Frigid in Chicago Must Mean Global Warming

Chicago is chilly these days, with a low predicted for Wednesday of this week of minus 21 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a 20 mile-per-hour breeze with a wind chill of minus 55 degrees and the Windy City will become the Arctic City. That’s cold, but not a record breaker as that occurred on January 29, 1985 when the mercury dropped to minus 27 degrees. I remember it well as I lived in Chicago at that time.


These subzero temperatures are attributed to the “polar vortex” which is a weather phenomenon described by AccuWeather.

A polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere, which sits over the polar region during the winter season.

The frigid air can find its way into the United States when the polar vortex is pushed farther south, occasionally reaching southern Canada and the northern Plains, Midwest and northeastern portions of the United States.

It is not clear what drives the mass of cold Arctic air to the south. Factors such as a splitting jet stream, sunspot activity, or myriad other variables that influence the weather may be at work. And we can’t forget the amazing cause of both hot and cold, wet and dry, and everything in between, namely global warming.

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Weather can still be predicted a few days to a week in the future. Climate not so much, hence the convenient renaming of global warming to climate change. In fact, climate is impossible to predict.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains why. “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” Interestingly the previously available reference for this quote has disappeared from the IPCC website with a message “page not found.” An inconvenient truth safely hidden away?

Since weather can be predicted and climate cannot, it’s convenient to use the term climate change rather than weather change. Climate becomes a convenient straw man for the man-made global warming movement. National Geographic states it this way, “Weather and climate aren't the same thing, meaning you can expect harsher winters in a warming world.”

It would be much easier if the winters were becoming warmer with Chicago 80 degrees and sunny all week in late January. Pretzel logic wouldn’t be required to equate a warm winter with global warming as that would reflect common sense. It’s more of a challenge to blame a cold winter on a warming planet.

When we do have a warm winter, the global warming crowd comes out in full force. The Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 were held in spring-like weather and this lead the New York Times to publish an op-ed predicting the end of snow.

Now that Chicago and the Upper Midwest are colder than normal, it’s a bit more difficult to claim global warming as the cause of frigid temperatures. But our intrepid media will forge on through the bitter cold to make their argument.

Scientific American writes, “Why global warming can mean harsher winter weather.” How much less convoluted their headline would be if winters were becoming unseasonably warm.

Is cold weather in Chicago new? Even the record setting day in 1985 was likely not the coldest ever. How were temperatures measured before there were thermometers? Or before Chicago was even Chicago?

There were four ice ages during the Pleistocene Epoch, the last 1.7 million years. The most recent glacial period began melting 20,000 years ago, not withdrawing from the Great Lakes region until 10,000 years ago. I wonder how cold the future Chicago was back in those days when covered with a mile-thick layer of ice?

What caused the ice ages and the subsequent warming that ended each ice age? Humans were scarce and those that were around were not driving SUVs or exhibiting toxic masculinity by grilling burgers in their back yards. Who’s to say the planet is not now slowly cooling, heading toward another minor or major ice age? Some scientists are predicting just that, a mini ice age in the next 30 years, based on the sun’s natural cycles.

Newsweek predicted a new ice age back in 1975 in an article called “The Cooling World.” What if they were right in principle, but off in timing?

Climate scientist S. Fred Singer made the case for an upcoming ice age last year in American Thinker, noting that we are currently nearing the end of a cyclical 10,000 year inter-glacial warming period which would be followed by a 100,000 year glaciation. Is the shifting polar vortex an early sign of global cooling?

Perhaps the climate warriors are correct, but not in the way they intend. The Chicago Tribune, in describing the upcoming cold temperatures in their city says this.

“This is the same weather phenomena [sic] that made the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 remarkably cold. And scientists say winters like these could become more common in the future due to climate change.”

Indeed, the climate may be changing, but cooling rather than warming. If so, this would be a legitimate cause for alarm. Cooler temperatures mean a shorter growing season, with less food to support a much larger world population than existed during the last ice age. Those concerned about an overpopulated planet may discover that Mother Nature has a plan for culling the population.

If anything, whatever man-made global warming actually exists may serve to delay the next cooling period or ice age for a decade or a century. But planetary cycles will continue, regardless of the rantings of Al Gore or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Rather than histrionics and virtue signaling, the climate scientists should be practicing science, forming and testing hypotheses, keeping the models that predict accurately and discarding the ones that don’t. And downplaying their hubris to recognize that the climate may not be predictable at all, other than looking at past cycles and assuming they will repeat in the future, for whatever hypothetical reasons.

More likely, humans may have no more ability to alter the climate than we do to turn away a hurricane or plug an erupting volcano. Yet the left won’t give up, using the inscrutable climate as a political club for money and power.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.