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From Polar Vortex to Near 60 Degrees in January: What's Up with NH Climate?

PHOTO: Despite the cold snap, an expert says global warming is real. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
PHOTO: Despite the cold snap, an expert says global warming is real. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
January 13, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. - From last week's polar vortex to the unseasonably mild temperatures in New England this week, weather extremes can lead to offhand comments that global warming must not be "real" - but experts say that's not the case. Cathy Corkery, state program director, New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club, said locals have experienced their share of extreme weather, from last summer's microbursts to destruction from a late-August 2011 hurricane named Irene. She noted that the recent extreme ups and downs in New Hampshire temperatures fit the long-term pattern predicted by climate scientists.

"We should be expecting more extreme weather events - and strange weather events, like 60-degree weather in the second weekend of January. That's unusual, and that's extreme," Corkery said.

Climate scientists have reported that each of the past three decades has been hotter than the one before - and those three decades were hotter than at any time in the previous 1,400 years.

Lonnie Thompson, School of Earth Sciences distinguished professor, Ohio State University, has studied the effects of climate on glaciers around the globe. He said public opinion on climate change tends to shift in response to cold-weather patterns.

"We have a tendency to say, 'Well, if it's cold here, the world must be getting colder.' This is not true. We live on a huge planet. It's a complex system, and that natural variability that has always been with us continues, even though the longer-term trend is toward warming," Thompson explained.

Corkery said the decline in the local moose population is some of the best evidence of climate change. Ironically, last week's polar vortex may have given the moose a reprieve by killing off deadly ticks.

"The moose were blessed with a real cold snap that is fighting against the moose tick population. But the trend is that the mild winters are happening more often, and it is having a devastating impact on our moose," she said.

Corkery also warned locals to be prepared for extreme snow events, which could happen this winter because of climate change.



Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH