By Eric Holthaus
The cold air pushing toward America’s heartland is of a duration and magnitude rarely seen since record-keeping began in the 1870s. In Minneapolis, forecasters warned that all-time wind chill records could be broken, with a stunning -65ºF predicted for Monday morning.
As the record-setting cold spreads across the US, brace yourself for this conversation:
In fact, despite the trolling of Donald Trump and other climate change deniers, global warming is probably contributing to the record cold, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. The key factor is a feedback mechanism of climate change known as Arctic amplification. Here’s how to explain the nuts and bolts of it to your under-informed family and friends:
Snow and ice are disappearing from the Arctic region at unprecedented rates, leaving behind relatively warmer open water, which is much less reflective to incoming sunlight than ice. That, among other factors, is causing the northern polar region of our planet to warm at a faster rate than the rest of the northern hemisphere. (And, just to state the obvious, global warming describes a global trend toward warmer temperatures, which doesn’t preclude occasional cold-weather extremes.)
How can anyone claim that a rapidly warming Arctic would produce record cold air? How can -65F Arctic air be melting ice? The assertions are ludicrous beyond comprehension.
Arctic ice extent is normal. Northern Hemisphere snow has been near record highs.