The recent cold snap that sent brutal Arctic temperatures across the American Midwest and Northeast was brought to us by an atmospheric condition known as the polar vortex, a cyclonic flow in Earth’s troposphere and stratosphere, which normally hovers over the Arctic and northern reaches of Canada and Asia.
The National Weather Service described the conditions on January 30, 2019 thusly: “One of the coldest Arctic air masses in recent memory is surging south into the Upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country. Through late week, expect frigid temperatures, bitterly cold and life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.”
And if you listen to some climatologists, the polar vortex was brought to us courtesy of humanity’s media-hyped nemesis, global warming.
Global warming or not, the polar vortex sure did bring cold weather. On January 31, the coldest temperature of this visit by the polar vortex was recorded as 56 degrees below zero Fahrenheit at Cotton, Minnesota. That’s an ambient air temperature, by the way, not a wind-chill temperature. Also, on January 31, ambient air temperatures dropped to 43 below zero northwest of Mather, Wisconsin, 32 below zero in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and 33 below zero in Moline, Illinois. At least 340 daily record lows were broken in the Midwest alone.
“This symptom of global warming is counterintuitive for those in the cross hairs of these extreme cold spells,” said climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Woods Hole Research Center. Francis is one of the scientists promoting the theory that the cold brought to America is due to global warming. “But these events provide an excellent opportunity to help the public understand some of the ‘interesting’ ways that climate change will unfold.”
“Counterintuitive” is one word for the claim. Others include crazy, irrational, and ridiculous.
The theory of how global warming can cause extreme cold goes something like this: Global warming is causing Arctic ice to melt. That ice melt may be causing a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. As the sea ice diminishes, solar energy which would normally be reflected away by the ice and snow is, instead, being absorbed by the Arctic Ocean. The increased warmth of the Arctic Ocean is supposedly causing the Arctic to warm at roughly twice the rate that the rest of the planet is.
Warmer and moister air over the Arctic reduces temperature differences between the Arctic and mid-latitude regions, such as the Midwest and eastern portions of the United States. The reduced temperature variation then weakens both the polar vortex and its atmospheric cousin the jet stream, which allows the polar vortex to split much more easily and head south.
Voilà! Global warming causes extreme cold.
A 2018 study led by Dr. Marlene Kretchmer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) attempted to confirm the polar vortex theory. According to the study, periods of a weak polar vortex have increased over the past four decades. The study claims that 60 percent of cold extremes in mid-latitude Eurasia could be explained “by the increased frequency of weak stratospheric polar vortex.”
President Trump, for one, isn’t buying it. As he is wont to do, the president took to Twitter to troll climate alarmists. “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with global warming? Please come back fast, we need you!”
University of Colorado-Boulder atmospheric scientist Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. also blasted the hypothesis that global warming is causing extreme cold in the United States. “These southward movements of part of the vortex have always occurred,” Pielke said. “With respect to climate, a strong polar vortex occurs when it is particularly cold at higher latitudes. The colder the troposphere at the higher latitudes, the stronger is the polar jet stream. So, if anything, these extreme Arctic outbreaks suggest global warming has little effect on them.”
But such common sense doesn’t sell climate change to the masses, which is what all of this is about. It’s in the interests of globalists to say that any extreme weather event — be it hurricane, bomb cyclone, or brutal Arctic cold — is evidence of climate change, which is brought about by man-made global warming.
Climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer, the principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a climate-change heretic according to many of his climatology peers, also took to task the claims that global warming is causing cold weather, writing in his blog on January 31, “In other words, as the theory goes, global warming sometimes causes colder winters. That’s what makes the global warming theory so marvelously adaptable — it can explain anything.”
Spencer and fellow climatologist Dr. John Christy also cited evidence that such cold snaps are actually less frequent now than they were throughout the 20th century. “The trend is markedly downward in the most recent 40 years (since 1979) which is the earliest we have reliable measurements of Arctic sea ice from satellite microwave radiometers (my specialty).”
Spencer and Christy’s chart shows no increase whatsoever in the frequency of these Arctic temperature blasts. Interestingly, the chart also shows no significant decrease in such events. It’s almost as if these weather events have a cycle to them. Every few years, the Arctic winds blow just to remind us they’re there.
In an op-ed penned for The Guardian, Penn State climatologist and acolyte of carbon-credit salesman Al Gore Dr. Michael Mann took President Trump and other climate skeptics on. “So, we’re seeing a trend toward more record heat, not record cold,” Mann wrote. “And even if we are seeing an increase in cold weather outbreaks in certain parts of the U.S. and Europe, it wouldn’t necessarily contradict the case for climate change — it might even be symptomatic of it.”
