Global Warming and Snowstorms: Communication Nightmare, or Opportunity?

By Chris Mooney | March 2, 2011 4:28 pm

My latest DeSmogBlog piece is about attempts to educate the public about the fact that, yes, global warming is expected to strengthen winter storms, and increase how much snow they dump. But this is a complete nightmare to communicate to people–perhaps the hardest aspect of climate science to get across:

“Perceptions of the implications of lots of snow for the existence of climate change are like the results from a Rorschach test,” writes Janet Swim, a psychologist at Penn State who headed up an American Psychological Association task force report on psychology and climate change.

Suggesting that he knows this well, Marc Morano is already blasting Jeff Masters and the Union of Concerned Scientists over the global warming-snow claim. Clearly, Morano feels he’s on strong ground here, tactically or otherwise.

The communication question is clear: Global warming’s impact upon winter storms is predicted by theory and seems increasingly validated by observations, but can you really hope to make people believe it and understand it? For my (mixed) answer, you can read the rest of the piece here.

Comments (55)

  1. David

    It’s funny though, global warming causing severe winter storms that I heard talked about until we started having severe winter storms. Maybe in the climate literature or I could have missed it.
    Wouldn’t more moisture in the atmosphere produce greater rainfall as well as greater snowfall? Has that been documented?
    And I thought the global warming people were not calling it global warming anymore, that climate change was the approved name so that whatever happened, they could claim it.

  2. The deceased Climate Change mistake was a “do it or die climate CONTROL death threat”. It meant saving the dying planet from CO2 by imposing lifestyle restrictions to billions of people with suffocating taxes.
    Obama didn’t even mention this planetary emergency in his last state of the union speech. And what was the “scientists” response? Shouldn’t the climatologists be all over the media? Oprha? CNN? PBS?
    The Republican majority cut the IPCC’s US funding on Feb. 20, 2011 and Carbon markets evaporated long ago. Funding for more research into CO2 effects have vanished and the NOAA declared “exaggeration” while the Weather Channel also bailed.
    There is now serious talk of criminal “treason” charges for this false war as the Republicans exploit a wave of former believer rage.
    Climate Control has done to Humanity’s collective intelligence what witch burning and holocausts did to “civil” in “civilization”.
    Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for 25 years of climate control instead of needed population control.
    Respect for science, progressivism and journalism has joined the level of the Catholic Church’s abusive priests.
    The harm it has done to environmental efforts can be corrected and regained, as does the resilient powers of Nature and the powers of the cosmos that dictate all life. Let’s take care of the environment and enjoy life now with a costly lesson learned. We CAN evolve as civilized humans who no longer use fear as motivation.

  3. TomInAK

    “The communication question is clear: Global warming’s impact upon winter storms is predicted by theory and seems increasingly validated by observations, but can you really hope to make people believe it and understand it?”

    Chris:

    Is there *anything* that’s not either “predicted by” or “consistent with” global warming theory? I have a hard time taking seriously the thesis that anthropogenic CO2 is causing the world to hurtle toward a fiery doom, which can only be averted by immediately passing a bunch of punitive taxes and oppressive laws. One reason is the constant moving of the goal posts when it comes to predictions about the behavior of climate. Prior to the last year or so, I never heard any prediction of AGW-caused extreme cold and snow in temperate latitudes. The first mentions showed up after the world experienced a brutal winter or two. Suddenly, the side that once glibly stated that British school children might grow up never seeing another white Christmas insists that “global warming theory” predicted the last few winters. Of course this means that “global warming theory” is “increasingly validated”, even as physical reality diverges further from the predictions made just a few years ago. To the layman, this makes AGW proponents look just plain silly. I would hope that you’d be able to at least understand the skeptic’s view of all this, even if you disagree.

  4. Sorbet

    Yes, it is indeed very hard to convince someone that global warming causes both snowstorms and heat waves. The problem is that a theory that explains everything is perceived to explain nothing.

  5. Well, the trick is to convince people that global warming generally causes an increase in *extreme* events, both hot and cold. In fact that’s one of the scary things about climate change, that it will make all kinds of extreme events around the globe more severe, and not just heat-related ones.

  6. Dunc

    Is there *anything* that’s not either “predicted by” or “consistent with” global warming theory?

    Yes – a sustained trend of reduction in global average temperatures. So far, no sign of that.

    Prior to the last year or so, I never heard any prediction of AGW-caused extreme cold and snow in temperate latitudes.

    Then you simply haven’t been listening. Everyone with even a moderate layman’s interest in the subject has known about this stuff for years.

