Snow begins to melt on a car in Euless, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Doesn’t global warming mean no more winter? If so, then why is the Northern Hemisphere having such a cold one? The answer lies in part in the nature of global warming, and may in part in the effect of a decline in solar output that is not part of global warming models, but this is unclear. Some models show steady solar output, but there has been evidence since 2017 of a possible solar minimum developing. Planetary warming is greatest at the poles, with the result that the northern jet stream has a tendency to be pushed south more than normal and, especially in the winter, further than normal.

However, instead of bringing air that is at relatively mild arctic winter temperatures with it, it is becoming much colder, possibly because a dip in solar output is causing less heat to reach the hemisphere as the seasonal tilt of the planet causes it to face the sun less directly. The steadily weakening of the Gulf Stream also means that there is nothing to moderate extreme southward movement of the jet stream and the cold air that is developing with it. The exact mechanism involved is not presently understood.

This phenomenon has been taking place for about ten years, and growing steadily stronger, as is illustrated by the catastrophe that has befallen Texas and the US Southeast. As these are the regions of the country most committed to global warming denial, they have lagged behind in hardening their vital infrastructure against possible weather extremes.

For example, after a milder but similar expression of this phenomenon in 2011 a report recommending the winterizing of this infrastructure was ignored. Again in 2018, the problem was ignored. Now, in 2021, Texas is being devastated by what is going to become the worst weather catastrophe in the state’s history, and among the worst in modern American history.

The loss of wildlife and cattle will prove to be unprecedented, and the extent of damage to water delivery will take months to completely repair. The loss of life, with 58 dead known as of this writing, can never be repaired.

The disruption and near failure of the Texas power grid was due to the freezing of unwinterized wind turbines and gas-fired power plants. Despite the crystal-clear warnings both from nature and from science that the danger was clear and present, nothing was done.

The loss of wildlife and cattle was probably not preventable, but the damage to the infrastructure was. It should be remembered that nature doesn’t care about our politics. Climate change is here, and it is growing more dangerous every day, as this catastrophe tragically illustrates.

Unknowncountry’s Climate Watch continues to monitor the situation and now reports North American dangerous weather probability as extremely high. It is possible that very violent and extensive spring storms could take place from Texas into the Mid-Atlantic states and across the Midwest this spring.

14 Comments

  1. Well written Whitley, I agree with your assessment of the situation. I pray to God that those in need get help quickly. And those of political power, do the right moral thing. Forget about the party partisanship please!

  2. I used to sound strange, but I’ve been saying for years that the color of the sun seems less “yellow”. I’m 58 and when I was a child, I remember those sunny yellow days we used a bright yellow crayon to depict. Now, the sun seems whiter. I know our skies have more water vapor which is making them appear milky looking. But, I don’t think thats it. I’m not sure how people can’t see this with their own eyes.

    1. Perhaps it’s where you live? Since tighter emission regulations, the air has cleaned up quite a bit in some urban areas compared to decades past. We all hate that dreaded “check engine light” coming on, but things have improved in that regard at least.

      As to the cold, I was in La Crosse Wisconsin last week with that minus 15 degree air they had there. I couldn’t help but take a second to tip my hat to the Native Americans. They lived that nonsense every winter for generations!

      1. Yes, agreed. I live in Vancouver. I asked an astronomer about this 10 years ago and he didn’t seem to be aware of it but the light from the sun was golden when I was younger and now it is quite white. I don’t think it’s about pollution.

    2. I can see it.Where I live the sun was more yellow when I was a child also.

    3. I totally agree. I grew up in Miami where the sunlight was so very yellow. I thought the whiter sunlight was because I now live in LA. However I visit my family often and noticed that the daylight is whiter there too. Something has definitely changed over the past 50 years but it was gradual so we didn’t notice it.

  3. It’s a misconception that the Arctic air that flows south is getting colder as it does; instead, the temperatures seen in Texas last week were actually slightly warmer than what was recorded in the Arctic, but what’s considered well above seasonal for the poles this time of year is lethally cold for subtropical/desert Texas–basically, that -2ºF weather would be catastrophically warm for an Arctic winter. This thermograph of the temperature from Feb 15 across the continent illustrates how Arctic air has flowed south because of the now-annual disruption of the jet stream:

    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2021/02/15/0900Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=-109.24,54.41,1099/loc=-94.039,44.655

    For those wondering how global warming factors into increasingly colder winters in lower latitudes, the jet stream typically draws a boundary between the cold Arctic air in the north and warmer air to the south; ordinarily, this river of air is kept in in its circular course around each pole by the temperature differential between these two air masses.

    But the poles are warming disproportionately faster than the rest of the planet, meaning that that temperature differential is breaking down, allowing the jet stream to meander further and further each year as the problem progresses–meaning along with increasingly high temperatures during the summer months, cold records will also be broken in the winters to come.

    Also, Earther looked up how much professional manure spreaders in Texas are paid. A couple of decimal points higher than most of us, that’s for sure.

  4. I got caught out in the country about an hour from San Antonio in an old wooden stick house. This house was 3 feet off the ground, had no skirting and no insulation in the floors. That arctic air just sucked every bit of heat out of the structure. Without electricity I had no way to warm myself. No camping gear. No fireplace. I didn’t even have waterproof shoes so my feet got wet. I think I almost froze to death one night when my local weather dipped down to 5 degrees fahrenheit. It was a wake up call to get that place weatherized. I will be ready next time. I read your book “The Coming Superstorm” years ago and had already been collecting snowcothes when I found them at thrift stores but there was nothing in my stash that actually fit ME. I will be ready next time and I bet ‘next time’ is sooner than we think.

  5. I lived in the DFW area in the mid-90s and met some of the most interesting and kind people one could hope to meet. On the other hand Tx politics and governance left much to be desired for those without wealth. I shudder to imagine the time and expense required to repair water damaged homes and apartments, this will take a long time to sort out.

    The low regulation, “bidness” is all that matters and nothing should get in the way of maximizing profits has led to this situation. There are known engineering fixes that keep utilities functioning in some of coldest parts of North America but that might require higher capital costs cutting profits somewhat. No can do besides climate change is a Soros’ plot designed to make you dependent on the government. I read the governor is promising an investigation to find out who’s to blame.

  6. Author

    We have to face the fact that profits cannot trump survival.

  7. Maybe redefine profit to that which promotes wellness and collective benefit for all creatures on our tiny planet.

    One would think that money and markets are some god given system that can’t be changed, after all the rich should get richer… No one can eat or breathe this mental construct called money be it gold, silver, paper or bitcoin.

  8. Also we could hope this result from the refusal to spend the money to insulate the pipelines and wellheads in Texas would be a wake up call to the federal government to force all utilities to harden the equipment against a Carrinton type event. Imagine the double whammy of an extreme winter weather event plus a solar flare.

  9. Author

    In 2012, I published a Kindle book called Solar Flares that details exactly what will happen now in the event of a massive solar flare. It would destroy the US power grid because it is NOT hardened against this, unlike power grids in much of the developed world

    The result would be years without electricity. The United States as we know it would cease to be, and a very great number of us would die.

    Unfortunately, not a lot has been done since 2012 to harden our power grid. Some, but not a lot.

    It’s still on Amazon. The royalty statements show that only about 300 people read it. It was entirely unreviewed in the press.

    You can get it here: https://www.unknowncountry.com/book/solar-flares/

  10. Thanks for the book reminder; I’ll be reading it. In 2011-2012, the last time I looked for references on solar flares in the US, one study estimated that 75% of the US population would not survive a 2-year interruption in the US electric power supply.

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