What was not expected was the collapse of the power grid in Texas this week. Power was out across much of the state and millions of people were stuck in the coldest temperatures this part of the country has ever seen.

Although Texas is bearing the brunt of the storm’s damage and suffering, experts say other states and network operators should take note.

The role of climate change in bringing cold Arctic air to the central part of the country is the subject of scientific debate.

And the changes that humans have imposed on the climate mean that the weather we have experienced in the past has less influence on the conditions we can expect in the future.

“The further we move the climate away from what it has been for the past 10,000 years, the greater the chance of surprises,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climatologist at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research center in California.

Preparing for climate change will be difficult – and expensive, according to experts.

But there are important lessons she believes we should learn from Texas to be better prepared for the next disaster.

Is this frost related to climate change? The jury is still out.

There is abundant scientific evidence that heat waves due to climate change are getting warmer and longer around the world.

But does global warming increase the likelihood that cold air masses – like the one that passed over much of the United States this week – can escape from the Arctic and settle at lower latitudes?

At this point, scientists are not yet certain.

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At the heart of this theory is the Arctic, which is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet. But despite the rapid melting of the Arctic, it is still much colder there than in the rest of the world.

There is a jet stream in the region, a wind band that blows from west to east and forms a kind of barrier between the cold Arctic air and the warmer mid-latitudes.

However, the jet stream does not just blow in a perfect circle around the top of the planet – it bends up and down for various reasons, causing cold air to descend southward from time to time.

It seems to have happened this week, albeit in a very extreme version,” said Tim Woollings, a professor of climatology at Oxford University, whose research has focused on changes in the jet stream over time.

Research in recent years suggests that Arctic warming may be associated with an increase in wave action, which could increase the frequency of these periods as cold air moves southward.

But according to Woollings, we simply don’t have enough data to know whether such events will occur more frequently in the future.

This does not mean that we will no longer have occasional cold waves, even extreme ones like this one. But the more humans warm the planet, the more likely they will become rarer and rarer.

“They’re interesting theories, but there’s not much evidence to support them at this point,” he said.

Preparing for “uncharted territory

However, there is ample evidence that climate change increases the threat of various extreme events and increases the pressure on critical systems in ways that have not yet been tested.

Floods, heat waves, fires and drought are just some of the extreme weather events that will pose an increased risk of destruction as humans warm the planet. This is according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, the U.S. government’s most recent comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change.

“Without adaptation, climate change will continue to affect infrastructure for the rest of this century, risking cascading effects that threaten our economy, our national security, our essential services, and our health and well-being,” the report warns.

So how can we prepare complex systems like our energy grids for this?

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Scientists say this requires a delicate balance – both to ensure that systems can withstand current conditions and to be able to predict extreme weather beyond what we have experienced to date.

“We are really in uncharted territory and we need to focus much more on future resilience to respond to new, perhaps unprecedented extremes,” Hausfather said.

The Texas power grid has shown-at least so far-that it is capable of meeting the cooling needs of a hot Texas summer, with millions of air conditioners humming to make life bearable inside.

But as temperatures have fallen this week, demand for heat and electricity has increased. In parallel with the increase in demand, frozen gas- and coal-fired power plants have stopped providing electricity.

Wind turbines also fell silent, prompting some politicians to blame renewable energy for the disaster, although according to the Texas Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT), coal and gas account for more than half of Texas’ generating capacity and thus played an even greater role in the power outages.

According to Jesse Jenkins, an associate professor at Princeton University who researches energy systems and policy, the key to preventing such a situation is not necessarily to switch completely to one energy source or give up others.

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In general, diverse energy systems that use multiple energy sources are more sustainable, Jenkins said.

Instead, we must design our existing systems to function in more extreme weather conditions. This includes sealing power plants and wind turbines themselves, but also insulating our homes to make them more efficient, so that they require less energy to stay warm or cold to begin with.

This is not the first time the weakness of the Texas power grid has been exposed.

In 2011, another cold snap caused power outages for 3.2 million ERCOT customers. A 350-page federal report on power outages subsequently found that winterization procedures for power generators were “either inadequate or poorly followed.”

The storm and its aftermath have already claimed dozens of lives and the death toll is expected to rise.

It will take time to determine the extent of property destruction resulting from the explosion in the Arctic, but it is likely that the blast caused billions of dollars in damage, said Steve Bowen, head of disaster assessment at Aon.

“The impact of winter weather events on the infrastructure network and business disruption in the state of Texas is similar to the historical impact of hurricane outbreaks in that state,” Bowen said.

After that, will the government be willing to foot the bill to keep the lights on for the next freeze? And will the coldest regions of the country be willing to make the investments necessary to survive the next record-breaking heat wave?

Girls with these systems won’t be cheap, Mr. Jenkins said. But as this episode has shown, people are going to pay somehow.

“(“This extreme cold) was outside the expected conditions or was considered so rare that it was not worth the extra cost of modifying different types of infrastructure and buildings,” Mr. Jenkins said. “I think we will eventually see when it is calculated how many lives were lost, and hopefully not that many, whether that calculation was accurate.”

CNN’s Brandon Miller, Eric Levenson and Madeline Holcomb contributed to this report.

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