The freeze in Texas is unusual since the state is known for its hot climate. This year’s winter has been one of its coldest temperatures in 30 years, with some areas breaking century-old records.
Linking this extreme event to climate change is seemingly counterintuitive, for how can global warming bring freezing temperatures?
Texas’ freezing temperatures that have lingered for almost two weeks should be interpreted based on 140 years of climate data. A good analogy for this is, the weather is what you wear on a given day, but the climate is what kind of clothes you have on your wardrobe.
Temperature records began way back to the 1800s and show that temperatures have been steadily climbing. Since 2014, the world has already recorded the seven hottest temperatures since recording began.
The US has also experienced record wildfires in September 2020, burning more than 5 million acres in Oregon, California, and Washington. Its most intense drought not only contributed to the wildfires in California and Oregon, it has also depleted its water supplies in some Western States.
So what caused the unusual cold in Texas?
According to the Forbes article, the weakening of the Polar Vortex caused Texas’s deep freeze.
The article describes the Polar Vortex as “a large, persistent, upper-atmospheric, cyclonic circulation that forms and exists over the winter pole” and “a natural part of Earths’s circulation 10-30 miles up in the atmosphere.”
Often during winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the polar vortex will become less stable and expand, sending cold Arctic air southward over the United States with the jet stream.”
The Polar Vortex spilling would then create a u-shape figure that extends towards the lower states that do not usually experience freezing temperatures.
Climate Change and the Polar Vortex
According to studies, climate change would lead to more disruptions or weakening of the Polar Vortex, causing it to spill. While studies document Polar Vortex quite well, climate change will make its behaviour more extreme.
Apart from climate change influence on the Polar Vortex, the world will also see global temperature anomalies.
Some parts of the globe will experience frigid temperatures, while other regions such as Asia will experience scorching temperatures.
According to the article, temperature anomalies occurring in one part of the world are actually connected to a global event.
Stein, A. (2021, February 21). Hey, Climate-Change Naysayer, I’ve Got Something to Say. Westword. Retrieved from https://www.westword.com/news/the-cold-hard-facts-for-climate-change-naysayers-11904306
Cappucci, M. (2020, October 20). Drought in western U.S. is biggest in years and predicted to worsen during winter months. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/10/19/western-us-drought-expands/
Shepherd, M. (2021, February 19). 3 Things People Get Wrong About the Polar Vortex and Climate Change. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2021/02/19/3-things-people-get-wrong-about-the-polar-vortex-and-climate-change/?sh=7bf3a26e426e