January 7, 2014 —
UPPER DELAWARE VALLEY — The blast of cold from what is now commonly referred to as the “polar vortex” brought frigid temperatures causing schools to close and warming centers to open.
Two centers for warming, socializing and nutrition were open in Pike County, one in Lords Valley and the other in Dingmans Ferry.
The centers are operated by the Pike County Area Agency on Aging, which gives priority treatment to seniors and people with disabilities, but also services families if need be. The 24-hour hotline for at-risk seniors is 800/233-8911.
In Wayne County, the senior centers in Honesdale, Hamlin and Hawley were open for warming, but were not serving the usual noon lunch. In Honesdale, the Grace Episcopal Church Parish House is open as a shelter every night that the temperature falls below freezing.
In Sullivan County, warming centers are operated if needed at the town level. Bethel supervisor Dan Sturm said that town officials are keeping an eye out for people who might be in need, but so far there was no need to open a warming center.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the temperature dropped to -6°F in Monticello, -8°F in Honesdale in the early morning hours of January 7, and while those temperatures are frigid, they did not set records in the region. Again according to NWS, the temperature in the region went down to -21°F in 1957, -23°F in 1963, and -21°F in 1994.
This season, however, is a bit unique because of what is being called “weather whiplash,” where temperatures were in the forties, plunged to below zero over the course of a day, soared back to the forties, plunged back to below zero, and are expected back into the forties by week’s end.
What about global climate change?
If weather extremes are a symptom of global climate change, then this recent pattern might be seen as part of that, but climate scientists warn that a single cold snap is not evidence either for or against global climate change. The fact that it’s cold now doesn’t mean that human-induced global climate change is not happening. Jason Samenow writes in the Washington Post: “Take these same cold air outbreaks and project them on the climate of the 1800s, and they’d be more severe. We’d need a model to test that, but it’s an educated guess.”
So whether the climate is changing is judged on observations over time, and those observations show that winter temperatures in the United States, especially in the colder states, are getting warmer over the decades.
A report from Climate Central in 2012 (tinyurl.com/lgxyra9) shows that “Winter nights have warmed in all but one of the lower 48 states since 1970 (Nevada). Across the continent, winter nighttime temperatures have warmed about 30% faster than nighttime temperatures over the entire year.” Since 1970, winter temperatures in New York State have climbed about 1.0°F per decade, in Pennsylvania the increase has been about .08°F per decade.
The report also says, “Since 1912, states with average winter temperatures below 32°F warmed three times faster than states with average temperatures above 32°F. Since 1970, winter warming has accelerated almost everywhere and states that previously cooled began to warm in winter.”
The current single event, while very cold, does not measurably alter the record of the past century.