Everybody talks about the weather, but few read the scientific literature about it.
The anti-science crowd has been doing a killer job pushing the myth that the big recent snowstorms somehow undercut our understanding of human-caused global warming. But aside from the fact the precipitation isn’t temperature, it turns out that the “common wisdom” the disinformers are preying on — lots of snow means we must be in a cold winter — isn’t even true.
Let ‘s look at the results of an actual, detailed study of “the relationships of the storm frequencies to seasonal temperature and precipitation conditions” for the years “1901-2000 using data from 1222 stations across the United States.” The 2006 study, Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States (Chagnon et al., 2006) found we get more snow storms in warmer years:
Results for the November-December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%- 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January-February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%-80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March-April season 61%-80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years…. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901-2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.
As Brad Johnson noted in Wonk Room:
“Snowmageddon.” “Snowpocalypse.” “SnOMG.” These popular depictions of the record snowstorms that have crippled the Mid-Atlantic region demonstrate that the American public knows the weather is disastrously out of control. Instead of galvanizing Congress to take action to stop the manmade disruption of our climate, these storms are being used by Washington pundits to excuse inaction. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the chair of the Senate energy committee, is turning to these killer storms to justify his resistance to passing strong climate legislation, telling the Hill’s Alexander Bolton that “the blizzards that have shut down Congress have made it more difficult to argue that global warming is an imminent danger”:
“It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments [facts]. People see the world around them and they extrapolate. I think that it’s hard to see an economy-wide cap-and-trade [proposal] of the type that passed the House could prevail.”
It’s bizarre that Bingaman can’t make the argument that killer weather is one of the most significant consequences of heating up the climate. Global warming deniers may repeat the fatuous argument that killer blizzards disprove global warming ad infinitum, but it doesn’t make their argument more compelling. Bingaman’s concession to anti-science ideology is suspiciously convenient, as he has been open to dropping comprehensive climate legislation in favor of his committee’s energy-only package.
It’d be too much to ask that Senators understand and embrace every aspect of the science — but could they at least not embrace every aspect of the anti-science?
- MSNBC’s Ratigan: “These ‘snowpocalypses’ that have been going through DC and other extreme weather events are precisely what climate scientists have been predicting, fearing and anticipating because of global warming.”
- Must re-read statement from UK’s Royal Society and Met Office on the connection between global warming and extreme weather
- Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record “” and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science: Plus Dr. Jeff Masters on “Heavy snowfall in a warming world”