The polar vortex is back

And so is the debate about whether the crispy, frigid temperatures that have returned (as I write this, it is 3 degrees F outside my window) are caused by global warming (er… excuse me, that term is politically incorrect. I'm supposed to say "climate change.")

CT met-cold-weather-5-03.JPG

The Adler Planetarium looms above vapor rising from the lake during Monday's record-breaking cold weather. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)

Some idiots said the cold weather disproves the global warming theories, but that's nonsense. (Serious scientific dissenters to the prevailing climate change theories do not make this claim.) One extreme weather event doesn't prove or disprove a theory. Just as an extreme weather event like hurricane Sandy or a series of deadly tornadoes doesn't prove that global warming theories are correct either.

Truth is, the debate is over long-term changes, and it's undeniable that the longterm trend over the past century or so has been toward slightly higher global averages, with a leveling off in more recent years. The climate is always changing, by definition; the debate is over whether human activity is causing it.

Silly me, I thought I had cleared some of this up in my Chicago Tribune column last week ("The polarization of climate change," Feb. 14, 2014), but who listens?

I liked this observation: "Chill out. Cold weather isn't another polar vortex. It's just winter."

If you don't know the War of 1812, you don't know American history.  Go here to find out why.

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    Dennis Byrne

    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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