Heavy snowfall and intense storms in much of the U.S. this winter has climate change skeptics asking, "If global warming is real, then why is it so cold and wet?"
We've got your answer.
As the planet heats up, more water is evaporated into the atmosphere. And because the atmosphere is warmer, it is able to hold that water. When the atmosphere becomes saturated, intense storms ensue.
According to a panel of researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists, this surplus of extreme storms and massive snow and rainfall are due to increased moisture in the air as a result of climate change. Some areas of the U.S. Midwest and Northeast have seen a 400% increase in average snowfall totals for the year, and the amount of water in that snowpack is the highest on record. But the real danger of these storms may not be seen until spring time, when temperatures start rising and snow begins to melt. If spring comes quickly, the rapidly warming air will mean that much of the United States will face the possibility of dangerous flooding. This could be even more likely due to "spring creep," which causes spring to come anywhere from one to three weeks earlier than in past years.
A further reason for the hectic winter weather can be linked to the Arctic Oscillation, which is currently in a negative phase, meaning that "there is high pressure over the Arctic and low pressure at mid-latitudes, which makes the Arctic zone relatively warm, but spills cold Arctic air southward to places like the U.S. Midwest and Northeast." But the extreme weather cannot be solely linked to this phenomenon, and climate warming is clearly playing a part. Lets keep our fingers crossed for a gradual snowmelt this spring.
Photo: A cyclist braves blizzard conditions in Chicago on February 1, 2011. (Katie Levin)