THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
It will be a white Christmas over most of the UK this year, an unusual occurrence in a nation where heavy snows typically occur just a few times per year. High temperatures in London over the past week have averaged about 6Â°C (11Â°F) below the average high of 7Â°C (44Â°F), and will remain below average through Christmas. Winter has hit Western Europe hard for over a month, with heavy snows significantly disrupting flights all across the continent. For November, the…
Global warming puts more water in the air. And much of the ice that has been melting in the arctic appears to have settled as seasonal snow in higher latitude of the Northern Hemisphere. The new and increased reflectivity of this snow appears to have changed air ciruculation patterns, which, in combination with El Niño, is changing the Jet stream. So we get much colder temperatures in some parts of the world, where increasing moisture falls as snow.
But the Arctic is now also getting unusually warm air. Ice formation has been slower since November. In fact the amount of sea ice in the Arctic was the second lowest level measured for the end of November. Parts of the Arctic are 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal.
The extent of Arctic sea ice actually decreased for a period of time before continuing slow formation in December. In fact, the amount of sea ice seen now is lower than any other time, even the worse year of 2007.
So, the colder temperatures in some parts of the world are mirrored by much warmer than normal temperatures in others. It may well be that when the Arctic Ocean melt season starts, sea ice extent will the be lowest ever seen for that date. That is, the fullest extent of sea ice may be smaller than ever before, making it much likelier we will be seeing increased disappearance of sea ice in the summer of 2011.