(TIME) — It’s become as much a winter tradition as eggnog at Christmas and champagne on New Year’s Eve — the first major snowstorm of the year bringing out the climate-change skeptics. And the bona fide blizzard that has frozen much of the Northeast just a few days after winter officially began definitely qualifies as major. But while piles of snow blocking your driveway hardly conjure images of a dangerously warming world, it doesn’t mean that climate change is a myth. The World Meteorological Organization recently reported that 2010 is almost certainly going to be one of the three warmest years on record, while 2001 to 2010 is already the hottest decade in recorded history. Indeed, according to some scientists, all of these events may actually be connected.
One theory is that a warmer Arctic may actually lead to colder and snowier winters in the northern mid-latitudes. Even as countries like Britain — suffering through the coldest December on record — deal with low temperatures and unusual snow, the Arctic has kept on warming, with Greenland and Arctic Canada experiencing the hottest year on record. Temperatures in that region have been 5.4°F to 7.2°F (3°C to 4°C) above normal in 2010. As a result, the Arctic sea-ice cover has continued to shrink; this September, the minimum summer sea-ice extent was more than 770,000 sq. mi. (2 million sq km) below the long-term average, and the third-smallest on record. Snow may be piling up in midtown Manhattan, but the Arctic is continuing its long-term meltdown.
HT: Noel Sheppard