If this "bomb cyclone" shakes out to be as monstrous as predicted, it would make 2018 one of the worst winters ever recorded... and it's only the first week of January.
This extreme weather is leaving one burning question that on its surface seems silly, but one that warrants explanation just so we can all get on the same page.
The question? If global warming is really happening, why on earth is it so darn cold?
Fine, fine. I will ask the silly question. What does climate change have to do with the temperatures we're seeing now?
"Well, it doesn't have anything to do with temperatures we are seeing right now," said Dr. Tracy Twine, associate professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Soil, Water and Climate. "I think that it's easy to just say, 'Where is global warming when it's so cold?' When everyone knows it's cold because it's winter. We understand that in the northern hemisphere now, we are tilted away from the sun, it's winter, it's cold."
Those are just the cold hard facts. But the original question was, "Why so cold when the planet is warming?"
"I think something that is a little bit more complicated and more of a difficult question is, well, we know it's cold now cause it's winter. But why is it so cold? And we've heard that our winters are warming with climate change and that is in contrast to this. ... The answer is just understanding that there is a difference between weather and climate even though they are related."
Oh, OK. So let's, for the record, set the record straight on the difference between weather and climate.
"People have talked about weather being your mood and climate is your personality," Twine said. "So your mood changes day to day, your personality is kind of consistent over your lifetime. And that's really what weather and climate can be seen as."
Weather is the day to day. Climate is an accumulation of weather. So when you average all the weather from a region, you get the region's climate. And the reason our weather has taken a dip is, well, it's the season to dip. Global warming is still happening.
Even while the globe is warming, we still experience winter.
"Yes, because of the earth and sun geometry," said Twine. "The earth will still be rotaing around sun, and we'll still be tilted. So that that will give us our winters and our summers. But with global warming, what it means is that the average temperature is increasing and so those wiggles of seasons that we see might have a slowly increasing trend. So we can still have these cold spells; maybe we'll get fewer of them."