How Can Global Warming Make It Colder

Scientific evidence has shown that due to global warming, temperatures are rising on average worldwide. This serves as an indicator of the deleterious effects of climate change, which threatens population health, livelihoods, and the environment. Yet, warm temperatures are not the only legacy of climate change. In addition to heatwaves, polar vortexes, one of Mother Nature’s most powerful weather phenomena, are occurring more frequently. As climate change intensifies, these polar vortexes could become even more potent, leading to colder temperatures in some parts of the world and dramatically reduced winter snowfall.

The polar vortex is a system of lower atmospheric winds that operate in the northern and southern hemisphere, circling around both the North and South Poles. They typically keep cold arctic air confined in the Arctic regions and prevent it from travelling elsewhere. When these winds weaken and slow, this ‘polar vortex’ expands, stretching across countries such as North America, western Europe, and Russia. When this happens, cold air spills out of the Arctic and into other regions, leading to colder temperatures in those areas.

This dual affect of global warming—temperatures may be rising while, at same time, temperatures may be dropping in some areas—is known as icy-hot paradox. An icy-hot paradox occurs due to the combination of rising temperatures in the Arctic, which fuels weather extremes, and the breakdown of the polar vortex, which causes Arctic air to spill into more temperate climates. When cold Arctic air escapes, it can decrease temperatures in surrounding areas, a phenomenon recently observed in Europe and the U.S.

In the winter of 2018, for example, winter temperatures for much of North America and western Europe were about 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average. While this cold snap occurred as a result of a polar vortex, scientists found that its effects were amplified due to rising air temperatures in the Arctic. As air temperatures in the Arctic rose four times faster than lower latitudes, the vortex broke down and Arctic air escaped—leading to the extreme weather.

Rising Arctic temperatures are also connected to declining snowfall in some regions. This is an issue because snow performs an important role in the climate system, acting as nature’s own cooling system. The white snow reflects incoming rays of sunlight, sending them back into the atmosphere rather than absorbing them. As snowfall decreases due to rising temperatures, that light energy is absorbed by the earth’s surface, leading to even higher temperatures.

Clearly, global warming has far-reaching implications extending far beyond rising temperatures. From icy-hot paradoxes to decreasing snowfall, the consequences of climate change are presenting new challenges for the global community and their ecosystems. It is thus essential that governments, industries, and citizens start to implement effective policies to reduce their emissions and conserve the planet today.

Ernestine Warren is a passionate environmentalist, author, and advocate for the protection of the Earth's precious resources. She has written extensively on the causes and effects of global warming, providing accurate information to help educate people on how to combat this major global problem. With a background in science and biology, Ernestine has the tools to help develop solutions that meet everyone's needs while minimizing environmental damage. Her hope is that each person can do their part for the planet and make a real difference to help reduce climate change.

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