Global warming might make winters colder

Right now, Great Britain is facing weather that is literally breaking records for cold – quite possibly the lowest temperatures ever recorded in modern Britain.  Thankfully they do not extend to the ice age 15,000 years ago.  They don’t even extend to the 17th century mini-ice age when people crossed the River Thames in London on foot and in New York walked from Manhattan to Staten Island.

Yet modern records are bad enough.  During the winter of 1962 , it did not get over 5 degrees anywhere in Britain before mid-March.  This winter could be worse.

What has happened about all these warnings about global morning?  This morning a meteorologist reminded me of something I have tried to forget.  Instead of global warming making Britain a warmer, if wetter, place, it could shift the Gulf Stream south.  In which case weather in Britain and  some in the U.S. warmed by the Gulf Stream will resemble that of Siberia or Alaska.

This winter the Gulf Stream has shifted south, and is highly unlikely to shift north again this year.

We will survive a cold winter or two.  But what if the Gulf Stream has shifted permanently and never returns?

The scientific evidence is not comforting.  It is not just various global temperatures that suggest the effects of global warming are real.  The measure of salinity in the seas has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, indicating that the flow of air and water reflecting the Gulf Stream’s path is no longer taking the course we are accustomed to.

Global warming has already begun to make deserts out of what vast tracts of farmland, threatening food supplies for as many as a billion people – one out of every six people on the planet.  We might discover that, paradoxically, global warming is making winters much colder for millions of us too.



About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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2 Responses to Global warming might make winters colder

  1. MarieG says:

    30 years ago the media and scientists made big headlines with global freezing, ice age, etc… Today it is global warming. So, who is right? Were these the same scientists or the ones that predicted the ice age are now senile and predict global warming? The thing is that there seems to be lots of scientists agreeing with global warming – but wait – if you want to be funded, you have to be politically correct. What would you do if you did not agree with the theory and you knew your funding would be cut off? Well, if you were smart you would shut up and sign on the global warming band wagon. So, how can we trust the scientific community which like everyone else is guided my money!
    As for me, I do not know who is right but I certainly do not want to always bet my life on scientific and media declarations since they tend to change with the weather (pun intended)!

    • Thank you for your comment. It would be nice to be able to disagree, but I share your reservations about science. It not only applies to global warming, but to scientific study in every field in every country where it is being taken seriously. As I pointed out in a recent post on another blog, I think the funding question is also a serious problem in medical research.

      As I see it, too many people – including scientists – have assumed that scientific proof is absolute, that facts are permanent, and are not influenced by the scientists who are doing the observing. I also suspect that this misunderstanding is quite widespread and may be part of the tension between those religious believers who believe that truth has been revealed to them and scientists whose research suggests something different.

      My own belief is that none of us can ever be absolutely sure that we are right. Life is a risk, and the decisions we make, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned, might be horribly wrong.

      I think we have to do our best, and live with the consequences. And with the knowledge that we aren’t infallible.

      I would be interested to know your take on this.

      Terry Sissons

      Terry Sissons

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