Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming

February 10, 2010

WEATHER/OK, it’s cold in Washington. It’s really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It’s hard to recall that long-ago moment — what was it, six days ago? — when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’,” Politico reported.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain the difference between weather, which changes in the short term, and climate, which changes over the long term. There’s a good explanation at the new government Climate Service Web site called “Short term cooling on a warming planet.” The new site went up this week, between blizzards, and is supposed to guide consumers and businesses so they can adapt to climate change. The Climate Service itself is expected to be up and running by the start of the next U.S. fiscal year that begins on October 1.

The last decade was the warmest on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United Kingdom’s Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization. “The bottom line is that current temperatures are way above the long-term average,” NOAA’s David Easterling says.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is certainly not backing away from its 2007 report that global warming is occurring and human activity is causing it. But climate change skeptics have focused on what they see as problems with how some of the data that led to this conclusion were collected and reported. To most scientists, though, this is all beside the point.

OLYMPICS-VANCOUVER/One sign that the planet is getting warmer is what’s happening in the Arctic Sea. It’s not as icy as it used to be at this time of year, and that means there won’t be much thick, hardy sea ice at the beginning of the spring melt season — which in turn means there will be more open water exposed. Dark-colored water absorbs the sun’s rays, just as light-colored sea ice reflects them, so it’s likely to get even warmer up there. That’s important because the Arctic is one of the world’s biggest weather-makers.

But that still doesn’t explain the unusual weather patterns — putting it politely — that have hammered the U.S. East Coast this winter. However, part of the overall long-term forecast for a warmer world is for more severe weather events, and the current storms could qualify. So could the notable lack of snow at some venues of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Oddball weather can be a sign of climate change.

That’s why they call it climate change — civilizations are used to climate being the same as it has been for millennia, and scientists believe that’s going to change on a relatively rapid timescale. Not everybody likes the term “climate change.” So how about “global weirding“?

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credits:

REUTERS/Jason Reed (U.S. Capitol as snow falls on Washington, January 30, 2010)

REUTERS/Andy Clark (A truck carrying snow to the Olympic snowboarding and freestyle venue in West Vancouver, British Columbia February 3, 2010.)

16 comments

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The polar caps on Mars are shrinking, and I don’t know why. Please insert answer here: ( )

The data collected by scientists is flawed; this is seen by more than just the skeptics.

The Antarctic is always left out of the discussion. I’m guessing that’s because the ice pack is increasing there.

Did the scientists that predicted Global Cooling in the 70′s ever apologise for their recommendation to spray lampblack over the polar ice caps?

When you get right down to it, and in thinking of the earth as a whole, is global warming a better event than global cooling?

We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to global weather changes, but let’s not jump to the ‘settled science’ defense of Global Warming when doubters are belittled and affirmers are funded.

I don’t remember being told that cleaning up smog would actually increase planet warming. What else don’t they know?

Posted by ImRighter | Report as abusive

Actually Antarctica is a dangerous place to be right now. In the 1970′s the hole in the ozone layer was barely noticeable. Today that hole is larger than the continent itself. The UV levels there are too dangerous for people to be exposed to. Things are getting very bad climate wise.

The evidence is everywhere. It’s just that some people want to ignore the writing on the wall until it’s too late and there’s nothing we can do.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Has anyone seen the chart as prepared by climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann. How does this relate to global warming?

Posted by jazzyohio | Report as abusive

jazzyohio

I did take a look at a web page discussing the people you mention.

http://www.longrangeweather.com/Long-Ran ge-Weather-Trends.htm

They suggest that the Earth goes through regular patterns of heating and cooling. And this is true. The problem is that historical/geological records show that co2 levels have been rising sharply since the start of the industrial revolution. It’s true that volcanoes put out more co2 than cars do. The difference is that when a volcano puts out co2 it comes from the melting of rock and earth. This does not remove oxygen from the atmosphere. But when you burn something you remove oxygen.

