03/06/2012 12:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Global Warming Gives Trees the Cold Shoulder -- And Frozen Roots


While the terms "climate change" and "global warming" are often used interchangeably, scrutiny of the two phrases reveals a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. Global warming refers to an increase in our planet's average temperature, while climate change refers to the planet's many and varied climactic effects triggered by, among other things, global warming.

When hearing the phrase "global warming" people often assume it means that every place on Earth is getting warmer. Not so. In fact, a recent study surmises that the expansion of warming Arctic air will push colder air south, resulting in a cooling of Europe. A warming globe causing a cooler Europe? That just might be the case.

Just as ironic is the conclusion of the research that inspired today's comic strip: global warming is causing trees near the Arctic to freeze. Reduced snowfall in that region is one of the climactic effects triggered by warmer conditions. With reduced snow cover, the roots of yellow cedars aren't getting the insulation typically provided by snow. This insulation is needed to protect the cedars' shallow roots from freezing, since conditions in and near the Arctic circle -- while warming -- are still cold.

Question: How should we deal with a global phenomenon that can use warmth to freeze things?
Answer: Very seriously!

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An earlier version of this blog incorrectly stated that there are yellow cedars in the Arctic.