    . Suddenly, the side that once glibly stated that British school children might grow up never seeing another white Christmas insists that “global warming theory” predicted the last few winters.

    Climate does not predict weather. Learn the difference.

    even as physical reality diverges further from the predictions made just a few years ago.

    That’s completely untrue. We’re pretty much bang in the middle of the projected range.

  7. Justa Joe

    When in doubt just throw out this line.

    “Climate does not predict weather…”

    That’ll fool’em.

  8. John

    During years we had little snow, we were told it was due global warming.

    Now all of a sudden we have snow, and surprise surprise, global warming causes more snow.

    If it rained Pink Bunny Rabbits tomorrow, the scientists and professional PR man Chris Mooney would tell us that raining Pink Bunny Rabbits is not inconsistent with the theory of climate change.

  9. Chris Mooney

    This “I never heard X until there were snowstorms” argument is very weak.

    Climate scientists have long known that increasing the temperature of the atmosphere will increase the retention of water vapor. It’s one of the big *fundamentals* of the science.

    Just because you didn’t *hear* about all the implications of this particular result does not mean that climate scientists have flip flopped.

  10. Zev

    “Climate does not predict weather. Learn the difference.”

    First, weather doesn’t predict climate, now climate doesn’t predict weather.
    Since climate doesn’t predict weather, then all those climatologists must be wasting their time telling us that “climate change” will indeed lead to an increase in “severe weather phenomena” (which have yet to be seen).

    By that logic, I assume weather and climate must be natural phenomenas, subject to natural cycles – unaffected by human activity. By golly, an alarmist just admitted he has no clue what he’s talking about! About time…

    “Just because you didn’t *hear* about all the implications of this particular result does not mean that climate scientists have flip flopped.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html

    They have indeed flip flopped, and that’s not including the likes of the train-wrecked statements of Al Gore…

    When climate scientists say warmer winters with less/no snow correlate with “global warming”, but then (a few years later) start saying more snow correlates with “climate change” (because the old argument no longer fits), it’s no wonder people doesn’t believe them. It’s a logical fallacy – not to mention changing the term to “climate change” in order to accomodate their flimsy arguments.

  11. Where , where’s the theory ?

    The most straightforward effect of additional CO2 , which is to all green life what O2 is to us animals , is , since its spectrum already well saturated , to DECREASE the variance of our temperature , and therefore DECREASE extreme weather .

    This GSS ( Global Statist Stupidity ) against the building block of life is finally in its death throes .

  12. John

    More surprisingly there are not literally dozens of pro-GW/GC on here posting comments telling everyone who has posted these anti-GW/GC that they are stupid, right wing, racists, idiots who have no idea what is REALLY going on with the climate. I for one am one who believes that the system is way to complex for anyone to fully understand much less predict. While I do beleive that the system is/has/will change as it has from the beginning. Reminds me of the people who bulid houses on or near the beach or on barrier islands and then wonder why their property is eroding away….

  13. Chris Mooney

    Mr Morano has linked here, thanks to everyone for visiting

    http://www.climatedepot.com/a/9986/Warmist-Chris-Mooney-struggling-with-snowwarming-claims-This-is-a-complete-nightmare-to-communicate-to-peoplendashperhaps-the-hardest-aspect-of-climate-science-to-get-across

    @12 I do not believe that people who disagree with me on global warming are stupid or idiotic. My experience is that many climate science skeptics/deniers are highly intelligent, and data supports this. That doesn’t make them *right*….

  14. Dunc

    Sigh… More bombast from idiots who don’t know the difference between distributions and data points, or probabilities and outcomes.

    Zev, later in that very article we have the following statement:

    Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.

    [My emphasis]

    A warming climate generally means that (in locations where there is sufficient weather variability over the correct range) it will snow on fewer occasions, but when it does, it is likely to snow more. It’s not particularly difficult to understand.

  15. David

    TomInAK said: “Prior to the last year or so, I never heard any prediction of AGW-caused extreme cold and snow in temperate latitudes.”

    To which Dunc replied: “Then you simply haven’t been listening. Everyone with even a moderate layman’s interest in the subject has known about this stuff for years.”

    Then you should be able to give internet links from, oh, before 2006 where it has been said in the layman’s literature.

