Baby it’s cold outside. Like, so cold, that my beard is frozen by the time I start my car. The daily high temperature over the last few weeks has not been above freezing and the Nebraskan wind is putting windchill down in the negatives. As a consequence, I have been hearing too many people say that climate change is not real. Climate change is real, it is still affecting us and it is still a threat. So why are we getting this really cold winter weather when everything is supposed to be warming up? Paradoxically, the increasing global temperature is causing temperatures to plummet here in Nebraska.
Let’s get started. The poles receive less direct sunlight than the area in between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This creates a region of air that is generally colder. This air is held to the poles by the jet stream; it separates the cold, polar air from the warmer, non-polar air. The jet stream can move, and in this case, undulate so that it envelopes Nebraska and several other states. The amount of air above the jet stream remains similar though, and part of the jet stream must then move up north — being sucked in by the negative pressure. That is why Alaska is “close to cozy” while Nebraska is “it’s so cold, please cancel school.” The polar vortex that everyone keeps talking about is the air that has moved further south.
So why has the jet stream undulated so much? This is because global warming has weakened it. The fluid dynamics behind it all are very complex but the warmer, faster, and less dense air is able to more forcefully push the jet stream south. This leaves Nebraska and the Midwest open to the cold, arctic air that we have been suffering through for the past several weeks. With any luck, we should be getting warmer weather in the upcoming week and climate are not the same thing; climate is long-term; weather is short-term. Climate is measured over decades; weather is measured by the day. It is irresponsible to assume that a temporary cold spell is indicative of the climate simply because we perceive it as relevant.
All I ask is that you do not let the low temperatures bring down your climate concerns. We are moving in a restorative direction to lowering our carbon footprint. Let us keep up the momentum and not let cold weather slow us down. Our posterity tomorrow depends on the actions we take today.