Nightly News   |  January 08, 2014

Big Freeze Reignites Climate Change Debate

Does the recent spate of frigid weather tell us anything about climate change? Scientists weigh in.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now as promised here tonight with a closer look at this record cold weather across our country and some other records that are falling in other parts of the world, going the opposite way. all of it has some people wonder ing what this says about global warming . a topic that is still hot and politically polarizing. our report tonight from our veteran correspondent anne thompson .

>> reporter: as the freeze thaws, some are arguing about global warming . in some parts of the country, the mercury feels like it has been on a jump. take new york, down to a daily record low of 4 degrees tuesday, back to 55 this saturday. what does that tell us about global warming ? scientists say nothing.

>> you can't look at a single event to prove or disprove global warming . you have to look at a period of 30 years to see what the climate is is doing.

>> reporter: global warming or climate change happens in decades, and you look at whether the temperature is up. so this week, while much of the u.s. is cold, other parts are warm. in brazil, as temperatures are 120 degrees, the animals eat pop sicles to keep cool, elsewhere, temperatures are 125 in the west, the hottest year on record, down under. in the north, moscow, anchorage, alaska, are all above average, and california is unusually dry.

>> 94% of the state is in quite strong drought. this ultimately will increase the risk of wildfires when they get the right kind of conditions.

>> reporter: yet some are skeptical, angering america's favorite news man.

>> it can be destroyed in one cold weekend.

>> reporter: the last time we saw such temperatures was nearly 20 years ago, but this is not a historic deep freeze .

>> before the mid-90s, we saw this cold snap every five or ten years.

>> reporter: this is one we won't soon forget. anne thompson , nbc news, new york.