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Is DC's wintery weather the end of Global Warming?

Back in the Early 90's I worked at a famous international environmental organization.  I remember many conversations about how to frame the emerging science that indicated CO2 emissions were changing the climate.  Technically, we are changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere, but while that's accurate and descriptive, it's long, technical and boring.  Instead of the more suitable but scientific sounding 'climate change,' the more sexy term 'Global Warming' won out.  

The reality is: understanding what is going on with climate change means you understand the winter in Washington, DC doesn't refute climate change any more than a singular, previous dry and hot spell proved climate change.  Day-to-day weather fluctuates but our human-induced climate change is raising global average temperatures.  As that happens, models predict greater amounts of precipitation per event: exactly what is being shown by the data.  In the report  Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States research shows that the number of severe precipitation events are increasing with the NE United States increasing by 67% the number of very heavy precipitation events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all events) from 1958 to 2007.

These are data from actual measurements- not hypothesis.  And before dismissing the work of groups like the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) or the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (a recent IPCC document mistakes the rate of melting glaciers in the Himalayas so "climate change deniers" dismiss the whole body of research), you have to understand the complicated science of climate change.  These data and reports undergo some of the most thorough peer reviews of any scientific data on the planet but that won't mean every prediction is going to be true.  However, I am impressed with how modeling and observations have aligned (though observations of change show the modeling was conservative).

One of the data pictures, or charts, I like to observe (and have posted about before) is AccuWeather's Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (yeah, that's really going to work in today's sound-bite world!).  What it is:  a global picture of the top layer of the ocean - and if it's green, yellow or red that shows how much warmer from average it is, and if it's white or blue, how much colder it is.  If you've been following this fascinating drama, you'll know that most of the time the picture is red and green- sometimes it is literally off-the-chart red, especially around the arctic.  That's why the Arctic will soon be ice-free in the summer.  

So where has Global Warming gone?  I hope the phrase has gone away.  Global Climate Change describes what is happening more accurately.  Overall, the planet is warming, but that doesn't mean calm, even, warming temps- when an ice dam broke and the huge lake of melted glacial water flowed out of Canada, forming the St. Lawrence, the fresh water slowed the Atlantic conveyor, and cooled Europe in the process.  But to think that a huge snowstorm, or series of storms means the end of warming, you're mistaken.  Look at the past weather data and you'll see, for snowy Washington, DC's winter (using November '09, December '09 and January '10 Average Maximums and Minimums) you'll see that DC's winter has produced a slightly lower average maximum temperature (-0.5 degrees C) but slightly warmer average minimum temperature (+5.1 degrees C) for an overall WARMER winter than average.  

Originally posted to DJ Monet on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 11:47 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The climate is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    always changing.  

    Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

    by SpamNunn on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 11:48:47 AM PST

  •  I remember getting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bugscuffle, DJ Monet

    HR'd here for the very suggestion that we should call it climate change and not Global Warming.

    My how times have changed.

  •  I'm worried more about pollution (0+ / 0-)

    than anything else. Clean up the planet, save our species and "global warming" will take care of itself.

    Electing conservatives is like hiring a carpenter who thinks hammers are evil.

    by MA Liberal on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 11:54:13 AM PST

  •  They're trucking in snow for the Olympics! (8+ / 0-)

    I live on Whidbey Island in Wa state and yesterday and the day before the sky has been filled with canadien geese flying north.  It's february 5th for chrissakes!  You don't see these guys till the middle of march!

  •  No it still here and this is one of the signs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that there is still a chance to reverse it in that we can still have a somewhat normal Winter but it's been almost 10 years where I live that this winter is almost like how winters used to be and this winter still had spring like days in Jan.,but if they wait until there is no more snowy winters with near record cold snaps it will be to late by then.

    •  DC may be having a somewhat normal winter, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10, neroden

      The entire northern tier of the US and all of Canada, not so much. New England has bare grass, interspersed with patches of snow, except at fairly high elevations and on skis trails where they make snow.