  16. Jerry Zemens

    I came across this yesterday in a book published in 1960 titled “Indian Life in the Upper Great Lakes” by Quimby, probably available in most libraries:
    “The climate inferred from these stages of flora is as follows: first, a period much colder than the present; next, a period of increasing warmth; then a warm period of long duration, most of which was much hotter than present; and, finally, a cooler period much like the present climate.” pp. 9-10.
    It caused me to wonder. Why didn’t someone or some government latch on to this data 51 years ago in order to manipulate the population of the planet? They could have started passing draconian laws and forcing new taxes and all manner of outrageous controls on people, and won the Nobel Prize to boot! Obviously fascism wasn’t nearly as advanced yet.

  17. Dunc

    TomInAK said: “Prior to the last year or so, I never heard any prediction of AGW-caused extreme cold and snow in temperate latitudes.”

    To which Dunc replied: “Then you simply haven’t been listening. Everyone with even a moderate layman’s interest in the subject has known about this stuff for years.”

    Then you should be able to give internet links from, oh, before 2006 where it has been said in the layman’s literature.

    Certainly. Here’s two from 2003:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/early-warning-signs-of-global-3.html
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031106052121.htm

    There are doubtless plenty more, but they’ve become rather difficult to find due to the massive interest in this issue over the last couple of years.

  18. It’s amusing to contrast Marc Morano’s Climate Depot with this site. Morano’s site looks like the embodiment of tabloid sensationalism and paranoia, replete with pictures of bloody hands, satan and gun barrels, not to mention a diarrhea of cherry-picking. I guess when you don’t have facts, you can always bank on blinding them with technicolor.

  19. John

    “Climate scientists have long known that increasing the temperature of the atmosphere will increase the retention of water vapor. It’s one of the big *fundamentals* of the science.”

    Chris, it really doesn’t matter what scientists have “long known” when they and their journalistic allies like you spend years telling us the opposite, that warming will mean, well, warming!

    Why don’t you tell your readers how water vapor was below average during the winter snow storms? Because if you did, your readers would know your theory is not applicable.

    I notice that you mention the theory, but then neglect to tell your readers that the scientific measurements taken during this winter negate that theory, that water vapor from increased warming was to blame.

    This is the kind of double-speak that causes people to not believe you.

  20. #10 Zev links to the Independent’s rather poorly written story quoting scientists saying British kids will never see snow again. So did the scientists flip flop?

    First, a single piece of journalism is hardly evidence of anything. Second, Zev should probably have read the story more closely:

    “Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner.”

    The story was written in 2000. I’d say 11 years later qualifies as “occasionally.”

  21. Chris BC

    Well Dunc, you may have some examples of warmists predicting more snow or heavy snow from AGW, but you also have plenty of examples of warmists predicting less snow or almost no snow. You can’t call it both ways and then say “this is exactly what we predicted”. Your failure to admit the disparate predictions is ludicrous.

    More importantly, at least a few of the recent snow events/storm systems have been looked at in detail and your underlying premise of warmer air holding more moisture doesn’t hold up. The air was cold all along the front and yet there was plenty of moisture in it. In fact some of the recent storms are pretty much like those of 1977/78.

    Also, how about the 1970s era global cooling and coming ice age predictions? Including those of John Holdren?? If he was misinformed/ignorant/wrong then (along with all the others who made those cooling claims) why should we believe the opposite position now?

    Going further still, how about the early warmists predictions of gloom and doom by the year 2000 if AGW wasn’t stopped? (Was Holdren one of the guys who said that?) Can you point to any dire prediction made that has come to fruition?

    P.S. By the way, I don’t think 15 years of no statistically significant warming (per Phil Jones) is anywhere near “bang in the middle” of warmists predictions from the late 80’s and early 90s.

  22. Zev

    “Sigh… More bombast from idiots who don’t know the difference between distributions and data points, or probabilities and outcomes.”

    “The story was written in 2000. I’d say 11 years later qualifies as “occasionally.”

    In response:

    “According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event.”

    It’s been about 11 years since that article was written. Over that period of time (more than “a few years”) snow has not been a “rare and exciting event”, but an expected normal event along with winters like those of the last few years in which snow fall has been exceeding or approaching record levels consecutively in the northern hemisphere. Even England has experienced significant snow fall the past two winters.

    Furthermore, according to the IPCC report of 2007:

    “Precipitation has generally increased over land north of 30°N from 1900-2005, but has mostly declined over the tropics since the 1970s. GLOBALLY THERE HAS BEEN NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT OVERALL TREND IN PRECIPITATION OVER THE PAST CENTURY, although trends have varied widely by region and over time. ”

    “Global warming” has been hyped since the 70’s and yet we haven’t seen a significant increase in overall precip since then (which is certainly a representive sample over the last century). Therefore, the system is generally balanced overall – the only difference being the location of the precipitation. Much of the variation in terms of location of precip is explanable by natural weather phenomena: El Nino, La Nina, postive/negative oscillation, etc.

