Why is global warming creating colder storms?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The polar vortex normally contained in the North (left), is spreading southwards (right).

Extreme weather is raging across the planet because of global warming, where too much of the Sun breaks through the Earth’s pollution-weakened atmosphere (its protective outer layer). Disastrous storms have been popping up nearly every week because of this imbalance, like the largest typhoon ever recorded hitting the Philippines, the historic winter storms that swept across the US, Canada, and Japan with bone-chilling temperatures, and the record-high rainfall that’s causing flooding in the UK.

If global warming means the Earth is getting hotter, why is it that our weather gets colder and wetter? Well, it’s all because of something known as the “jet stream” – a “river” of fast-flowing wind around the Earth that separates cold air in the North from the warm air in the South. This “polar vortex” normally keeps all that wintry frost bottled up, but now that the jet stream has weakened, it’s creeping down to cause chaos in the South.

Because the North heats up three times faster than the rest of the planet, this “Arctic amplification” exposes dark ocean water to more sunlight by melting the ice that normally covers it. This causes more water to evaporate (turn from liquid to gas), which releases heat as it bunches up to create thicker clouds. Then, these heavy clouds act like a blanket, trapping the heat underneath them.

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry (the nation’s highest ranked diplomat) warned the country of Indonesia to take steps against climate change, but his message applies to the rest of the world as well. If we recycle more often and develop alternative clean energy sources that don’t choke the skies with pollution, humanity can turn the tide against climate change. At the very least, they can keep the actual tide from flooding our shores!

Featured image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory on Flickr.