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What’s making it so cold in Texas?

Make no mistake, it has been down right cold in the south over the last several days. Dallas-Fort Worth had low temperature of -2°F yesterday morning. That is the coldest temperature Dallas has observed since 1989 when it was -1°F. To put that into perspective, Binghamton has not officially gone below zero yet this winter!

With the deep south in the midst of the coldest weather in decades, there has been some rumblings online of how can this happen if climate change is a real thing? It is a fair question to ask and the answer is simple. This is primarily due to the weather pattern over North America and not because climate change does not exist.

The key player in all of this when looking at the big picture is the strong area of high pressure that is in the Gulf of Alaska. High pressures have clockwise circulation and this is causing a major bow in the jet stream the dips all the way down into Mexico. The bow is allowing for Arctic cold air to filter down from Canada and settle into the Gulf Coast.

Over the last 20 years, record breaking cold snaps in general have become rare in Texas making us more hyper sensitive to them.

The graph above illustrates the percent of temperature records broken in Dallas-Fort Worth since weather observations started. In the last two decades, over 80% of the records set have been record warm.

Lastly, we know this is a weather pattern compared to a shift in the climate because of the overall trend in temperatures over the last 50 years. During this period, winter temperatures have warmed in Dallas by about 3.8°F.

This cold snap event is a great example of the difference in weather verse climate. Weather is short term (hours, days, weeks, months) while climate is long term, multiple decades (30 years plus).

Jason Doris

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