  23. SteveA

    This is not difficult to communicate at all.

    Only a few years ago, CAGW scientists were telling us to prepare for warmer, less snowy winters because THIS IS WHAT THE SCIENCE SAID WOULD HAPPEN. But, now that record setting COLD temps and lot’s o’ snow have appeared over the past few years, the “science” has adapted in an attempt to include Mother Nature’s fickled nature.

    Now, the meme is that warming puts more water into the atmosphere, making larger snowfall possible. The only problem is that all of this snow contains LESS, not more, moisture than in the past. What seems oh so plausible on its face just does not have any support in fact.

    The truth is, CAGW proponents don’t have a firm belief. They will adapt their message of pending doom to any scenario Mother Nature decides to serve up. The fact that they do so means they do not REALLY understand what is happening with Earth’s climate. Therefore, their recommendations for policy need to be taken with a pound of salt.

  24. Nullius in Verba

    Interesting, isn’t it? It wasn’t that long ago that we saw articles laughing at those ridiculous jokes about having to shovel the global warming off our driveways, and didn’t those idiot deniers know the difference between weather and climate?

    And I think I said at the time, it was in reaction to all the weather events that were connected in the media to climate if they indicated global warming, but if they didn’t they were just weather. I don’t suppose anyone here believed me that such media stories existed.

    But as soon as someone figures out a way to prove that ‘cold’ is ‘hot’ and that a huge snowfall and low temperatures are evidence that the world is warming – oh, yes! Then it’s obvious, well-known, and only a fool would deny it. Yes, we really were shovelling great white piles of global warming off the roads – it was absolutely true!

    And when I say ‘hey, don’t you remember that article that said weather is not climate and we shouldn’t read anything into single-year local short-term weather events’, I expect that nobody here believes that such media stories could exist. What kind of fool would deny that weather was climate?

    Anyway, here’s the NOAA…
    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/2010/articles/forensic-meteorology-solves-the-mystery-of-record-snows
    Which side would you put them on?

  25. Sorbet

    -the “science” has adapted

    No, the science has evolved to provide a better understanding.

  26. John

    @25 – Sorbet

    No the science has been demonstrably proven as incompetent at best and fraudulent at worst.

  27. Somite

    Isn’t everyone’s experience that it snows when it is warmer in winter? I would think this basic question has been looked at by meteorologists.

  28. Climate Change was a CO2 death threat and a mistake and nothing else. It wasn‘t fossil fuel use, new energy, sustainability or pollution.
    Can we say environmentalism again now instead of climate change? It’s ok little Billy, the planet is NOT dying from the CO2 Bogey Man.
    We scared our kids with needless panic for 25 years. It makes Bush’s Iraq War look tame.
    I’m embarrassed to be a progressive because of this CO2 insanity but I’ll never be a neocon.
    Preserve, Protect and Respect our planet without Climate Control.

  29. MartyM

    Look for trends over the past few decades. How many hot records vs. Cold records do we now have? There used to be a 1:1 ratio of hot/cold records, but that has been changing to more like 2:1.

    I’ve often wondered how the jet stream patterns over the US has changed. Certainly something I’m trying to find records for. But it seems that the sinusoidal pattern has gotten a much larger amplitude and a higher frequency. This is why it can be 32 degrees one day and 70 a few days later in winter, and why it can be 30 in Georgia the same time it’s 70 in South Dakota.

  30. John Moore

    There is new article on yahoo about the refreezing of melted ice at the bottoms of antartic glaciers. Here we have a group of scientists who have just discovered something really incredible about glaciers. Now as it turns out old ice melts and refreezes and the bottom 20-25% of all glaciers are fromed from this process. It actually causes the glaciers to rise. One would think that as this ice thaws and refreezes its chemical characteristics changes. Also the theories based upon the ice cores may be a bit skewed. As we all learn move about the systems we are trying to model the more the models are extrapolating incorrect information.

  31. A much less ambiguous barometer of long-term climate change is the ice-out date on lakes and ponds, for which we have a continuous record in New England lakes going back to the 1850s and earlier. And that record shows a very strong warming trend.

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2005/3002/

    It would be nice if the ‘skeptics’ would directly address this particular long-term historical data record.

    Thanks.

