follow the links and then you can come back after that and try to be that guy in the comments section again.

          • Erik Petersen

            Such that you would observe I conflate cause and occurrence, they are not separable in this discussion. You’re assertion is basically that this vortex occurrence of this week wouldn’t happen without man made climate change

    • kevins

      Check the saline cycle, forget temporary seasonal in air temps..leave that to Trump and Imhoff.

  • Credit Warrior

    Global warming, climate change climate cycles are terms that provoke both thought and study about the weather. To a degree all may be correct. What I find interesting is how “man” feels they can control the weather by reducing the carbon footprint. I read an article about how the magnetic poles are shifting faster than ever before. The North pole magnetic field is heading toward Siberia. Lets throw another term ” climate shifting” The jet stream is effected by the magnetic poles hence there is a shifting of weather patterns. Warmer? yes Colder ? yes The weather has always been a great subject to talk about. In Rice Mn it is -24 degrees. Love it!!!

    • Well, it is certainly obvious that man can change the climate (which affects the weather) by pumping carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Since the mechanism of carbon induced greenhouse warming has been understood since the 19th century, it seems as if we can and should make the changes we need to make to reverse the CO2 in the atmosphere.

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      Man’s “carbon footprint” over the past two centuries has already controlled the weather and climate by changing/exaggerating natural climate cycles. And last time I checked, the atmosphere wasn’t magnetic.

    • Al X

      The atmosphere is generally about 70 miles thick (it varies some). There is no free lunch. Actions have consequences.

  • Popular Science magazine gave up on their website comments because climate trolls were ubiquitous and stubbornly ignorant, thus degrading dialog. Removing the comments actually improved the website experience. It can be a dismal job to moderate user-generated content, especially for the unlucky stiffs who have to do this for the major social networks. I understand that some of them actually experience PTSD.

    Of course some websites attract more eclectic and educated visitors, so the problem is not nearly so bad for them – but it still never disappears completely. For my part, I just don’t find it productive to spend a lot of time dialoguing on the wrong sort of platform, and even on the right sort my expectations are that participants will make at least some effort to inform themselves and be open to learning.

    • I haven’t been wrong about a lot of things in my professional life. But believing that comments could foster an intelligent and informed discussion was a big one.

      • Guest

        BECAUSE you moderate this discussion, this one is better than most. It can foster an intelligent discussion. When only comments that advance the discussion (rather than merely rant) are allowed to post, it does help.

      • king harvest

        You do yourself a disservice. Seriously

      • Reddit. But only in the right subreddits. I’ve found some excellent discussions in r/philosophy that really got me thinking.

      • Mike Worcester

        There was also this ideal that the Internet Age would allow for people to find more information in order to make more informed decisions about weighty topics of the day. Knowledge is power and all that. Unfortunately, that utopian vision did not quite materialize. That being said, one can still find good info, content and comments, it just requires wading through some muck at times.

        (And I do keenly recall how there were those who said the advent of talk radio would do much the same. I think the jury spoke on that one also.)

  • Postal Customer

    Related question: how in the world did we survive the 1996 cold snap (which was colder) before internet hysteria? It wasn’t as easy back then to get the temperature in Barrow or the South Pole, so it wasn’t as easy to draw meaningless comparisons.

    Also, I saw a guy on twitter aiming for internet points when he mentioned that it was -50F wind chill, but he was proud to still have a fan running in his bedroom. People truly think that wind chill equals temperature, and that is the media’s fault.

    • jon

      possible answers:
      1) We didn’t survive, this is purgatory.
      2) People were just tougher back then.
      3) There was histeria, it was just on TV not the internet (well actually both, but most people didn’t see it on the AOL.)
      4) Some of us don’t need to compare temperatures to alaska, or the surface of mars but instead rely on the time tested comparison to the temperature delta from room temp to that of the inside of a well done pork chop and room temp and outside temperature.
      5) they changed the windchill scale in ’01 so our -48 was only -26 back then… thus it was much warmer in ’96, (that’s how windchill works right? 😉

      • jon

        With regard to #2, people back then are getting tougher all the time…

        Saw a facebook post from some one who claimed to have worked outside in 30 below temperatures back in the day… the only problem is I know where they lived during any point in their life when they worked outside…. and the record lows don’t reach down as far as -30F (Minus 30C happened, but they also didn’t use Celsius as a measure.)

        • Guest

          30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit was typical in MN when I was growing up.

          • >>30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit was typical in MN when I was growing up.<<

            No…no it wasn't "typical".

        • Jerry

          I’m working outside today. It’s not thirty below, but it is a bit nippy.

    • // Related question: how in the world did we survive the 1996 cold snap (which was colder) before internet hysteria? It wasn’t as easy back then to get the temperature in Barrow or the South Pole, so it wasn’t as easy to draw meaningless comparisons.

      Pfft. Hardly a meaningless comparison. The fact it’s -4 in Barrow is incredibly significant.

