Does the ‘big freeze’ contradict anthropogenic climate change?

The UK’s 2009/2010 ‘big freeze’ was the most severe in decades with freezing temperatures and heavy snow across the country.  In the light of the recent Copenhagen climate conference some have asked if the freeze contradicts the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.  Is this evidence that the observed recent warming was simple the warm phase of a cycle or even that we are heading into a new ice age?

The truth is that the freezing temperatures affecting the UK are not reflected across the rest of the world.  The world map below from the Met Office shows how the cold snap’s temperatures have deviated from the normal range expected over a week at the end of December.  While northern Europe, parts of America and Asia are experiencing much colder temperatures than normal most of the world is experiencing above average temperatures.

The last decade was the warmest decade on record with 2009 the 5th warmest year on the global record (since 1850).  Also important is to bear in mind that the freeze is an example of weather and not representative of a shift in our climate.  Weather occurs on short timescales of days or weeks while climate occurs over longer timescales such as decades.

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