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Big Snow Equals Global Cooling, What?

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Record lake effect snowstorm (36.6″) in South Bend, Indiana. January 7 -8, 2011. Credit: Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog

With the recent record-setting snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic states, global climate change deniers are once again crying foul with global warming and ringing the global cooling bell. People need a heaping helping of science literacy to weather this storm, to rationally understand the overall processes that can cause massive winter storms like this even when the average global temperature is increasing.

So, here are three sources to get you started:

  1. My blog post, The Hot Air About Global Climate Change
  2. A timely, short recap of the affects of global warming on global climate
  3. A humorous, but poignantly true, report from the Daily Show

With 2010 Winter Olympics about to begin, big snow in the higher mountainous elevations is to be expected. But there are questions of whether there will be sufficinet snow for some of the planned events. Granted, Vancouver is not the coldest or snowiest place on earth, but its mountains usually have more consistent snowpack this time of year. In fact, it appears that this Winter Olympics will be the warmest on record.

As I sit in my office looking out at a gorgeously sunny day–where I live, it’s an unusual treat to have 7 days in a row with bright sun in the winter–and pondering the fact that our average snowfall is almost 15% below for this time in February, I think how odd it is that states to our east and to our south are having an exceptionally severe winter yet Vancouver is scrambling to preserve what little snow they’ve got. But then I think about the science and realize that global climate change does not mean hotter and drier everywhere at the same time. So, if you are in the global cooling camp, please cool down your hot rhetoric and learn more about the science.

UPDATE:

November 17, 2010: Here’s a study showing that Global Warming Could Cool Down Northern Temperatures in Winter.

Article Comments

  1. Boris says:

    Dear Mr. Sayre,

    In the first paragraph of your article, you criticize the lack of scientific understanding of global phenomena in people who make global conclusions based on local short term weather patterns.
    In the last paragraph of your article, you refer to an unusually warm weather pattern currently present in Vancouver to demonstrate the global trends in climate change.

    Am I missing something?

    Regards,
    Boris Itin.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      In my first paragraph, I did not state anything about local, or even regional, short-term weather events and patterns. What I said was, people need to “rationally understand the overall processes that can cause massive winter storms like this even when the average global temperature is increasing.” In other words, more extreme weather events, especially stronger winter storms, is not inconsistent with increasing tropospheric temperatures.

      In my last paragraph, I did not use a regional weather pattern to demonstrate global trends. What I said was that patterns emerge over time. The severe weather that we had in Winter of 2011 compared to the mild winter Vancouver was having, is not a single weather event. It is months of daily weather events. Short-term weather patterns are a few days or weeks. This was not referencing short-term weather patterns. This was seasonal weather which is not short-term.

      In any given season, on any given spot on Earth, global climate change is just that — a long-term changing weather pattern that statistically deviates for what have been considered typical and expected long-term, stable weather patterns for a given season in a given locale. In other words, some areas will be wetter, some hotter, some drier, some cooler than what is typically assumed as average conditions. In the following seasonal cycle, it might be opposite of the previous in ways that are more extreme yet again. Or it might settle closer to the mean for that season. This again is consistent with the exacerbations of our climate, the increased instability in our climate caused, in part, by increasing tropospheric temperatures.

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