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Local scientists say extreme winter weather highlights climate change issues

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:19 PM EST
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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) - Scientists in Eastern Carolina say the extreme winter weather impacting most of the country is yet another sign of the impacts being felt because of climate change.

Harsh weather is nothing new to the U.S. after a record-setting hurricane season showing a trend over the last several decades of more storms being able to produce catastrophic amounts of rain, wind, and storm surge.

“Six of the wettest storms have been in the last 20 years, that’s not just perchance that’s a real statistical trend,” explained Dr. Hans Paerl of UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences.

Dr. Paerl says skeptics of global warming may be wondering how a warming earth could cause extreme winter weather, and he says that’s also been explained by the warming of the Arctic.

“The warming trend is slowing down the jet stream and that allows cold air to move down, it’s not being pushed out of the way so it’s moving down farther south,” said Paerl.

More of the exceptional strong winter weather is making its way across the country again, which further strains power grids, and has now led to millions of power outages. ElectriCities Chief Operating Officer Matt Schull says what’s happening in Texas right now could pave the way for new guidance by several organizations.

“We don’t know what the changes might be but I have already seen, that both North American Electrical Liability Council and FERC have initiated efforts to look into what and kind of do a debrief on it and look to see what improvements can be made,” said Schull.

As for the tough conditions, scientists say they could be here for years to come, and one of the only major ways to create a change and slow the warming trend down is by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

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