Mention global warming in Atlanta, Georgia, after snow and ice crippled the city, and you might get some strange looks.
Climate change and global warming deniers will quickly point to the extreme cold weather events in Atlanta and other areas, saying that “cold” and “warm” are opposites, and there is nothing wrong with global temperatures. Atlanta, Georgia, suffered power outages and traffic backups, after inches of snow fell, ice encrusted trees, and winds blew down power lines. Across the Mid-Atlantic and South, at least eleven deaths are blamed on the treacherous conditions brought on by a shift in the polar vortex.
What is the polar vortex, and does it have anything to do with global warming? Well, yes, but not in the way that climate change deniers think. Supposedly, global warming, at least to the deniers, means that cold weather cannot exist but, as Dr. John Holden, Science Advisor to the President of the United States, explains, it’s a measure of averages and trends over time…
“No single weather episode can either prove or disprove global climate change,” Dr. Holden points out, so the recent shift in the polar vortex, bring cold weather to usually-mild areas, such as the Mid-Atlantic United States, doesn’t disprove global warming. Because the Arctic is warming faster than the temperate zones, the temperature differential between them is smaller, making mixing and shifting of these air masses easier.
As global temperatures continue to rise, as it has risen 1.53°F over the last century, the occurrence of these shifts will most likely increase, bringing more extreme weather events to milder regions. We’re going to have to learn to adapt, and quickly, because any efforts we make to reverse global warming won’t take effect for decades.