Weather Watch

Weather analyst Philip Duncan checks the forecast and the story behind the temperatures

Cold comfort for climate change brigade

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After the sensational flop that was the Copenhagen climate meeting I can't help but think what incredibly bad timing nature has for those leaders who were set with the task of convincing us the world is getting hotter.

Following a recent news story that confirms the past decade was the hottest decade in recorded history much of the northern hemisphere has been plunged into record breaking cold - and it's grabbing the headlines on all the major news organisations.

CNN has a story today which starts off like this "Ordinarily a sunny playground that mocks the rest of winter-suffering America, Miami, Florida, was in sore need of a giant Snuggie on Sunday".

That really sums the sunshine state up perfectly at the moment. Ice has been so thick in the tropical state that people could stand on frozen ponds.

Temperatures at this time of year - which is the middle of winter for Florida - are normally in the 20s but yesterday dropped to single digits, breaking records.

While the cold is fascinating to some who don't normally see a frost, let alone water freezing solid, the cold could have an impact on Oranges which can't survive freezing temperatures for more than a few hours.

There's a good chance the freezing weather in Florida will have an impact here in New Zealand. According to CNN Citrus in Florida is a $15 billion industry and the state not only makes up for 3 quarters of the US market but also 40 per cent of the world's orange supply.

The big cold is also going to be a test for the states most unwelcome predator - the Burmese python. The snakes have no natural predators and lately the state has declared war on the pest - it's unknown how they will survive the freezing temperatures over the coming days.

Across America and Canada record low temperatures have been recorded with northern central regions of the US and parts of Ontario, Canada, dropping below -30 degrees - and that's before wind chill. Even below zero temperatures were recorded in Houston and New Orleans.

Over in Europe and from space much of the region is bright white as snow coats many countries, including all of Britain. Airports, trains and roads are closing as the big chill puts massive stress on infrastructure that isn't built to withstand such long, cold and snowy episodes.

The Associated Press is reporting that an Air Berlin jet flew off an icy runway in Berlin while heavy winds and snow have cancelled hundreds of flights across Europe. Also, hundreds of cars and trucks are trapped in snow over the region and even heavy snow in Dublin closed the main airport. AP is reporting that snow drifts in Germany are so high that even snow ploughs are getting stuck.

Sweden has had temperatures down to -35C and the Baltic Sea is reportedly frozen to 40cms thick in places.

However there is a little bit of balance. While New Zealand is having a relatively cool summer Australia is back into the heat with temperatures in the 40s creating a "catastrophic fire risk" in western parts of Southern Australia today.

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