      Canada has to IMPORT SNOW for the Olympics.

      This is very, very broken.

      There has not been a single day of below zero daytime temperatures in our part of VT this year. Usually, in the 3 weeks surrounding Jan 31, we have daytime temps below minus 20 for several days, and night-time temps around 35 below. Thus far this year, we had on night of 15 below, and a couple of nights just barely below zero, and all daytime temps have been above zero.

  •  Global warming went down the filibuster rat hole. (5+ / 0-)

    A few right wing Senators objected so the majority will of the Senate and people of thwarted.

  •  Help me explain this to a co-worker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DJ Monet, LookingUp

    who showed me a chart from the NCDC.  It's average annual temps for the U.S., 1935 to 1985.  It shows the temps trending down. He said, how do you explain this decline over a 50-year period?  It's not the whole world, and that's the answer I've given so far.

    Here is a link; not sure if this will work.

    •  That chart shows --- (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, neroden, LookingUp, marsanges

      I'm not sure what that chart shows-- does it show the deviation of December 2009 from the 1971-2000 normal?  Is it for one month only?  

      This is a better chart from NOAA that shows the trend.  The last couple of years have been cooler the the previous but still above average.

    •  US Temperatures trending up not down. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      let that be clearly stated, the graph that DJ Monet links to shows it.

      (for me at least) the link that Devil in the Details provided does not work, by the way.

      Ici s´arrète la loi.

      by marsanges on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:19:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Remember the old joke (10+ / 0-)

      ...about the guy with his head in the oven and his feet in a bucket of icewater?

      On the average, he felt just fine.

      AGW/global climate change means that parts of the world are going to be getting much warmer.  Parts are going to be getting much colder.  On the average, it's only going to be a slight overall warming--but we're NOT likely to be happy with the changes.  

      We've spent billions/trillions of dollars over centuries building up investments in places where the climate change can wreak havoc.

      Any chart showing just one part of the world, claiming to refute AGW is like saying "the house can't be on fire, feel how cold it is in the fridge!"

      The Shrub Has Been Uprooted. Time to plant anew.

      by Randomfactor on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:28:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Picking one area and one time interval (0+ / 0-)

      makes it possible to show any trend that you want to demonstrate.  In the given 50 year period in the U.S., overall there is no significant change after a temperature drop and a rise.  Pick any other 50 year trend in the U.S., and it will show a rise in the instrumental record.  That mean's that this 50 year period had to be carefully picked.  That's not science.

      In fact the reasons for these trends are fairly well known.  Sulfate aerosols reflect sunlight and tend to reduce temperatures.  The concentrations of these over most of the U.S. were growing around the middle of the 20th century.  Also the solar output was increasing very slightly until about 1950 to 1960.  Climate models represent the overall effects of the various factors very well.

      The continental U.S. has about 3% of the area of the globe.  It is seldom representative of the global trends.

      But why would anyone take seriously a trend that ended in 1985 in the year?

      Bottom line is to never argue about long-term world wide trends on the basis of any small part of the world or over any short time interval.  Global means the entire world, and climate trends make sense only over periods of decades or longer.

      "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

      by LookingUp on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:51:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Samulayo, skohayes, DJ Monet

    the people who reflexively attributed every meteorological burp to "global warming" -- with the best of intentions, I suppose -- should not complain when the other side starts to play the same game.

    Why don't you try reading the rules, Shankopotamus?

    by bugscuffle on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:02:51 PM PST

  •  Word is the southern hemisphere (9+ / 0-)

    is having it's hottest summer on warming trends DO include
    the whole globe - not just the USA.  GOPers and deniers seem to forget this minor detail.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

    by moose67 on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:09:10 PM PST

  •  The mechanics are simple (and explain the storm) (5+ / 0-)

    As you correctly say, the atmosphere grows warmer and more humid - hence more "precipitation events".

    A humid atmosphere is also a heavier atmosphere - that means the typical high-pressure / low-pressure cells that generate our weather grow larger:  Cold air circulates further south than normal, warm air circulates further north than normal.  "Unseasonable" weather grows more common.

