Global Warming Brings Snow?
NOTE: I know some of you are left wing liberals already on the climate change bandwagon. I love you, but this article isn’t meant for you. For those of you who aren’t climate change people, this is my attempt to actually delve into the issue. Most of the links I cite will be from science websites and official sources except where quoting opinions. I hate that the majority of information about climate change and global warming comes from left wing or right wing sources. So please, if you want a relatively even-handed explanation, read on. There will be no demands for action, no unproven conclusions. All I’m asking is that you weight the issues and think. And if you already think I’m full of crap, well I guess it’s my loss.
With the US getting slammed by record snowfall and ice storms across the board, it’s no surprise that many political pundits have taken the opportunity to decry the theory of “Global Warming”,1 that famous catch phrase that helped win Al Gore his Nobel Peace Prize. After all, the fiasco with NASA’s report that October 2008 was the hottest October on record had debunkers knocking on the door almost immediately.2 And they haven’t gone away despite arguments and claims from real scientists3 and even Al Gore himself.4
I am one of the Boulder tree-hugging hippies (to a certain extent), but even I have made that joke: “Where is Global Warming when my drive needs to be shoveled?” It’s simply perplexing that the globe could be heating up yet 2008 is shaping up to be one of the coldest years in… years.5
I’m no scientist—I’ve never even played one on TV—but the use of the term global warming has outstayed its welcome. That doesn’t mean I think An Inconvenient Truth is a load of bull, nor does it mean that effects the Kyoto Protocol and other political measures are trying to counteract aren’t real. What it means is that we need to shift our terminology. We need to forget global warming and start thinking about it as climate change.
Weather can vary a ton on the local level without changing overall outlook for the globe. In Boulder and Denver, we can have several feet of snow fall one day and be sunny and 60 the next. It’s lovely and vexing and completely unpredictable to me. But it doesn’t change the overall trends for the state or the country or especially the world. Statistics will always get more accurate the more data is collected, and with ever improving tools, we’ve now gotten more data than ever.
When scientists say global warming, everyone seems to expect it to get hotter where they are. The localized incidents across the globe of colder temperatures and increased precipitation can be scientifically connected to the climate change we’re currently undergoing.
With the ice caps melting and sea levels rising,6 it’s hard to argue for climate change if you can’t actually see and measure them (though the New York Times has a nifty comparison of 2004-20077). In 2004, NASA linked climate change to increased humidity.8 USA Today finally decided to mention it last year.9 Both of those have come a long way from Bill Clinton’s Department of Energy which couldn’t cite link, but did comment on temperature variation at a local level.10
Of course, while I trust experts often enough, I prefer not to take science’s word for it. But there has been evidence of increased precipitation. In New Hampshire, they’ve reported the wettest year on record.13 Record snowfall hit Las Vegas11, the pacific Northwest12, Chicago13, and most of the US in December 2008. I was lucky enough to be in Colorado where snow like this is commonplace the last few years, but I’ve had friends and family snowed in across the country.
One thing I’ve noticed, having grown up in the humid and cold Northeast and the dry and cold Colorado, is that perceived temperature and humidity have a direct connection. In New England, when it’s 10 degrees out there, it feels like 0 degrees would in Colorado because of the humidity. When it’s 80 degrees, it feels like 90 would in Colorado. Bush’s Department of Energy has discussed the link,14 and the Australian Museums & Galleries provide a very nice explanation of it15 since it’s critical to historical preservation. What this means is that as temperatures get hot or cold, they feel even more extreme because of the moisture.
It’s already been proven again and again that the temperature is rising. For a very even handed explanation of temperature change and its history, you can read Dr. Robert Balling of Arizona State University’s paper on it.16 He concludes that the temperature has gone up and it doesn’t fit the expected models, but that the data alone isn’t enough to confirm man-made climate change. A similar study from NASA in 2006 says the same thing.17
Rising temperatures isn’t the only worry of climate change. If it were, I wouldn’t be able to argue that climate change is helping things get colder in the winters. In June of 2008, NOAA reported that climate change and extreme weathers were connected.18 The Department of Ecology agreed, citing heat waves as well as storm systems as symptoms of climate change19 including “storms with extreme rain or snow.” Sound familiar yet? Even China is blaming climate change for the extreme weather.20
There are certainly plenty of explanations for why climate change is happening, from the classic cries of CO221 or other greenhouse gasses22 to the changing of the sun’s solar cycle23 to an oncoming ice age24. In my opinion, it’s most likely it’s a combination thereof.25
Even after all the evidence, the only thing I’m sure of is that climate change is a reality. I don’t know why it’s happening, but until I do, I’m going to do everything I can to try and lower my carbon footprint and lessen my impact on the Earth. Really it’s all I can do.
If you’ve actually read all of this, checked out a few of the links and still aren’t convinced climate change is happening, I’m not sure what else I can do. If, however, you’ve been swayed, I’m not hear to tell you to seel your SUV or stop flushing your toilet unless you take a dump. How you react and what you do is up to you. Just think about what kind of world you want ot leave our kids (or nieces and nephews for you non-breeders). After all, it’s only our world for now.