Wild Winter Storm in the East, Flooding in the UK: Weather in 'Schizoid Mode'

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Common Dreams

Wild Winter Storm in the East, Flooding in the UK: Weather in 'Schizoid Mode'

'We have to understand that climate change is affecting all weather patterns,' says meteorologist

by
Andrea Germanos, staff writer

As a 'significant winter storm' continues to batter the eastern part of the nation with snow and ice, leaving at least 14 dead and cutting off power for half a million people, experts are urging people to see the event as part of climate change and a reminder of the need to ditch fossil fuels.

"The remarkable thing about this storm," meteorologist Jeff Masters told Democracy Now! Thursday morning, "is it occurs at the tail end of a very long period of intense winter that we’ve seen over the eastern U.S., but at the same time, the western U.S. has been struggling with record drought and all-time high temperatures in January."

"So, the weather has been in kind of this schizoid mode, where it’s unusually cold over the eastern half of the U.S. and unusually warm over the western half," Masters said.

Evan Weber, co-author of the report “The Plan: How the U.S. Can Help Stabilize the Climate and Create a Clean Energy Future," points to these extremes of drought and intense winter as well, noting that they have taxed the "nation’s aging infrastructure," causing both power outages and water shortages. "As climate change makes these types of extreme weather events more severe, energy security will also worsen — unless we change course," he said.

Linking the storm hitting the eastern states now to climate change, Masters added that

we have to understand that climate change is affecting all weather patterns, regardless of the season. Yes, winter still occurs. But we do expect climate change to affect jet stream patterns in winter storms. Now, in particular, this kind of very unusual jet stream pattern that’s been so persistent is something that could arise out of climate change. We don’t often see the jet stream lock into place like this and not budge for a period of months. And we make that more likely—is one research avenue being explored now—if we remove a lot of sea ice in the Arctic, warming up the Arctic more than the rest of the planet.

Weber says that severe weather like this storm should be a call to action to strengthen the country's infrastructure as well as to shift to renewable energy.

"Clean renewable energy not only uses half the water as dirty 20th Century oil, gas, and coal," stated Weber, "but it also doesn’t contribute to the climate change that fuels these types of debilitating weather events."

As the United States deals with both drought and snow, the UK has been hit by catastrophic flooding and winds, causing what has been called "almost unparalleled natural crisis."

While a new report from the UK's national weather service, the Met Office, said that "As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess," the body's chief scientist, Julia Slingo, said, "But all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change."

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