More than 4.2 million people woke up without power in Texas Tuesday morning as record-breaking cold weather prompted residents to crank up electric heaters and push demand for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios that grid operators had imagined.
Worse, the deadly winter storm that slammed the country's South shows no signs of relenting as more snow and ice was predicted late Tuesday and Wednesday along a storm front reaching from Texas to the Appalachian states.
More From NBCLX
Texas has been particularly vulnerable because the state’s main electric grid operates largely separately from the rest of the country and is designed primarily to handle the most predictable weather extremes. But soaring temperatures this past summer spurred millions of Texans to turn up their air-conditioners all at once. And this week’s winter storms, which buried the state in snow and ice, pushed the grid to its breaking point.
So as Texas and other portions of the country shelter in place and brace for a second wave of winter storms, some are questioning what role climate change has played on these extreme weather patterns across the country.
Chris Gloninger, a meteorologist with NBC10 Boston, explained to NBCLX that there was a definite connection.
"There are waves in the jet stream and because of climate change and the warmer air in the Arctic and the largely ice-free Arctic sea, those waves are able to go far south," said Gloninger. "So places like Alaska or Iceland, which today is in the low 40s, is warmer than places like Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. That's why we're seeing these extremes."
Author Michael E. Mann, who wrote "The New Climate War"' told NBCLX earlier this month that extreme weather has made it more difficult for climate change deniers to claim a problem doesn't exist.
"We really are so close to seeing the action that we need to confront the climate crisis," said Mann. "But there are still obstacles that have been thrown in our path by the same institutions that were denying climate change years ago. There's no way to deny it now because people can see it playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented, devastating weather events."