Record-breaking snow. Is global warming even real?

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

Written by Ayushi Bhatt | Photo credit: Josh Hild

“Where will we go if it gets as hot as Delhi here?” said my mother, while we were getting fans installed on our house ceilings for the first time in 2018. Living in the hills of Uttarakhand, we always had the luxury to relax in our living rooms without bothering about fans, ACs or even electricity. But that luxury is slowly being taken away. Recent years have seen record highs in temperature. This is a direct result of global warming, which scientists have been warning about for a long time.

On one hand, we see extreme heatwaves and wildfires, while on the other hand, intense life-threatening snowstorms wreak havoc. Blizzards smashed records in places like Boulder, US and Sodankylӓ, Finland in April 2020. Climate change is always spoken of in terms of a warming planet. Such severe snowfall events then are as baffling as the plot of Dark (Netflix series). Witnessing snowstorms seems like a valid reason to question the occurrence of global warming.

Is global warming a hoax then?

Absolutely NOT. And I cannot stress it more. Global warming is as real as 2020. And just like COVID-19, it could be too late before we realize its destructive potential. Politicians and businesspersons have always twisted the reality to suit their interest. This time, it is the fossil fuel lobbyists who do not want you to give up on oil and gas. They cite chilling temperatures as proof of no warming, without divulging complete information. Earth is getting warmer and there is compelling evidence The rate of global average temperature surge in recent years has been unprecedented. Our planet is now approximately 1˚C warmer than in the 1960s. The graph which depicts a change in global average surface temperature relative to that of 1951-1980, follows a steeper curve in the last few decades.

It doesn’t end here. The consequences of rising temperatures are many, which again corroborate the phenomenon of global warming. Sea level has been rising consistently. Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing hundreds of gigatonnes of ice every year. If the recent sharp trends in these figures do not strike you as proof enough, the increased frequency of extreme events like cyclones and wildfires should do so.

Why all the snow then? To your surprise, the answer to this question is in fact, global warming. We know that snowfall requires a very cold temperature, but climate sceptics often miss another important prerequisite, that is, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. 1˚C rise in temperature adds an additional 7% moisture in the air. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. When warmer air with more moisture meets cold, dry air, a snowstorm is inevitable. This is what happens in North America in winters. Moist air from a relatively warmer the Atlantic Ocean encounters cold polar air from the Arctic, resulting in a ferocious blizzard.

There is mounting evidence that this sudden burst of cold Arctic air is also the result of global warming. A warmer Arctic slows down the jet stream, an air current that interacts with the ‘polar vortex’. The polar vortex is a low-pressure area with circulating cold winds that are usually confined to the poles. A slower jet stream makes the polar vortex meander southwards. This south drifted polar vortex brings freezing temperatures to the continent. Believe it or not, Earth is warming at a rate never seen before. There is no other phenomenon discovered that can justify the recent dramatic rise in global average temperatures. It is caused by a rise in emissions and it is we humans emitting them.

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