After a snowfall this week in Erie, Pa. Parts of the East Coast are bracing for record-breaking New Year’s Eve temperatures. Cr@theworldaroundnikki on Instagram, via Reuters

With unusually frigid weather gripping much of the Eastern United States this week, President Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to cast doubt on the reality of climate change, but he appeared unaware of the distinction between weather and climate...

In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!


Indeed, parts of the East Coast are bracing for record-breaking New Year’s Eve temperatures. New York City is forecast to experience its coldest New Year’s temperatures since the 1960s. But Mr. Trump’s tweet made the common mistake of looking at local weather and making broader assumptions about the climate at large.

Climate refers to how the atmosphere acts over a long period of time, while weather describes what’s happening on a much shorter time scale. The climate can be thought of, in a way, as the sum of long periods of weather.

Or, to use an analogy Mr. Trump might appreciate, weather is how much money you have in your pocket today, whereas climate is your net worth. A billionaire who has forgotten his wallet one day is not poor, anymore than a poor person who lands a windfall of several hundred dollars is suddenly rich. What matters is what happens over the long term.

On Thursday, parts of the United States were roughly 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average for this time of year. But the world as a whole was about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average from 1979 to 2000.

The coldest weather (relative to average) will be positioned right over North America through at least the next 7-days...

[Maps: ]



And while climate scientists expect that the world could warm, on average, roughly 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century — depending on how quickly greenhouse-gas emissions rise — they don’t expect that to mean the end of winter altogether. Record low temperatures will still occur; they’ll just become rarer over time. 

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