Right now we are loosing oxygen and gaining co2. This is the result of burning (fossil fuels). So we are in fact the cause of this very large historical increase in green house gases. We have built our societies around a stable modern climate. Once that climate changes it will cause large changes in our societies such as droughts, food shortages, global shifts in weather patterns etc…

This could have horrible effects on us unless we get proactive and develop clean technologies to help us get through this. There is no doubt in the scientific community that global warming is happening. The only thing they aren’t sure of is exactly what that spells out in terms of exact consequences. But they know it won’t be good. At least not in the short term.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

I was drinking in the pub the other night, and some bloke told me that scientists are just trying to get rich with all this so-called research and “analysis” — he told me we can just ignore the bad news, and keep enjoying consumption-based lifestyles — he also told me that cigarettes are good for your lungs, that Elvis was still alive, and then he sold me a genuine Rolex for twenty bucks, so I walked away happy.
Hey, ImRighter and jazzyohio, do you want to buy a Rolex ? — you guys seem really clever, and would recognize a bargain when you see it.

Posted by tangogo68 | Report as abusive

It’s warmer than normal here today, so global warming must be true. Unless tomorrow it’s colder than normal, then global warming isn’t true.

Posted by MarvinAndroid | Report as abusive

http://www.aerology.com/national.aspx
Has a weather forecast based on repeating cycles in the weather (natural analog) that shows the difference between the past three cycles just like this one, in all respects except the solar minimum activity in this the current cycle, as a change from the past three in which the sun was closer to the peaks in solar activity.

The difference clearly shows the more southern location of the jet streams, now as opposed to the past three cycles. The activity levels are about the same as before, so there is no “unprecedented new pattern” just further South than usual.

Most of the “Natural variability in the weather”, that averages out to be “Climate” is the result of repeating patterns in the influences of the movement of the planets around the center of mass of the solar system. Which affects the solar output and sunspot cycles that drives the periodic changes in the “climate”.

CO2 has nothing to do with it, it is all about cap and fraud, tax and spend your money.

Posted by aerologycom | Report as abusive

Most people fail to recognize the real absurdities in this debate. They are not based on the positions people take whether climate change is real or not. They are based on the completely irrational ways in which people and governments are reacting to the possible reality.

Posted by russdward357 | Report as abusive

If I was dead at the side of the road there are those who would deny that I existed, let alone that I was dead! Fools like to believe what the choose rather than what facts say. Climate change is happening! To dismiss changes because of politics is absurd and will only speed a worsening situation.

Posted by waveonshore | Report as abusive

The Earth is warmer today than it was 100 years ago. That much cannot be disputed.

I’ve looked at the temperture data, and despite Al Gore’s very dramatic graphs, I don’t see a correlation to [CO2]. Since 1900, [CO2] has gone no where but up, while tempertures have gone all over the place, and been relatively stable for the last 12 years. (See the charts yourself here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Instru mental_Temperature_Record.png )

Instead of trying in vain to stop the changing climate, I think policy should focus exclusivly on preparing for the new climate.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

Benny-
Your explanation of how vocano CO2 isn’t as significant as fossiil fuel CO2 doesn’t make sense. The concentration of CO2 isn’t what (theoretically) causes warming, it’s the parts per billion (ppb). Removing oxygen from the atmosphere doesn’t directly affect climate.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

More phony propaganda from Reuters, based on the phony “concensus” based on
phony climate “science”. Imagine that your readers are not stupid, please.

Posted by 10hawks | Report as abusive

We need better and more reliable science. So much of the science on global warming has found to be artifactual or downright fraudulent, is it no wonder that the bulk of Americans don’t believe in it?

Americans are a reasonable people. If you give them facts, and are honest, they will believe you. But right now, that is not what is happening.

http://neoavatara.com/blog/?p=9867

Posted by neoavatara | Report as abusive

Well “10hawks”, it looks like Reuters has ONE stupid reader…

Posted by Yellow105 | Report as abusive

Yellow105 – Don’t feel bad, we can’t all be brilliant…

Keep on reading though, it will get easier.

Posted by drkcloud | Report as abusive

Pay tribute to Al Gore, the father of the global warming hoax, by sending “Fraudster the Snowman” (http://politickles.com/blog/?p=4008)   to all your friends.

Posted by FRDuplantier | Report as abusive