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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Southeast U.S. Battered by Another Winter Storm

By Phil Plait

Holy cow. NASA released an image taken by the GOES-East Earth-observing satellite, from 1:15 p.m. Eastern time yesterday (Feb. 11, 2014):

This storm will break records and will probably be the worst seen in at least a decade. It's certainly worse than what hit the southeast in January. I hope everyone in the affected areas stays safe and has plenty of supplies stored up.

Bizarre weather just seems to happen over and again, doesn’t it? Heat waves in Alaska and Greenland, an incredibly frigid Arctic “polar vortex” dropping down into the Midwest, unusually warm Arctic temperatures, persistent drought in California, catastrophic flooding in Boulder, Colo., brutal heat waves in Australia, huge storms battering the U.K., a record-breaking typhoon in the Philippines.

It's important to note that this particular storm hitting the southeast U.S. cannot be pinned on climate change—after all, storms like this do occur every 10 years or so. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some deniers from falsely claiming winter disproves global warming. It’s winter, cold snaps happen. This storm doesn’t disprove global warming any more than it getting dark at night disproves the existence of the Sun.

But the extreme weather we’re seeing all over the planet, seemingly everywhere we look, is very telling. Even for those, any single event or another may not be caused in its entirety by climate change (though the severity may be). But extreme weather is just what we expect in a warming world. The dice are loaded.

Time will tell, I suppose. But at some point, not too long from now, we’ll look behind us and see all the patterns pointing to how much global warming has affected the planet. I hope by then it's not too late to stop it.

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