OPINION – Cold outbreaks not caused by global warming

Snow Clearing Equipment at Pearson International Airport

Global cooling the real fear

By Jay Lehr and Tom Harris
OTTAWA – CLIMATE – OPINION – What do heat waves, floods, droughts, rising sea level, forest fires, hurricanes, African wars, mass extinctions, disease outbreaks, and migration from South America and the Middle East have in common? They are all, according to climate activists, caused by man-made global warming. And this, in turn, is supposedly caused by rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as a result of our fossil fuel use. They might as well add alien invasions to the list because it is all nonsense.

The scare has risen to such a level of absurdity that, on February 1, journalist Andrew Revkin reported in an article for National Geographic that, “Many stories in recent days highlighted studies concluding that global warming is boosting odds of cold outbreaks.”

Arguably, the most absurd of the statements attributing the recent cold spell to warming came from Donald Scavia, professor emeritus of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan. According to the Detroit Free Press, Scavia said,

“In the past, there was a very strong gradient of cold air at the poles and warmer air south of the poles. That gradient kept the cold where it is…

“As the poles are warming faster than the rest of the planet, that gradient weakens, allowing the cold air currents to dip south.”

According to Dr. Tim Ball, an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Scavia’s statement “is utter rubbish.” Dr. Ball said, “It’s wrong in every aspect of it, from the basic assumption to the interpretation. In fact, a gradient makes things move. It doesn’t keep the ‘cold where it is.’”

It is a mistake to think that, if human-produced CO2 were causing global warming, the poles will warm first. Dr. Ball said, “There is no evidence of that; they just are assuming it to be the case.”

And, if the poles did warm first, Dr. Ball explains, the reduced temperature difference between the poles and lower latitude regions would reduce extreme weather, not intensify it, as climate campaigners claim. After all, the weather is driven by the temperature gradient between latitudes. So, a warming Arctic would result in less intense cold outbreaks and a lesser intrusion of cold arctic air into warmer regions. Climate alarmists have their science backwards.

Dr. Ball explains that the real cause of the severe cold outbreaks in the US is a wavy jet stream.

The Jet Stream is a thin band of strong winds that flow rapidly around the planet from west to east at approximately 10 km altitude. The Jet Stream divides warm air masses, typically found at low latitudes towards the tropics, from cold air masses, usually found at high latitudes near the poles. However, a very wavy jet stream, as we are experiencing now, allows frigid Arctic air to move south to normally warmer latitudes and warm tropical air to push into Polar latitudes. An increase in extreme weather events, including the cold outbreaks in the US, is the result. It has nothing to do with global warming. In fact, the most common cause of a wavy Jet Stream is global cooling. History shows that severe weather increases with a cooling world, not a warming one.

Concerning fears of more cold outbreaks due to global warming, Ball laughs, “They’re making it all up!”


Dr. Jay Lehr is the Science Director of The Heartland Institute which is based in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.

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