Texas has seen some of its coldest temperatures in more than 30 years as a severe cold snap continues to grip large swathes of the central and southern Unites States.
Some areas in the city of Dallas have been colder than in Anchorage, falling to severe lows of -18C and causing extensive disruption.
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott declared a state of emergency on Sunday.
Rotating power cuts were initiated by the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), early on Monday, to reduce demand on the electricity system after nearly half the state’s wind power generation was knocked out by the storm on Sunday.
Ercot also issued a level-three energy emergency alert, urging consumers to reduce electricity use.
According to the US National Weather Service (NWS), the latest extreme spell is down to an “Arctic outbreak” that originated just above the US-Canada border, bringing a winter snow storm as well as plummeting temperatures.
Cold air outbreaks such as these are normally kept in the Arctic by a series of low-pressure systems, the NWS said. However, this one moved through Canada and spilled out into the US last week.
Experts have linked the extreme weather to climate change.
Dev Niyogi, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences and Cockrell School of Engineering, told PBS NewsHour that “we talk about climate change and global warming sometimes with the thinking that it means our temperatures ought to be warmer and warmer”.
“But one factor that we also highlight is what we will be seeing is these wild swings, in terms of temperature, rainfall, and also in terms of the manner in which storms are coming. So, this kind of weather event, which is unprecedented in the context of how things are spanning spatially, as well as in time, is exactly the kind of thing, unfortunately, that a change in climate has predicted.”
Niyogi added that whether this recent US weather is a reflection of climate change or attributable to seasonal interactions or weather events will be a topic that will be debated, “but what is really important is to understand that this is happening now”.