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Brr. What happened to global warming?

Freezing temperatures are damaging oranges in Florida. In the UK they’re canceling soccer games because the pitches are frozen. New England is seeing record snowfall.

“So much for global warming” quipped a friend (who should know better), with that look that says *I’m making a joke, but I’m also beginning to wonder…* Uh oh.

It’s tempting to point out that global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always going to be warmer. It’s why many of us prefer the term “climate change”, after all. Yes, global average temperatures are moving upwards, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be warmer everywhere, just more volatile.

But actually this current cold spell has nothing to do with climate change. Apparently it’s caused by *Arctic oscillation*: higher than average pressure over the Arctic is pushing cold air further south than is usual in the winter.

Dr. Walter Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado tells the New York Times that while we’re freezing here, it’s been much warmer than normal in the Arctic, as high as 15 degrees above average. It “probably roughly cancels out,” Dr Meier says.

There’s no shortage of blogs (I don’t want to give them link credit) that have seized on the cold snap (picture credit to one of them) and used it to discredit global warming. Meanwhile, the denier-supporting media has even managed to back up a claim that we’re in for 30 years of cooling. (The scientist didn’t actually say that.)

Nobody seems very clear on when an Arctic oscillation is likely to happen, or why. What does seem clear however, is that it’s unrelated to global warming. Or cooling. It’s happened before and will happen again. Tell your friends — you never know who might be having their doubts.

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