(…and who’s screwing around with the global warming thermostat?)

The latest wintry blast across most of the country, caused by a large polar vortex, is a reminder that our world can be consistently…unpredictable.

The severity and extent of the heavy snowfalls and extreme cold it has produced is nothing new or unknown in North America. In fact, if we were to overlay this storm’s area of coverage with that of the last ice age’s over our continent…both of their southern limits would be almost identical. This suggests that there may be a correlation between them. It’s an intriguing, if speculative, thought.

If anyone thinks these storms of today are extreme, they are not. Back in the late 1880s and 1890s, the Hudson River in New York regularly froze over solid enough to allow large passenger carrying iceboats to cruise up and down it. More recently, during WWII, a similar polar vortex event brought the sights and sounds of prairie wolves down from Canada to the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Sights and sounds that hadn’t been known there for almost fifty years. And more recent times have had their own memorable winter events. Events, like this one, which makes a mess of our roadways, brings most if not all of our modern city functions, and our air travel systems…to a halt…with everyone convinced it’s not a winter wonderland…and wondering…who’s screwing around with the global warming thermostat?

Again, this may be pure speculation, but perhaps these extreme weather events are simply part of the transitional periods between glacial and inter-glacial climate periods. Our planet has had four of these in the past million years, with the last glacial period ending some fifty thousand years ago, and, that time between the end of a glacial climate period, and the start of an inter-glacial climate period, is one of great fluctuations between the old glacial cold, and the new inter-glacial warm. But since these climatic shifts occur on a geologic time cycle, fifty to one hundred thousand years, few of us today will still be around when such a transitional period will end, and the new climate era will settle in.

The cyclical nature of our planet’s climate changes have been clearly defined, as part of a complex combination of its orbital track around the sun, its axial tilt, and axial wobble. To what extent we humans contribute to that cyclical process, by our numbers, besides our activities, is the question. We may, in fact, just be contributing to the acceleration of our transition into another – Ice Age – with winter storms such as this one being precursors to its coming.

Furs and mukluks anyone?