Global Warming?

It's been a cold and at times a snowy winter across the United States. What ever happened to Global Warming? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick explains.

It's been the snowiest winter in many cities in more than a decade and in some cases the snowiest ever on record!  I've been receiving many questions lately about Global Warming.

The latest e-mail on this subject comes from Rita in Charleston.  She asks "Josh, it's been so cold and snowy this winter, what has happened to global warming?  Is it over?"

The quick answer is Global Warming is still happening and it's real in my opinion.  I'm sure many of you do not agree though.

Global warming doesn't only mean the Earth is warming.  It will also cause weather extremes such as severe cold, stronger and larger storm systems, floods, larger and more extreme droughts and heat waves.

Here's what's causing our cold and snowy winter:  There are many factors playing a role in our cold and snowy winter this season.  The main player is El Nino, the large area of warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America.  This warmer than usual water causes many more storm systems to form across North America and energizes the jet stream.  Another huge player is what's called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).  When the NAO is positive in winter, the Eastern U.S. tends to be mild.  This winter the NAO has been mostly negative.  When this occurs, there's a large area of high pressure over Greenland, blocking the cold air from going east.  The cold air must then go south!  When the cold air moves south, it invades the U.S., causing cold air outbreaks and snowstorms. 

Below is a map of the overall weather pattern we've seen across the northern hemisphere this winter season.

North Atlantic Oscillation

Here are facts on why Global Warming is real.

Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.

• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.

• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting, for example, Montana's Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.

• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching or die-off in response to stress ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.

The debate, however continues...  Who's right?  Only time will tell...

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