What’s the difference?
- Weather, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), is what’s happening on any given day, in any particular place.
- It includes temperature, humidity, wind, clouds, and prospects for storms or any other changes that may happen over the next few days.
- Climate, on the other hand, is the average of these weather events over many years.
- It is the average weather pattern in a particular place on the globe over decades.
- NOAA—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s—National Weather Service calculate averages over a 30-year period then compares averages with other eras, including 1870 to 1899, before major industrialization produced large quantities of greenhouse gases.
- NASA and NOAA (plus research centers around the world) conclude that the Earth is warming. Hotter air, in turn, causes more moisture to be held in the air. Added moisture, in turn, results in heavier rain and snow.
But what about the Polar Vortex?
- “This may be one of those anomalies where [the vortex] forces itself southward,” explains Frank Giannasca, senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel.
- Normally, the vortex is held in by pressure on all sides, with winds up to 100 mph, but the warming of the Arctic could destabilize the “fence” around it and allow it to move south.
- In December 2012, another meteorologist, Rick Grow, forewarned of a “sudden stratospheric warming.” He described this phenomenon as “rapidly warming air higher up in the atmosphere over the Arctic [that] throws off the circulation around the north pole, allowing the polar vortex to stretch, or sometimes split apart.”
- Even earlier, in 2009, a trio of researchers wrote in the Journal of Climate that these sudden stratospheric warming events seem to be more frequent in the Northern Hemisphere. They are linked to an increase in snow cover across Europe and Asia in the fall, snowier autumns in Eurasia, as well as a loss of Arctic sea ice.
- Bottom line: The polar vortex has existed for a billion years, says meteorologist Matt Noyes, but climate change could be making it easy for it to swing southward causing extreme cold.
And think about this. U.S. makes up less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, so while we experience record cold, 98% of the earth experiences their own weather—like our neighbors down under in Australia. As we shivered, Aussies endured record-breaking heat in their 2014 January summer.
Just thought you should know. ®
Sources: “Air, Planet, People,” UCAR: University Corporation of Atmospheric Research, 2.ucar.edu, 1/7/14. Brian Walsch, “Polar Vortex: Climate Change Could Be the Cause of Record Cold Weather,” science.time.com, 1/7/14. “Does Snow and Cold Disprove Climate Change?” Union of Concerned Scientists, ucsusa.org, 1/7/14. Terrell Johnson, “Polar Vortex and Climate Change: Why Rush Limbaugh and Others are Wrong,” weather.com, 1/7/14. “Weather and Climate Basics,” The National Center for Atmospheric Research & University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Office of Programs, eo.ucar.edu, 1/7/14.