The Weather Channel has taken to using dramatic language to describe ordinary winter weather, with special names for snowstorms, and the term “polar vortex” to refer to what our parents simply called a bitter cold front. It’s cold outside for much of the United States right now. But then, a year ago, it felt cold too. That’s what winter is like… sometimes. The truth is that normal cold winter temperatures feel especially bitter to us these days because, over the last couple of decades, we’ve been experiencing many unusually warm winters.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed this perception today, as it released data showing that, occasional bouts of cold air included, 2013 was the fourth hottest year on Earth ever directly recorded by scientists. It was the 37th year in a row with a hotter than normal global temperature. The National Snow and Ice Data Center confirms that, even as we talk about this being an especially cold winter, signs of global warming persist. Even as you may be feeling chilly while waiting for the bus to arrive, the surface area of Arctic sea ice is actually at historically very low levels.