    "Global warming" is still true as a statement, but I agree it's unfortunate.  "Global climate change" leaves less scope for wise-ass remarks.

    People don't register gradual change:  I recently moved back to a village where I went to school 30+ years ago.  Then, we could rely on the local ski-lift running at least ten weeks during winter.  Two years ago, it didn't run at all.  We've had a fairly snowy and normally-cold winter this year, and the locals have commented about the abundance of snow.  When I respond that this is the way I remember it, the brain engages and they say: "You're right - we used to always have the village ski race locally, but we haven't for x years."  And so on.

    γνωθι σεαυτόν

    by halef on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:15:16 PM PST

  •  Guess what... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, mataliandy, DJ Monet

    Here in western Washington (Tacoma) this last year we, for the first time that I ever remember we had a summer day in the triple digits (105 f) and in early December we had the first day that I ever remember in the single digits (9 f).

    So, piss on all you deniers -- this is just fucking weird.

    And here it is SuperBowl Sunday, early February (about noon) and it's 50 f.

    Go fuckin' figure.

    Either you're wit' us or a Guinness -- Brilliant!

    by Unforgiven on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:17:02 PM PST

    •  Yeah, here in northern Utah (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, Unforgiven, neroden

      our winter has been fluctuating between extremes, one week very cold and one week warm. This week I was even able to paint some exterior window and door frames that I didn't get done last fall. That's just weird.

      --Free thinkers shouldn't go around thinking just anything. (Terry Pratchett)

      by HPrefugee on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:20:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  See... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That's the problem of it first being called "Global Warming" instead of "Climate Change".

        That allowed the butt wadz to claim that in D.C. "we just got 24 inches of global warming".

        Either you're wit' us or a Guinness -- Brilliant!

        by Unforgiven on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:53:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sea surface - LONG data record (4+ / 0-)

    2/3 of the earth is covered by water.  The oceans are (+/-) flat, so there is less microclimate and more uniformity across the oceans.  Therefore, ocean surface air temperatures are far more relevant to the theory than on-shore surface air temperatures, which are heavily influenced by microclimate factors.

    A crucial tool in the research were the ocean surface air temperature readings taken as a matter of course by the indefatigable officers of the Royal Navy as Her Majesty's ships sailed the seven seas.  These data go back 400 years, so PRE-DATE the industrial revolution, and show a clear and unequivocal rise in ocean surface air temperatures over time.

    γνωθι σεαυτόν

    by halef on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:24:19 PM PST

  •  Global Climate change, another meaningless (0+ / 0-)
    •  Baby and bath water (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, blue in NC

      Does ill-data results from drug manufacturers end the research of medicine?  Does a dishonest genetics doctor disprove DNA theory?  Come on, there is barely any smoke, let alone a fire here, and you're ready to toss an entire body of evidence?  

        •  A blaze in your demented mind, perhaps (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Umm, what are you talking about?  Hoping no-one actually goes to the Australian Herald cite you link to that says nothing?  Here's what you link to as proof to toss out the body of evidence on climate change:

          * The publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed;
          ---> whoopty fuggin doo, a misestimate of wave power.  Wow, that 's the lead complaint?

          * examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished; and
          --->  Uh oh!  And were they incorrect?  You would have pointed that out I'm sure.  And what are they anyways?  The "lynchpin" smoking gun???  Careful boy, you're about to soil your underwear.

          * more claims that were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.
          ---> more claims, from... who?  Rush Limbaugh?  Bruahhhhaaa!  What an load of carp.

          Come on.  You're full of it.  I'm calling your crap on the carpet, buddy.  Show me real problems with the IPCC data that irrefutably shows a link between human GHG emissions and the effects we can measure.  You've got nothing.  Nothing.

        •  Apparently you don't know the difference... (0+ / 0-)

          between WG1, WG2, and WG3.

