Extreme winter storms wreaked havoc across the United States this weekend causing deaths and widespread power outages. Human-caused climate change is making extreme cold events less likely overall, but it is increasing average air temperatures, and thus the amount of moisture the air can hold, which means that prolonged cold can yield even greater snowfall. Climate change is also linked to the destabilization of the jet stream, which can lead to outbreaks of Arctic air. In this instance, the Arctic air mass is coming directly from Siberia, by way of the North Pole. The cold and power outages had cascading effects across Texas. Austin authorities were inundated with calls from residents struggling with burst water pipes, and Abilene was forced to shut off its water treatment plant Monday night.
The total number of people killed by the winter storm is unknown, but it includes an unhoused man in Harris County, Texas, a woman and girl who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while using their car for heat, and six people killed in a 130-vehicle pile up on I-35 near Fort Worth. (Washington Post $, New York Times $, AP, Washington Post $, Weather Channel, Texas Climate News; Power outages: Bloomberg $; Climate Signals background: Winter storm risk increase)