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2010 3rd warmest on record

Another week and another wild winter weather story – this time on the U.S. eastern seaboard where a huge, post-Christmas storm has blanketed much of the northeast with 20 inches of snow causing travel chaos and commuting havoc. Yet this latest blizzard comes as the World Meteorological Organization has released a statement that 2010 is almost certainly to be one of the top 3 warmest years since records began in 1850 and it could possibly be the warmest year ever. So how can temperatures be so cold now if we’re in the midst of full throttle global warming?

As this recent article in Time Magazine points out, climate change and the spate of freak December weather could well be connected. After all, a gradual warming of average temperatures is taking place across the globe but there are many regional variations. Some places will experience hotter weather, some places will be colder. Some will get more snow, some less. But as greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, we can expect to see more extreme weather events of one variety or another as the climate changes and average temperatures gradually rise.

A couple notable excerpts from the Time article explaining why Europe and parts of North America are seeing more extreme cold and snowy winter weather:

“One theory is that a warmer Arctic may actually lead to colder and snowier winters in the northern mid-latitudes. Even as countries like Britain — suffering through the coldest December on record — deal with low temperatures and unusual snow, the Arctic has kept on warming, with Greenland and Arctic Canada experiencing the hottest year on record.
The systems that govern weather on this planet are incredibly complex, and our ability to understand why individual events occur — and to forecast them for the future — is still imperfect. That more than anything is what drives — and distorts — so much of the stubborn debate over climate change. Just because climate models predict that the planet will continue to heat up in the future as we continue to pour greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere doesn’t mean that warming will be a steady, even process.
Unfortunately, that unpredictability is going to make adapting to a warmer world even tougher. As climate change appears to trigger harsher winter events in parts of the world, that’s not an effect that will last forever. As the world warms, even cold air from the Arctic or Siberia may not be enough to offset the greenhouse effect, and major snowstorms like the one the Northeast just experienced could be a thing of the past. That might make for less snow shoveling — but on the whole, it won’t be a very pleasant planet to live on.”


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