In Europe, at least 12 people have died in a cold snap that coincided with Russia tightening the spigot on the natural gas lines that help keep much of Europe warm through the winter.
Across the northern portion of the United States, Arctic cold and high winds are creating sub-zero wind chill readings in several Midwestern and Northeastern states. What may be the biggest storm of the season to hit the Philadelphia-New York City area is on the way this weekend.
Snow. Cold. Wind chill. Does this mean global warming's over?
Not a chance. Just as no single drought, wildfire, flood or heat wave is caused by global warming, no single cold snap is an indication of anything other than natural weather fluctuation. The reason we pay more heed to the incidence of droughts, wildfires, floods, strong storms, heat waves and the like is that those weather phenomena are likely to become more frequent and/or intense due to global warming.
Neither record high, nor record low, temperatures -- in and of themselves -- mean anything to our understanding of climate. It's the long term trend that matters, and that long term trend is clear: It's getting warmer, significantly warmer, and faster than expected.
As the Secretary-General of WMO, Michel Jarraud, told journalists this week: "If we look at the trajectory over the last 160 years, it overlays a large natural variability, and that's what causes confusion."
A bulwark against global warming naysayers: The U.K. Met Office has predicted that 2009 will be among the five warmest years ever recorded. 2008 was in the Top 10, and nearly all the hottest years on record -- hottest, on average, across the globe that is -- have occurred since 1998. The rise in global temperature in those years is striking even when considered against thousands, or even millions, of years of fluctuations in the weather.
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