It should be expected that climate doomsayers would try to seize the unseasonal warm weather the Northeastern U.S. has been experiencing as another “sign” of impending global warming apocalyse. But Joel Achenbach puts this in perspective in today’s Washington Post:
Never has good weather felt so bad. Never have flowers inspired so much fear. Never has the warm caress of a sunbeam seemed so ominous. The weather is sublime, it’s glorious, it’s the end of the world.
Only, that it isn’t quite.
[W]e don’t need anyone to tell us that some computer model in some climatologist’s office is showing that a doubling of atmospheric carbon will lead over the next century to approximately 3 degrees Celsius warming in the average surface temperature of the planet, etc. Because we’ve been outside. We can detect climate change epidermically.
What if those climate models are wrong, because they’re insufficiently dire? Everyone’s suddenly shifting from models to observations. Look: Big ice shelf breaking off an Arctic island. Look: Greenland melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.
Listen: Scary quotes from experts.
“Is it really a broadly based area that’s seeing particular change? The answer is yes,” says Ted Scambos, a glaciologist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “From Europe, the East Coast, north to the Arctic and across to Siberia, there’s a very large swath of the Northern Hemisphere for the months of September, October and November that [were] exceedingly warm . . . ”
So it’s bad. Except for one thing. What you might call, at the moment, the Denver factor.
Denver got four feet of snow in December. The third big storm blew in Friday. Snowdrifts of 10 feet! An automobile-snuffing avalanche in a mountain pass west of town! In Denver, January is still January.
Because what we are experiencing and what Denver is experiencing are both part of a thing called weather, not climate. Climate change is real, but it’s a background phenomenon, the cicada-song white noise on the horror-movie soundtrack, distinct from the thuds and screams and moans of specific weather events.
Achenbach also quote Penn State’s Richard Alley, who notes that climate change may make certain weather events more likely, and the National Weather Service’s Richard Feltgen, who notes that there are factors affecting weather besides climate change — in this case El Nino.
“We’re in an El Ni?o, which has absolutely nothing to do with global warming,” Feltgen says. “It keeps a lot of the cold air locked up in Canada, and makes the West Coast of the United States stormy, which we’ve seen, and makes the southern one-third of the country wetter than normal.”
Worth a read.