If the Planet's Warming, Why Is It So Damn Cold?
Chicagoans brave the cold and heavy snowfall as Winter Storm Hercules leaves over a foot of snow on Jan. 2.
Winter Storm Hercules brought heavy snow and fierce winds to the Midwest and Northeast and has been blamed for at least nine deaths so far. Here, drivers in Cleveland battle high winds and heavy snowfall as they navigate on The Detroit Shoreway on Cleveland's West Side.NEWS: Snowstorm Slams U.S. Northeast
This satellite image taken on January 3, 2014 by the Suomi NPP satellite shows the blanket of snow that stretches from the Midwest across to New England.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
A pedestrian walks along Carroll Creek in Frederick, Md.PHOTOS: Blizzard Nemo Slams Into U.S. East Coast
Firefighters in Brooklyn, N.Y. dig out of their firehouse after Hercules deposited up to 8 inches of snow in the area.NEWS: 'Snowquester' Storm Seen from Space
Headlights of a car illuminate the street on Cleveland, Ohio's W. 112th St. after power was lost.Naming Nemo: How the Storm Got Its Name
A snow plow removes snow on a street near a statue put on a bench in New York.
Being in the doghouse isn't always bad, especially for this Brooklyn, N.Y. dog scooting into an actual doghouse, during the fun of newly fallen snow.PHOTOS: Winter Wonderland
A husky in Somerville, Ma., with snow-fearlessness in its genes, waits for its owner outside of a store.
A Brighton, Ma. resident takes his son and puppy to a dog park for some fun before the storm worsens.
A branch and its berries in St. Michael's, Md. bear up under the weight of Hercules.
A young man snowboards in Chicago's Humboldt Park. An unexpected look for a beach, but that's winter for you.
A Cleveland, Ohio resident clears snow in the Edgewater neighborhood of the city.
Twitter users, too, have been photographing the new year's winter weather. From Twitter user @GutterIsATool: @Discovery_News Here's a good #snowstorm pic from the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, MI.
From Twitter user @RiverROC1: #NORDHOUSE DUNES WILDERNESS, MANISTEE NATION FOREST, MICHIGANpic.twitter.com/zYca7K34Qx
From Twitter user @JPMajor: @Discovery_News 27" drifts in my back yard here in RI!pic.twitter.com/Oey5BKzaIj
In the wake of Winter Storm Hercules, parts of the East Coast will see record-low temperatures. In some places, the temperature is expected to be 20-30 degrees lower than normal. That's kind of a lot lower. So what's up with all this frigid air if the planet's warming due to carbon emissions?
“The bottom line is, I don’t find it extraordinary,” John M. Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington, told NASA back in 2009. “With or without (man-made) warming, you’re going to have big variations in these patterns.”
So even as we experience some of the hottest years on record, in terms of overall global average temperature -- trends that are most accurately recorded over 5-11 years -- it can be hard to believe we're experiencing climate change when your back hurts from shoveling snow.
Back to the climate experts at NASA:
"Surface temperatures from year to year will fluctuate depending on the naturally variable forces at work around the globe. In the early 1990s, the mass of sulfates blasted into the atmosphere by the eruption of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano reflected sunlight and counteracted much of the man-made warming effect for several years. In 1998 El Nino combined with the man-made effect to give us one of the warmest years ever."
Global warming doesn't mean that every year the climate will be hotter than the previous one. And it doesn't mean we'll see the end of snow days, to the relief of school children and teachers everywhere.
But it does mean, according to NASA scientists, there's no global cooling trend. Decade to decade the planet is warming -- and will continue unless we can control greenhouse gas emissions.