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kevbo's avatar

What do you make of this winter recap/global warming story?

Asked by kevbo (25606points) March 25th, 2011

According to official data, this year’s winter was “only” the 39th coldest on record and the climatologist and reporter basically minimize its relevance in the overall global warming trend. While I get that data frequently trumps perception, being on the cusp of the coldest ⅓ of the 115 winters recorded since 1895 seems to me to be pretty cold. Is this a case of lies, damn lies and statistics or does the story read true for you?

http://abcnews.go.com/US/cold-snow-harsh-winter/story?id=13205971

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11 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

the climatologist and reporter basically minimize its relevance in the overall global warming trend….

…because of the meaning of the word “trend”.

One winter is not a trend.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’m with @jaytkay. I don’t consider winter to be the be all tell all in climate change. Our summer could be freezing cold, or drought hot. Spring could be dry as a bone. How does one winter inform us of anything?

flutherother's avatar

If its official data why wouldn’t it ring true? A cold winter doesn’t say anything about global warming trends. The last winter was very severe in the UK but I expect the lengthening growing season and the trend to warmer drier summers to continue.

ETpro's avatar

As @jaytkay noted, here is how you don’t detect long-term global trends. Stick your head out your window. You truly have to look at global temperature averages over a span of years to see any trend, and when you do that, the message is abundantly clear.

We have been warming gradually since the Industrial Revolution began. 2010 tied with 2005 for the warmest year since global temperature records were kept. Seven of the top 10 records for warm years were set in the past decade. And the premise of your question, that this was a extraordinarly cold winter isn’t true. Perhaps it is taken from the Northern climes but for the whole world, here is what NOAA says “For the year to date, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature of 12.49°C (54.50°F) was the 16th warmest January–February period on record. This value is 0.39°C (0.70°F) above the 20th century average.”

Finally, climate science predicted extra cold, snowy conditions in winter across the northern USA, Europe and Russia. The melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocena leaves much more open water exposed to sub-zero winds during the arctic winter. If you have ever seen a sudden cold snap over open water, you know that steam pours up into the air carrying massive amounts of moisture into the atmosphere. And the shift from ice cover to open water has moved the winter location of the Northern Jet Stream down over the upper USA and sometime wavering as far south as Mexico and Florida. The blizzards this winter are certainly not proof of a hoax. They are proof that the predictions of climate scientists are right so far.

Note that the fossil fuel industry is worth around $37 trillion a year. They are not above spending a small chunk, a few billion, on funding junk science and PR foundations to crank out Fear Uncertainty and Doubt and to find ways to twist statistics to paint the picture that says “Drill, baby, Drill!”. As Upton Sinclair so correctly observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

ratboy's avatar

It chills me to the bone to think anyone could see this as casting doubt on the global warming trend.

kevbo's avatar

Thank you all for your responses. Obviously, there is consensus.

Not that it matters, but my reaction is mostly not understanding why this story goes to such lengths to reassert the “fact” of global warming. (And, @ratboy, et al, I have many relatively unique reasons far beyond the reasoning behind this story as well as the bullshit perpetrated by the political right to doubt the conventional global warming narrative.) To me, this story goes out of its way to reassert global warming. Figuatively speaking, I didn’t ask. Just tell me it’s the 39th coldest winter on record.

Anyway, thanks for your responses.

ETpro's avatar

@kevbo You wrote my reaction is mostly not understanding why this story goes to such lengths to reassert the “fact” of global warming./ I gave you 37 trillion reasons. How many does it take?

mattbrowne's avatar

“According to the Huffington Post, one of the main driving forces behind the atmospheric pattern is the fact that we are now in what is called a negative phase of ‘Arctic Oscillation’. The warmer the Arctic gets, the colder the mid-latitude areas get, leading to more snow. Basically that means there is high pressure over the Arctic but low pressure at the mid-latitudes. This has the effect of warming the Arctic zone but also cooling mid-latitude regions. This, the scientists say, is the reason why the UK and US have suffered from particularly harsh winters.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1362223/Climate-change-IS-blame-heavy-snow-winter-say-scientists.html

kevbo's avatar

@ETpro, this is as much a question about the reporting choices as the science. Sorry if that’s not clear.

gailcalled's avatar

@kevbo : Completely off-topic, nice to see you again, and your new avatar. I hope that that bodes well for your current state.

kevbo's avatar

@gailcalled- thanks! It’s nice to be back in touch with you and in my old suit (and yes, it bodes very well. Thanks for asking.)

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