Temperatures in Europe, North America, and Asia plummeted this winter and continue to surprise us with record lows in February. Will global warming bring us much-needed warmth?
In November last year, the mercury dropped below average in many parts of the United States and Canada. An inversion of the “polar vortex” was said to be the chief cause.
December and January saw record low temperatures across the Northern hemisphere. In North America, cities such as Chicago, New York, Bloomington, and Toronto all recorded new lows for individual days. Windsor, Canada, had a record snowfall of 18.4 centimetres on February 9. The same week saw many parts of Alberta and British Columbia also receive record snowfall.
Toward the eastern end of the Eurasian land mass, China experienced severe cold aggravated by the country’s temporary coal-burning ban that left local residents without heat. Nearly a thousand fishing boats for marine farming are surrounded by sea ice in Jinshitan Fishing Port, in northeastern China’s Liaoning Province. In Tokyo, the low dropped to -0.7C on February 12—the coldest for that date since 1974. Tokyo’s mean temperature for January was among the lowest in recorded history, -0.22C below usual.
Toward the western end of the Eurasian land mass, Moscow registered record snow (15 inches) for a single calendar day in February 2018, surpassing the previous record set in 1957. Thousands of tourists were trapped in the Swiss mountain area of Zermatt by unprecedented snow that cut off many villages and disrupted electricity supply. Many regions of Spain experienced below-average temperatures for the first half of February.
In January, tropical atmospheric temperature dropped drastically—the third largest tropical temperature drop— to the pre-El Niño levels of 2012.
But will global warming raise us back to where we were in 2016—which with 1998 and 2017 was one of the three warmest years on record?
With the onset of La Niña (cooling of ocean temperatures), that is highly unlikely. Instead, there will likely be no extreme warming on a global scale, continuing the trend of the past 20 years, during which global temperature has largely remained steady despite a monumental increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
Some academicians predict, using solar activity, that we are approaching a new solar minimum (a period of very low solar activity, like the Maunder Minimum, which drove the Little Ice Age of about 1645 to 1715), but it is too early to predict that.
But for this year, at least, it looks like cooling has taken over the world!
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Coimbatore, India.