SCIENCE
12/29/2017 02:28 pm ET

Much Of America Will Kick Off 2018 With Record Low Temperatures

Meanwhile, most of the rest of the world will be abnormally warm.

New Year’s Eve revelers in New York’s Times Square this weekend are almost certain to get the chills ― if not from the spectacle, then certainly from the weather.

A huge swath of the country ― stretching from Montana to Maine, and, yes, including New York City ― will likely endure record-setting cold through Jan. 7. At the same time, National Weather Service models predict Alaska and the West will see warmer than normal temperatures.

Weather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman expects New York City to have the coldest New Year’s Eve in 101 years, with wind chills potentially dropping the perceived temperature below zero:

Cold as that may seem, New York is actually dodging the worst of the cold wave. The National Weather Service expects North Dakota and northern regions of Minnesota to see wind chills as low as 50 degrees below zero.

On Thursday, Vermont’s Jay Peak ski resort shut down lifts and encouraged would-be skiers to find warmer diversions as temperatures plunged to 31 degrees below zero. That’s cold enough to freeze some mixtures of antifreeze.

President Donald Trump cited the extreme temperatures in a misguided swipe at climate change, which he has denounced as a hoax. Trump, writing on Twitter on Thursday, said, “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.”

Trump’s statement is off the mark. First, it incorrectly implies that “weather” and “climate” are the same thing. “Weather” changes minute by minute, while “climate” reflects atmospheric changes over a period that can span decades or longer.

A look at broader, global temperature anomalies right now (and even more importantly, over time) paints a much more accurate picture of what’s actually happening. And it shows the world is substantially warmer pretty much everywhere, except eastern North America:

Trump’s attempt to mock global warming also fails to recognize that scientists have long expected that climate change could cause more extreme weather events. That means more variability in general, with higher highs, dryer droughts, and ― yes ― more extreme colds. 

As the Arctic warms, it’s disrupting the so-called arctic vortex, and shifting cold air masses from the planet’s northern regions to the south. That’s led to some historically cold weather in the Northeast and upper Midwest in recent years.

“You can get regional occurrences of cold temperatures despite what we think is an overall move to a warmer climate,” Martyn Chipperfield, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds who’s studied the vortex, told Scientific American after a similar event last year.

“Climate change can lead to extremes; it’s not like a regular change, everyone to the same extent at all times and places,” Chipperfield added. “Despite the overall warming, you can get in places like the Northeastern U.S. extreme cold events. That’s consistent with climate change and global warming.”

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