  32. Ted

    Chrise Mooney.
    You are a Warmist and that’s a fact, you have never been known to let the truth get in the way of your scaremongering agenda, and if the shoe fits…….!

    Here are the facts:

    NOAA -Warming is not to blame for Snow:

    NOAA’s Climate Scene Investigators (CSI)

    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/2010/articles/fo

    By Martin Hoerling & Katy Human & Barb Deluisi – NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
    March 26, 2010

    Wintry Weather in a Climate Context
    The CSI Team found abundant historical evidence of heavy mid-Atlantic snowstorms whenever an El Niño and a negative NAO acted in concert, further supporting their conclusion that the record-setting snowstorms were the result of natural causes. But could global warming have elevated the potency of this dynamic duo? Again, the CSI Team didn’t find a connection.
    And it is well understood that La Nina amplify’s this effect, look at La Nina weather cycles for heavy snow and cold events Etc… it is a classic weather pattern as any ski reort will tell you.

  33. Chris Mooney

    “You are a Warmist and that’s a fact, you have never been known to let the truth get in the way of your scaremongering agenda, and if the shoe fits…….!”

    At least he spelled my name right.

    Oops…no he didn’t. Never mind.

  34. Ted

    Chris Mooney.
    Did I get your name right this time?
    Nice Warmest diversion, was that a little spelling mistake suppose to be a put down, I would say it was pathetically weak at best. As a professorial alarmist you are obviously used to using straw man tactics when you’ve got no come back to real scientist at :

    NOAA’s Climate Scene Investigators (CSI)

    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/2010/articles/fo

    So lets here your best scientific put down of those guys or maybe a smackdown of NOAA on DESmogBlog.

    By Martin Hoerling & Katy Human & Barb Deluisi – NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
    March 26, 2010

    Wintry Weather in a Climate Context
    The CSI Team found abundant historical evidence of heavy mid-Atlantic snowstorms whenever an El Niño and a negative NAO acted in concert, further supporting their conclusion that the record-setting snowstorms were the result of natural causes. But could global warming have elevated the potency of this dynamic duo? Again, the CSI Team didn’t find a connection.

    The CSI Team’s analysis indicates that’s not likely. They found no evidence — no human “fingerprints” — to implicate our involvement in the snowstorms. If global warming was the culprit, the team would have expected to find a gradual increase in heavy snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic region as temperatures rose during the past century. But historical analysis revealed no such increase in snowfall. Nor did the CSI team find any indication of an upward trend in winter precipitation along the eastern seaboard.
    And it is well understood that La Nina amplify’s this effect, look at La Nina weather cycles for heavy snow and cold events Etc… it is a classic weather pattern as any ski resort will tell you see they rely on snow and forecasting without manipulation for their living.
    Good luck with that.
    Ted.

  35. anon

    Has anyone ever read a feminist paper that said: “And in conclusion our hypothesis was wrong, patriarchy does not cause …”

    Has anyone ever read a global warming post/article/paper that said: “And in conclusion our hypothesis was wrong, global warming does not cause …”

    Unverifiable, untestable theories are not science.

    Corollary: It’s most likely that any science that is known to predict everything is not a science.”

    And political hack journalists are neither scientists nor science journalists, just fraudsters.

    Chris, I know your shtick and money is that you are a science journalist, but please, it’s hard for us to know if you’re an idiot or doing this on purpose:

    http://blogs.forbes.com/jamestaylor/2011/03/02/global-warming-alarmists-flip-flop-on-snowfall/

    ““I would say that we always learn,” replied Serreze. “Have we learned a great deal since the IPCC 2001 report? I would say yes, we have. Climate science, like any other field, is a constantly evolving field and we are always learning.””

    Christopher, do you see how much better Serreze’s response is than yours?

    Serreze does not require an audience of idiots, Serreze shows a reasonable amount of respect for his audience.

    As a scientalist communicator, you should consider that.

  36. Sean McCorkle

    Ted@34

    Attributing recent extreme snowfalls to La Niña does not mean global warming is not playing a role. Not by any means. What causes La Niña? What causes it to intensify? Is it a purely “natural” phenomenon, unaffected by atmospheric CO2 buildup? Take a look at wikipedia’s ENSO and global warming:

    The studies of historical data show that the recent El Niño variation is most likely linked to global warming. For example, one of the most recent results is that even after subtracting the positive influence of decadal variation, shown to be possibly present in the ENSO trend, the amplitude of the ENSO variability in the observed data still increases, by as much as 60% in the last 50 years.

    good luck with that.

