US cold snap was a freak of nature, quick analysis finds

WASHINGTON — Consider this cold comfort:

Frigid weather like the two-week cold spell that began around Christmas is 15 times rarer than it was a century ago, according to a team of international scientists who do real-time analyses to see if extreme weather events are natural, or more likely to happen because of climate change.

The cold snap that gripped the East Coast and Midwest was a rarity that bucks the warming trend, said researcher Claudia Tebaldi of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the private organization Climate Central.


The same team had connected several weather events last year to human-made global warming, including Hurricane Harvey, which battered the United States and the Caribbean, and the French floods.

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‘‘It was very definitely strange, especially now,’’ said study coauthor Gabriel Vecchi of Princeton University. A century ago, ‘‘it wouldn’t have been that strange.’’

The study, by World Weather Attribution, analyzed records back to 1880 and found that weather like the recent cold tends to happen once every 250 years. In the early 1900s, it happened about once every 17 years. Climate change has made such cold spells less common and less intense, the group said.

associated press