      The internet/hysteria component though is interesting and is now a mere loop. People eat it up, media keeps feeding it more. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

      Wind chill? don’t get me started on wind chill. Even the National Weather Service is engaged in posting daytime windchills as an absolute, which is inaccurate.

      And as for the surviving back then. Carlson canceled school statewide for the first time in those years. And two times after that.

      • king harvest

        What about the heat index?

    • Mike Worcester

      Mike Lynch was broadcasting from Tower where they anticipated breaking the state’s all-time low temp. They did, and we heard it live 🙂

      • Frank

        They had to take the thermometer to a low lying area to get the record. It has an asterisk.

  • Guest

    It is easy to find evidence for Global warming. That said, the early trashing of skeptics as stupid and ruining careers of those who questioned rise of CO2 was not the cause gave many pause. Especially when the cure seems to be give lotsa money for politicians to decide what to spend it on.

    A) What is the relative effect of the greenhouse effect (trapping heat radiation) of the atmosphere’s CO2 versus H2O or other main gases.

    B) What are other possible causes and the proof for them or the proof against them?

    It is all more complicated than a sound bite. Trashing skeptics as stupid causes a backlash against the whole idea rather than convincing folks to change.

    I realized it was happening when all the glaciers (north and south hemispheres) were in retreat.

    • The solution was never give money to politicians. It was always, reduce carbon emissions. Change policies. PLAN, for god’s sake.

      But then it did become political — which is where, like most things politicians touch, the worse was destined to become worst.

      Meanwhile, science kept on doing that thing science does, and by now, yes, skeptics are stupid. Actually, they’re worst than stupid now, they’re evil in the same way the vaccine deniers are.

  • Erik Petersen

    Right, so this one is because of man caused climate change. But the other occasional polar vortexes within all our lifetimes were not. And we know that cuz scientists.

    • Ickster

      Erik, a couple of people have already pointed out that there is no claim that this particular cold snap wouldn’t have happened without climate change, but you insist that’s what is being claimed. Please stop.

      • Erik Petersen

        The point of Bob’s post is to tie the current cold snap to man caused climate change

  • Erik Petersen

    Has the frequency increase for vortexes been proven then? The way I read it, it hasn’t. Not yet.

  • Jack

    So in other words, I should be vacationing in Alaska today. 🙂

  • Erik Petersen

    I’ll cut to the chase.

    I don’t think that logic fails the average virtue signaling climate change believer at the point where we must contemplate whether man causes climate change. Climate change exists. We could have a real discussion arguing about degree if y’all could resist calling skeptics ‘stupid’ there.

    Logic fails the average virtue signaling climate change believer at the point where they rilly think we’re rilly going to reduce fossil fuel consumption in a meaningful way over the next few generations given the resource needs we need to live modernly. You can’t magicly scale up green energy, there’s some engineering constrictions there that impedes the green fantasy.

    If you’re a lefty eco person that has a dream of pushing the general population into some forced austerity for the purposes of lowering carbon output…. that’s not going to happen.

    I think logic fails the average virtue signaling climate change believer at the point where every assumption is the worst case scenario. Like, ag yields are not going to fall with a little or a lot of climate change. Ag yields will continue to go up because of methodology / technology.

    Things are going to be fine. I worry more about water degradation.

    • .// virtue signaling

      Wow. Invoked three times. You use it like a crutch.

      Move along now.

    • Rob

      Give us some cites. Where are you seeing/hearing that there are people concerned about lowering carbon input who are set on forcing the general population into austerity? That sounds like the kind of fatuous, anti-environmental assertion somebody like Rush Limbaugh would make.

  • lindblomeagles

    Jennifer Francis is indeed correct. Proof for those questioning global warming’s existence is the dramatic ice melt and warmer than usual temperatures at the poles, which has been recorded since 2000. Barrow, Alaska is a town/city on the coast of the Artic Ocean. It is one of the northernmost cities in the United States. You go out any further north of Barrow, you’re in the ocean (technically a sea) heading straight for the North Pole. It should worry ALL OF US that this most Artic of cities is struggling to reach 0 degrees at any time of the year, but especially in the dead of winter.

  • Probably on a beach in Hawai’i…he’s no fool.

  • Frank

    No, your car does not care about wind chill. But it can still be affected by the wind.

    If a car with an engine at operating temperature is parked outside, the wild will remove the latent heat of the engine faster than it it is in a garage. The longer an engine is at an extremely low temperature, the harder it will be to start. Nine hours at -20 is not the same thing as 4 hours at -20.

    But what really amazes me is that gasoline can even vaporize at -30.

    • In our small airplanes, especially those that use MoGas, if you go too high, you’re in danger of getting vapor lock (temperature drops as you climb, of course).

      As for cars, I’d like to see some studies on how long it takes a car to reach ambient temperature. I know this week I’ve been keeping my eye on the oil temp and water gauge. I don’t move until the oil warms to 90 (same temp I’d us when idling the plane before taking the runway). In this weather, it’ll run about 180. But I’m not sure in a no-wind condition how long it would take to cool to ambient temperature vs. if it were parked headwise into the wind. Surely there’s some scientists out there who have this calculation.