Global Warming is a hot topic recently and will continue to be as long as extreme weather events keep occurring like massive hurricanes and winter events that serve up cold and icy storms in December. When states like Florida and Georgia witness a cold winter two years in a row it has many people wondering if this is the new weather pattern and is it related to global warming?
Most climatologists agree that global warming does affect all seasons, including winter, by creating more moisture in the atmosphere. Moisture and precipitation comes in many forms such as rainfall, sleet, snow, and freezing rain. Global warming doesn’t just exist on the planet. Global warming also affects, interacts, and is directly related to the earth’s atmosphere, including all seasons such as winter.
When temperatures rise due to global warming, so do the oceans. When the world’s ocean temperatures rise because of global warming and other natural climate processes, evaporation increases. What happens when you watch a pot of water warm up? You see the water turn from liquid to gas state by evaporating from the pan. This gas state goes into the atmosphere of your kitchen and if you place the lid on the pan the lid will capture this gaseous phase of water, collect it on the underside of the lid and turn it back into liquid water where it drips back into the pot.
So what does this have to do with colder winter and global warming? The earth’s troposphere acts as the planets lid, capturing the rising moisture that is being released into the atmosphere. As the planet heats up and global warming increases, the oceans and other water bodies release more and more moisture into the atmosphere where our planet’s lid captures it during all seasons including winter.
The moisture created from global warming (and all the pollutants that we have added to it) cools or freezes in the atmosphere during all seasons including winter, where it can return to earth like the water droplets that are captured on the lid of your pot of water. The amount of moisture that is collected during seasons such as winter or summer increases with the increase in global warming, just as your water does as it begins to get warmer and then boils.
So this explains how rain and summer weather events may worsen from global warming but what about colder winter? Precipitation from any weather including global warming, comes in many forms and snow, ice, and sleet are winter weather events. All of that moisture that is captured by our earth’s atmosphere doesn’t all fall during the summer. In fact it is a continual process even during winter, whether global warming exists or not. “What goes up must come down” ring a bell?
All that moisture that is hanging around in the atmosphere gets pushed down by colder winter arctic blasts that move into the area in winter or by changing atmospheric conditions. It’s actually quite an interesting process that occurs whether you and I are aware of them or not.
When it’s hot out, the atmosphere will drop precipitation in the form of rain. When it’s winter the atmosphere will drop precipitation in the form of rain, sleet, snow, or freezing rain. If we add more water to our pot of boiling water (as in the case of global warming), we will collect more precipitation on the inside of the lid (troposphere), which collects and returns back to the pot (earth). Winter is no different.
For more information about global warming, winter weather events and other climate change topics please visit NOAA.
NASA (2010). http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/9-12/features/912_liftoff_atm.html