Linking Extreme Cold and Snow to Global Warming: An Extreme Climate Conundrum?

Commentary, Climate, Madhav Khandekar

The debate on extreme weather and its linkage to Global Warming (warming due to rising levels of CO2) is heating up again. Stories on extreme weather are replete in many news sites. In Canada, the news media has been covering weather events from Victoria to St. John’s. Among the notable weather events that were reported were:

  • A record-breaking temperature of 49.5C at Lytton BC on June 29 which was associated with a number of wild fires;
  • The extensive flooding in BC –during October and November, and;
  • Stories on the extreme cold excessive snow reported across the country.

Besides these weather stories, the Canadian media also covered the proceedings of the COP26 meeting held in Glasgow in November 2021. The COP (Committee of Parties) meeting is an annual event organized by the UN climate body the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) and is convened to discuss emission reduction targets by various States. The meeting opened with passionate speeches by well-known environmentalists and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who urged member states to drastically reduce CO2 emissions to keep future warming of the climate under 1.5C, in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. Several examples of heat waves, floods and droughts in various parts of the world with harmful impacts were discussed by various climate experts.

Linking heat waves, floods, and droughts to Global Warming is logical, as the IPCC scientists have been telling again and again that such Warm Weather Events would increase in a warmer world. But linking extreme cold temperatures across the prairies and in parts of BC to Global Warming as a Vancouver weather-forecaster did few days ago, while explaining frigid weather to the CBC TV anchor is stretching the credibility of the art of forecasting

Reasonable Canadians are beginning to ask: Is there any climate event that is not linked to global warming?

Is Global Warming (GW) now a magic wand which can be used to explain any climate event that is deemed extreme?

Has the science of Global Warming been so oversimplified in Canada that any weather extreme, — recent blizzard in Pakistan, heavy snows in eastern Canada or the Prairie drought of last summer can be explained using these buzz words:  Global Warming!

What is the climate reality? Does Global Warming still persist? Let us look at the latest global temperature data, as collected by the satellite data expert Dr. Roy Spencer.

The graph shows global temperature variations of the lower troposphere (surface to about 10 km) since 1979. The mean temperature is declining slightly for 2021. According to Dr. Spencer, the year 2021 is the eighth warmest year, after 2016, 2020, 1998, 2019, 2017, 2010, and 2015 (2016 being the warmest year, so far).

This graph also shows peaks at selected years. Strong El Nino events (warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean). occurred in 1998 and 2016 which generally increases the global mean temperature by about 0.2C. A La Nina (ocean cooling) event which generally lowers the global mean temperature is evident for 2021. If the abnormal temperatures for 1998,2016, and 2021 are removed, there is essentially no warming of the climate; one could even infer a slight cooling of the earth’s climate in recent years.

Overall, it is not clear that the world’s temperature is, in fact, warming or cooling. So far, scientists are speculating on whether or not the global temperature will change in a consistent way over the next decade or two. No one really knows.

Thus, the crucial question is: Should Canada and the rest of the world spend trillions of dollars to reduce Global Warming, which is so elusive?

There is no climate catastrophe.  Linking extreme cold and snow to Global Warming is a stretch with no scientific merit.


P.S. – The big blizzard in Toronto and Ottawa two days ago (January 18, 2021) is part of natural climate variability and has no link to Global Warming. We could see more such extreme cold events this winter season.


Madhav Khandekar is a former Environment Canada scientist and was an expert reviewer for the IPCC 2007 climate change documents. Khandekar has been in the fields of weather & climate science for over 60 years; while at Environment Canada, Khandekar wrote a book “Operational analysis and prediction of ocean wind waves” published by Springer-Verlag in 1989: Khandekar lives in Toronto and continues his interest in global weather anomalies and monsoon interannual variability.