A post circulating on Facebook claims that President Joe Biden “manipulated” and “controlled” the weather to cause the Texas deep freeze in mid-February 2021 that has left millions without power and at least 21 people dead. This claim is false. The rare winter storm was caused by an arctic air mass.
The lengthy post begins: “3.5+ million people without power in Texas - JOE BIDEN’S DARK WINTER HAS ARRIVED.” Later it reads, “Joe Biden’s ‘Dark Winter’ statement was not a random thought, it was a foreshadow of what was to come.” “This is warfare, an attack on Texas by altering the Jetstream, seeding the clouds, and ultimately causing the storm that blocked out over 4 million people.”
Reuters coverage on the Texas winter storm can be seen here , here , here .
On several occasions in the past, President Biden has used the phrase “dark winter” to refer to the impact of COVID-19 during the cold season, when infectious diseases like influenza, traditionally peak as the bad weather drives people inside ( here , youtu.be/HCXNPIlfYyk?t=82 , here ).
“We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter, and he [Trump] has no clear plan,” Biden said during the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, 2020. At a briefing in which he unveiled his vaccination plan, days before coming into office, Biden said the United States remained in “a very dark winter,” as infection rates increased and the country’s COVID-19 death toll was nearing 400,000.
Biden and health experts, have used this terminology not to predict the Texas winter storm as the post suggests, but to address an increase in contagion and death toll from COVID-19 over the winter months before vaccines became widely available.
WHY SO COLD
The National Weather Service (NWS) said an Arctic air mass spread southward, well beyond areas accustomed to freezing weather, with winter storm warnings posted for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.
As explained by NASA’s Earth Observatory here , the cold wind from the Artic, which moved in on Feb. 13, hit Texas particularly hard, leaving southern areas of the state experiencing colder temperatures than parts of Alaska.
The post clearly states that the storm was caused by “altering” the strong currents of air known as jet streams.
It is true that jet streams play a role in changing the weather, but as explained by National Geographic here , the jet streams are always changing depending on the season and other variables. For example, “during winter, jet streams tend to follow the sun’s elevation and move toward the equator”. Hotter temperatures around the world and polar regions do lead to “slower and weaker” jet streams.
Scientists are still discussing whether climate change could be delivering the chill ( here ), but to grant the U.S. president the power to direct these jet streams himself is not plausible.
Cloud seeding is an authentic process in which substances like dry ice and silver iodide are put into clouds. As explained by the North Carolina Climate Office here , it is used to “enhance precipitation, dissipate fog, modify hurricanes and decrease lightning and hail in thunderstorms.”
Countries, including Indonesia and China, have often used cloud seeding to put out forest fires during the dry season and to relieve droughts or clear the air ahead of major international events.
There is no evidence cloud seeding caused the freezing temperatures sweeping the United States.
Weather manipulation is often related to the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory ( here ), which alleges “governments or other parties are engaged in a secret programme to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere from aircraft in a way that forms visible plumes in the sky”. Reuters Fact Check previously addressed the subject, here .
False. Joe Biden’s “dark winter” was a reference to the impact of COVID-19 during cold winter weather, not a prediction of a winter storm.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .