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Why cold weather doesn’t mean climate change is fake – National Geographic

A record-breaking cold snap is relentlessly descending on parts of the U.S. this month. It spawned from a split polar vortex that sent cold, Arctic air across the continent.In a time when climate change is discussed in the context of record highs, droughts, and wildfires, cold weather and blizzards can seem out of place. For those who deny that climate change is happening, it’s an opportunity to undermine scientific consensus.How do you explain a cold winter in a world that scientists say is getting hotter?First, it’s important to understand the difference between climate and weather. Climate is defined as the average weather patterns in a region over a long period of time. It’s the difference between Europe’s temperate and Mediterranean zones versus the harsh cold conditions of the Arctic tundra. Each of these climate regions experiences day-to-day fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and so on—daily variations known as weather.How warming can lead to coolingWhen the term global warming was popularized a few decades ago, it referred to the phenomenon of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the average temperature of the planet. Though record high temperatures in many places have been one impact of this decades-long shift, scientists now understand that an atmosphere changed by rising levels of gases like carbon and methane leads to more climate changes than just warming.