          WG1 is about the science.  None of what the link cited was from WG1.  WG1 cites only peer-reviewed sources and is itself heavily reviewed.  WG2 is basically a news report, and WG3 is about how to avert the changes.  They explicity allowed to cite non-peer-reviewed sources, including government data, NGOs, and industry sources.  But you'll never hear the deniers complaining about them quoting industry, will you?

          Secondly, this is a 3,000-freaking-page report.  You write an error-free 3,000 page report.

    •  I get tired of unreflected, absolutist reactions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, DJ Monet, LookingUp

      This is the worst Monty Python:  "The anti-global-warming obscurantists have struct a knock-out blow; will the forces of reason recover?  If they do, stay tuned for next week's episode.  If they don't, it doesn't matter anyway, we'll all be dead".

      γνωθι σεαυτόν

      by halef on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 12:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Again, too many "OH NOES" feeding the idiocy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DJ Monet

      of the Flat Earthers.

      For a field in which there is so much research taking place, the amount of error is incredibly small; the amount of fraud is infinitesimal.

      Error is part of science, and an occasional erroneeous finding or even a manipulation of data does not discredit a body of research.

      ...Isaac Newton may have adjusted calculations to fit observations; Gregor Mendel's results with pea plants were cleaner than what is observed experimentally, indicating that he might have changed the data; and Robert Millikan, in a research paper describing the charge of an electron, failed to mention that he eliminated some data points although he probably should have reported why he removed some data in the publication. Others have noted that Louis Pasteur failed, in his studies, to cite that he used the vaccine against anthrax made by a competitor, saying instead that he used his own vaccine to inactivate the bacilli by oxygen.

      I would say that the findings of Newton, Mendel, Millikan, and Pasteur have stood the test of time, in spite of their "scandalous" acts of scientific "misconduct".

    •  Wow. Gee. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Snud, DJ Monet

      You have accusations of scandal revolving, for the most part, around a whopping two climate scientists (Mann and Jones), most of which is around a decade old.  That's it; game over, people!  All of the other literally thousands of actively publishing climate scientists are irrelevant; the entire field of climate science revolves around Mann and Jones and what they were doing a decade ago.


      Secondly, let's go into this SwiftHack "scandal", shall we?

      Mann: The "hide the decline" quote

      First off, Mann was working with dendrochronology reconstructions of climate.  That means study of tree rings to look at events of the past.  Dendrochronological climate reconstructions are incredibly difficult, and while they have shown predictive capability and ability to match results from other lines of evidence (including measurements far back in historical times), it's a science with countless nuances that even other climate scientists who don't have a solid background in dendrochronology won't touch.

      "The decline" in question was an anomaly (which at the time was recognized but was poorly understood; it has since been understood and is now compensated for) in which a certain dendrochronological record deviated from the known thermometer temperature readings after the 1960s.  That is, to say, it showed a decline, when actual thermometer readings from the same area did not.  The paper from which Mann got this data noticed that, and specifically advised against using the data since it no longer matched thermometer readings after that point.

      There's not a soul on Earth who thinks that dendrochronological records are more accurate than thermometer readings.  So while Mann probably should have been clearer on what he was doing, what he did was entirely called for.  You simply don't use invalid data.  You note that it exists, but don't treat it as though it's real.

      Anyway, it's all a moot point anyway, as this was an ancient paper, and there are many more reconstructions now  -- a number of which use boreholes, which are a much less opaque and generally more accurate temperature proxy.

      Jones: Opposition to paper / Refusal to release data

      Jones is criticized in this "scandal" for trying to get a POS paper (and it really was a POS, something that even many deniers admit -- virtually the entire climate science community on either side thinks it never should have been published) out of the IPCC report.  Let me be the first to thank him for this effort.  Ideally, IMHO, it'd be mentioned, then followed with the fact that it has been rebutted over and over again in the peer-reviewed research.

