What is going on here?
From record-setting high temperatures and low snowfall, to a biting blast of cold; the shift in weather across North America has been a dramatic one. Huge disruption, economic losses and even fatalities have been the unfortunate outcomes.
What does this mean?
Our previous news article set the stage for this huge shift in weather. The warm weather spell causing low snowfall and unseasonably warm temperatures in North America has been replaced by record-breaking cold weather that has swung the scene to its polar opposite.
Sub-freezing conditions are being recorded across much of North America, with 95 million people facing weather warnings for wind chills of -17°C. The US National Weather Service has estimated that conditions could push the wind chill temperatures as low as -56°C in Montana and the Dakotas.
The cold weather has led to heavy disruption to daily life across a broad expanse of America, with many homes facing power outages. A number of high profile events have been interrupted including an NFL playoff game and campaign events in Iowa ahead of the caucuses. As expected, travel has been severely disrupted with more than 700 flights cancelled on Sunday.
This extreme weather has also resulted in the loss of life, although the total number of deaths is as yet unknown. Hypothermia, and accidents relating to falling trees are the most commonly cited causes of cold weather-related deaths.
Why should we care?
Such a rapid change in weather pattern is clearly abnormal. Once again this raises significant concerns about the future we face, and the kinds of threats to our lives we can expect, as predictable, consistent weather rapidly disappears. We don’t tend to think of cold weather being a problem as the climate emergency intensifies.
However, disruption to the jet stream (which is responsible for weather patterns globally) is linked to the unusual weather activity that has been witnessed in the recent weeks. As the jet stream becomes more unstable, it is likely that we can expect our weather patterns to do the same.
- Read last week’s article about El Niño here.
- Track freezing temperatures across the US here.
- Find out about the relationship between weather and climate change here.
- Find out about staying safe in cold weather here.
- Find advice about keeping your house warm here