Posted by: Jeff | December 25, 2009

On Snow Storms and Global Warming

I am home for the holidays, where we’re getting pummeled by snow (and freezing rain).  This makes two major winter events in less than a week for me, so I’ve heard a lot of comments (particularly on posts of snow pictures on this blog) to the effect of  “so much for needing an agreement on global warming in Copenhagen” and “here’s Al Gore’s inconvenient truth” and feel the need to point to the federal government report on climate change released in 2008 that culled data and opinions from climatologists and research all over the world:

– “Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.”

– “In winter and spring, northern areas are expected to receive significantly more precipitation than they do now, because the interaction of warm and moist air coming from the south with colder air from the north is projected to occur farther north than it did on average in the last century. The more northward incursions of warmer and moister air masses are expected to be particularly noticeable in northern regions that will change from very cold and dry atmospheric conditions to warmer but moister conditions. Alaska, the Great Plains, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast are beginning to experience such changes for at least part of the year, with the likelihood of these changes increasing over time.”

– “There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high- latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes. The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights.”

Winter weather events aren’t incompatible with rising global temperatures. Remember, scientists are forecasting and not merely describing past warming.  Furthermore, it doesn’t even need to be particularly cold for snow to happen.  It’s hovering around freezing in Minnesota today – well below the cold temperatures common here.  To point at a weather pattern that merely yields precipitation as support for the claim that annual warming is a falsehood is insufficient.  Weather is not the same thing as climate, and even if it were, these weather events are exactly the type of thing one would expect if the planet is indeed warming.

I can understand why people may be skeptical about the role that humans play in warming, but it baffles me that there are still so many people questioning the fact (yes, fact is the appropriate word here) that warming exists at all.  To paraphrase Josh Marshall, why is it that so many people trust medical doctors or biological scientists without question but cannot accept a consensus among climatologists?

Hat tip to Think Progress on the report.



  1. […] Will is suggesting is that there is no evidence for warming, and that blizzards somehow contradict a theory that suggests climate change will slowly usher in wider swings in weather.  Someone should remind […]

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