In his piece, Mann, the creator of the widely discredited “hockey stick graph,” which featured so prominently in -Gore’s 2006 science-fiction film An Inconvenient Truth, even thought to blame (cue evil music) the Russians and their alleged influence on President Trump for his “denial” of settled science.
“What is responsible for Trump’s continued climate change denial?” Mann wrote. “Could it be the same thing responsible for him outsourcing his energy and environmental policy to fossil fuel interests? Could it have something to do with the Russian influence that some have suggested helped get him elected?”
Mann went on to suggest that the Mueller investigation may have the final answer on that. “We may have some answers on these questions when special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
So in true climate-alarmist and leftist fashion, Mann has linked the president’s supposed “climate change denial” with the Mueller investigation and Trump’s alleged ties to the Russians. And I thought that conservatives were supposed to be the conspiracy theorists.
Even among climate alarmists, the theory that Arctic warming causes a weakening of the polar vortex and the jet stream is controversial. “Frankly, it’s a stretch to make that link,” said Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a highly acclaimed proponent of man-made climate-change theory and a member of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth was the lead author of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) reports of 1995, 2001, and 2007.
“There is always cold air over the Arctic in the polar night and the question is whether it sits there, or it breaks out,” Trenberth told the Daily Caller. “So, all this is in the realm of weather. Not climate.”
Dr. Jonathon Martin of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences agrees that it’s a big leap to connect the activity of the polar vortex to global warming. “I think that the jump between saying that by slackening that temperature contrast from the mid-latitudes to the pole, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the jet stream’s going to become wavier.”
Clearly, the worldwide community of climatologists hasn’t come to any consensus that the recent visit by the polar vortex was caused by man-made climate change, yet the idea somehow makes its way out to the public via the mainstream media, which is quick to attempt to pin any unusual weather on man-made climate change.
The media hype surrounding the polar vortex’s recent visit seemed to suggest that this was some new type of phenomenon, thus implying that it was connected to anthropogenic, catastrophic, man-made climate change. But actually, we’ve heard all about the danger of the polar vortex before. Back in the 1970s, it was called the circumpolar vortex, and the media warned us that it was certain evidence of “climate change,” which would occur because of global cooling.
A Time magazine story (June 24, 1974 issue) described the coming ice -apocalypse:
Telltale signs are everywhere — from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth loving creature like armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
A question springs to mind. The above excerpt suggests that the global mean temperature actually dropped by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit from the 1940s to the 1970s. Today, climatologists tell us that, since the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1860, the world has been steadily and abnormally warming. Was the data wrong in the ’70s or is it wrong now?
The answer is, probably both. We know that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has felt the need to go back into historical temperature records and adjust temperature data, presumably because of many factors, including poor station siting and urbanization, which led to incorrect data. And we also know that these data adjustments have shown a bias toward the global-warming hypothesis.
In fact, the actual historical temperature data has been so corrupted that a 2010 paper by Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watt suggested that the historical data isn’t useful as evidence for or against global warming. “Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically and unidirectionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant ‘global warming’ in the 20th century.”
And the data situation hasn’t improved much since 2010. Last year, climate-data researcher Dr. John McLean — a climate-change believer — audited the IPCC’s primary global temperature data set, which is known as HadCRUT4. It was the first known audit of the IPCC’s data and it showed numerous flaws. McLean noted more than 70 problems with the data, including “obviously erroneous data, glossed-over sparsity of data, significant but questionable assumptions and temperature data that has been incorrectly adjusted in a way that exaggerates warming.”
So it seems that all the temperature data pre-1980 is suspect. Isn’t that kind of a big thing? Doesn’t good science require good data? This alone should end all debate on climate change. Without accurate temperature data, there’s no way we can truly know how much, if any, warming has occurred.
Unfortunately, because climate science has become so enmeshed in politics and globalism, it has become impossible to study the science without taking a side. And the climate-alarmist side has most of the big guns in its corner. The media, the United Nations, and globalist elites are all heavily invested in “proving” that man is changing the world for the worse with our carbon-dioxide emissions.
It’s amazing and maddening that many of the same climatologists who shake their heads in sad condescension and accuse us laymen of misunderstanding the difference between weather and climate, consistently point to weather events such as the polar vortex (or hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, etc.) as evidence of man-made climate change.
Climate alarmists can get away with these types of unfounded claims because, as Spencer points out, “Falsification requires a lot of data over a long period of time, something we don’t usually have in climate research.” In other words, it’s a lot easier to come up with a theory than to prove or disprove it. And that’s all that the climate alarmists are looking to do — sow doubt in the minds of the public. And a little fear never hurts either.
Photo credit: cmannphoto/GettyImagesPlus
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2019 print edition of The New American. The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology. To subscribe, click here.