Image Source: Stock.Xchng

Image Source: Stock.Xchng

Places around the world have been hit with a lot of unexpected cold weather this year, including parts of China, the UK, and the southern US. Certainly, all of this cold weather must mean that there is no Global Warming. All those predictions have to be wrong, right?

Well, no, not exactly.

The fact that there are cold temperatures in places that don’t get them very often does not indicate that global warming is at an end or a hoax; quite the contrary, actually. Climate change actually does have the potential to cause more crazy weather patterns, from heat waves to floods and even severely cold weather. The planet is still, indeed, warming up—but it doesn’t eliminate the chance or fact that cold is still a natural thing and will happen.

Senior scientist, Gerald Meehl, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said that the cold weather is “part of natural variability”. He also adds that “we’ll still have record cold temperatures; we’ll just have fewer of them.”

While climate change has an impact on the weather, it’s actually not the main reason for all the unexpected cold this year. According to Deke Arndt of the National Climatic Data Center:

“We basically have seen just a big outbreak of Arctic air” … “The Arctic air has really turned itself loose on us.”

So, what’s the big deal about Arctic air? Well, a lot of air travels around the world from west to east, between the Arctic and the tropics. This particular section of air flow acts as a barrier to keep the Arctic air where it should be—in the Arctic. However, this west to east pattern has become deformed and is now also zigzagging from north to south. So, warm southern air is brought to the north, and then the flow will carry the cooler north winds to the south. The northern winds that move to the south are also including bits of the Arctic air in some places, hence why certain areas of the globe are facing colder temperatures this year than others.

This north to south pattern is not uncommon—it has been known to happen in the past. As for why it’s so strong this year, no one really knows. For those not used to the cold weather, you’ll be happy to know that scientists predict it should weaken and go back to “normal” within a couple weeks. And if you like the current cold snap, then enjoy it while it lasts!