      Concerning data release: Jones isn't actually alone in this; a little background.  First off, not all of the data can be released.  About 98% of the CRU's data can, but there is some that comes from national meteorological agencies who consider their data proprietary.  So right off the bat, any request that demands all of the data will automatically be refused; that would be illegal.  They have no right to distribute the proprietary data of other national meteorological agencies.

      However, early on, most scientists involved at CRU were generally quite accomodating with requests.  This slowly changed, and there were a number of triggers.  First off, nearly all of the requests started coming from amateur deniers, people who didn't know what the f*** they were doing but wanted to try to find some way to dig up dirt.  A number of them started being paid by conservative thinktanks to do so.  The number of requests mushroomed, to the point that a perception became established that most of the requests were being made specifically to waste the climate scientists' time so that they get less research done.

      There was a darker side to it, however.  One of the amateur deniers -- a stock trader, not a scientist -- requested data, looked at it, discovered "fraud" (in quotes) on the part of Jones' partner on one paper.  He actually tried to get the FBI to arrest him.  A university investigation found no evidence at all of fraud; the guy didn't know what the f*** he was talking about.  But when someone tries to get a coworker of yours arrested, to not expect that to have an impact on how you treat these people would be unreasonable, to say the least.

  •  I've just finished having an unsuccessful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    argument about this with someone on another (non-political) forum.

    He attempted to make his case through posting a few links, breathlessly, that clearly proved the total hoax that climate science was. Chief among them were the latest "gotcha" conspiracy theory, posted on a rightwing blog: The GISS temperature data were all faked, because the founder ot The Weather Channel proved that NOAA has been cooking the books with fake temperature monitoring stations for 50 years!

    Never mind that "the founder of The Weather Channel" John Coleman knows nothing about climate science, and holds a grudge against what he calls "my baby" because TWC wants nothing to do with him; never mind that Coleman is now nothing more than a quirky weatherman on a local San Diego TV station; never mind that he is a whore for flat-earthers and other conspiracy theorists everywhere: clearly anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, cooked up by Al Gore!

    Well, anyway, our argument went back and forth: he would post a link to yet another stupid and undocumented rightwing blog "proving" that all climate data are fabricated and that Al Gore hates mankind, and I would follow with a science-based link debunking his idiot-based link. We got nowhere.

    Unfortunately, as American Idol, The Teabagging Convention in Nashville, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin have proven: the general public is either very stupid or very gullible.

    Actually, it's probably the latter; science education in this country is swirling down the toilet, and as long as somebody yells loudly enough and breathlessly presents something as a "breaking" conspiracy, complete with "leaked" emails or "long-hidden" false temperature data, that's what people take as fact.

    If it's on TV, it's true.

    This is disturbing, discouraging, and downright scary.

    •  I don't know what kind (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, blue in NC, DJ Monet

      of a forum you were on, but I always consider that there may be people lurking who are reading your scientific links and your opponent's RW undocumented claims, and perhaps understanding more and therefore being more open to accepting that climate change/global warming is happening.
      So, frustrating as these conversations always seem to be, please continue, because you may just be talking to more than that one person.

      Save the Earth! It's the only one that has chocolate.

      by skohayes on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 01:54:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  True, but frustrating (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden, blue in NC, skohayes

        For many people, they simply don't understand the principals of science, data, statistics, and analysis.  For many it's all about their viewpoint right or wrong- they are not interested in trying to unlock mysteries or find out about the world around us.  

        With a society that upholds as "good" and "noble" to change one's life dramatically due to faith in religion it's understandable that people go faith-based for politics and knowledge.

      •  That's a very good point, and as discouraged (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden, skohayes

        as I get, I don't plan on giving up posting legitimate scientific proof.

        You're right: on almost any forum or blog, there are more lurkers than posters. I am committed to continuing to post "the right stuff" in the face of a continuing barage of false rightwing propaganda.

  •  Global warming causes "unexpected" weather. (0+ / 0-)

    This was one of the earliest and most consistent predictions.

    And sure enough we have feet of snow in DC, which is unexpected.

    -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

    by neroden on Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 02:18:03 PM PST

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