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News of Otsego County

glacial geologist

FLEISHER: In Winter, Global Warming Pushes Arctic Air To South
LETTER from P. JAY FLEISHER

In Winter, Global Warming

Pushes Arctic Air To South

To the Editor:

How can a warming climate lead to a “frozen Texas”?

Media coverage of freezing conditions, power outages and millions of desperate Texans summarizes the life-threatening conditions brought on by freezing temperatures and snow that are foreign to that part of the country.

It may seem contrary to “climate change,” but in fact that’s exactly what is causing this and other extreme weather; but how can that be? A warming atmosphere should bring warmer weather, not polar conditions!

The explanation is actually pretty straightforward from the perspective of meteorologists and those who study conditions responsible for climate to change, and it’s all related to the “jet stream.”

The science gets complicated, but can be expressed in a simple four-step explanation that summarizes scientific publications of the past decade. None of this involves seasonal summer/winter changes.

Here’s the explanation:

STEP 1 – Atmospheric circulation is generated as the earth rotates during normal daily changes that bring day and night.

STEP 2 – This circulation causes regions of the atmosphere to constantly shift in a meandering pattern (the jet stream), which accounts for daily weather changes.

STEP 3 – During climate warming (as has been measured and reported for decades) layers of the atmosphere expand, which pushes meanders further south and slows their movement.

STEP 4 – This in turn brings polar weather into non-polar regions, like Texas and other southern states where polar conditions linger.

Likewise, exaggerated meandering of the jet stream causes drought conditions and heat waves during summer months when air masses from equatorial regions move northward.

As with all complicated issues, an overly simplified summary does not explain why all changes occur. Hopefully, this letter condenses a complex scientific issue for non-science readers.

P. JAY FLEISHER
Glacial geologist
Town of Milford

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