Why cold air outbreaks are still happening amid global warming

Warmer global temperatures are causing weather events to be more extreme.

ByMax Golembo, Julia Jacobo, and Samantha Wnek ABCNews logo
Thursday, January 18, 2024
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It may seem counterintuitive, but extreme cold blasts like the majority of the United States is currently experiencing will continue to occur even as global temperatures soar to record levels.

While research shows that a warming climate will bring more frequent and intense heat waves and fewer, less potent cold blasts, widespread freeze events will still occur, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Record low temperatures have been present in the past several days from the Plains to the Midwest and South.

Millions of residents in the U.S. as far south as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida saw bitter cold temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday, with some regions experiencing temperatures in the single digits.

While some regions will experience a brief warmup on Thursday, another cold blast is expected for the end of the week.

A stadium worker clears snow from seats before an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y.
AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Research from climate experts around the world has shown that more dramatic extremes in both hot and cold temperatures are a symptom of climate change.

The deadly deep freeze that caused a power grid crisis in Texas in 2021, has also been attributed to extreme weather patterns linked to global warming.

Record temperatures, both hot and cold, along with heat waves and cold blasts, are naturally a part of how the weather varies daily.

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But over the past two decades, daily record highs are at least twice as frequent as daily cold records, according to data compiled by Climate Central, a nonprofit climate science news organization.

There are still cold spells and extremely cold days in a warming climate, but they are shorter and not as cold, according to Climate Central.