  37. Dunc

    Well Dunc, you may have some examples of warmists predicting more snow or heavy snow from AGW, but you also have plenty of examples of warmists predicting less snow or almost no snow. You can’t call it both ways and then say “this is exactly what we predicted”. Your failure to admit the disparate predictions is ludicrous.

    Exactly which part of “less frequent, more intense” is it that you’re having difficulty understanding?

  38. TTT

    Also, how about the 1970s era global cooling and coming ice age predictions?

    And how about the Loch Ness Monster?

    “1970s global cooling predictions” are a hoax made up by denialists. The scientific community never warned that humanity was either causing, or in any danger from, global cooling or an impending ice age.

  39. DirkH

    The idea that Climate Change, née Global Warming, makes colder events more cold and warmer events more warm, violates the laws of thermodynamics.
    When you fight thermodynamics, thermodynamics win.

  40. anon

    The global scientific consensus as issued by the IPCC in 2001 is that global warming causes less snow. These scientists are filthy Holocaust deniers who need to respect the settled science. And no, there is no “evolution” of climate science, the science is settled, the debate is over.

  41. Tertius

    Mr. Mooney, you must have the patience of a saint.

    Either that, or a large stock pile of good liquor.

    Which is what I’m going to have to turn to, after reading these comments…

  42. pyeatte

    No matter what the weather may be for a season or seasons, the AGW crowd will rationalize it to “prove” its wild theory. These are the same people who would go back in time and modify the record to fit their “current” ideas if they could get away with it. Essentially the AGW crowd are society control freaks who will use any tool (AGW) available at the time to push their agenda. Honesty is not a useful characteristic when social control is the goal.

  43. Sorbet

    To all deniers here: Climate scientists had predicted the increased snowfall, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this; higher temperatures because of global warming will clearly translate to increased precipitation and therefore increased snow and rain.

    It’s amusing how Chris’s blog has become a venue for deniers to hang out, vent their frustration and trot out the same old fallacies and objections.

  44. Nullius in Verba

    #43,

    “To all deniers here: Climate scientists had predicted the increased snowfall,…”

    No, they didn’t. They predicted increased precipitation in the form of rain, but decreased heavy snowfalls.

    “Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms but could cause an increase in freezing rain if average daily temperatures fluctuate about the freezing point.” IPCC Third Assessment Report WG1 15.2.4.1.2.4.

    Snow requires a combination of precipitation with cold temperatures. The issue is the cold temperatures. The AGW-faithful have of course leapt on the precipitation.

    But that’s a minor point compared to the main issue, (and the original source of all the jokes,) which is that this is a clear issue of weather versus climate. The predictions are for a small percentage change in long term averages over wide areas measured over decades. Individual events are not evidence of anything. Sceptics will point out that the linear trend in temperatures over the past 10 years has been flat, and we will be told quite firmly that 10 years is insufficient time to draw any conclusion. You have to look at the past 30-50 years. If 10 years is too short, then 1 year certainly is, and again, we were reminded of this once again when people everywhere told the joke about shovelling the global warming off all the footpaths. Weather is not climate!

    Unless it confirms global warming, of couse, in which case it is. You guys do it every time! You can’t seem to resist – every summer heat wave, every mild winter, every flood, every drought, every wildfire, every hurricane; you’ve always got to connect it somehow to global warming. I’ve even seen them try to connect obviously unrelated natural disasters, like earthquakes and volcanoes, to climate change.

    Every unusual weather event – hot, cold, windy, wet, or dry – confirms global warming. No conceivable weather event could ever disconfirm it. And even non-scientists can see there’s something not quite right about that, and join in the jokes.

    We thought that after the kicking they got with the last couple of cold winters, that the climate scientists had figured out their mistake and given up on the dramatic weather claims. (The sensible ones, like those at NOAA linked above, still have.) But evidently in their desperation to re-inject some life into the dying campaign a few misguided souls have decided to try a new tack, and claim that weather is climate after all. Perhaps they think that because we don’t have access to their taxpayer-provided supercomputers that we won’t be able to respond with all the cases of cold weather and how they’re more likely in a cooling world. They never learn.

  45. Cordilleran

    If climate scientists predicted increased snowfall for northern latitudes, why didn’t they say so in the last IPCC assessment report? The only place predicted to have increased snowfall is Antarctica. Here’s the assessment from page 770 of 4AR:

    “Snow cover is an integrated response to both temperature
    and precipitation and exhibits strong negative correlation
    with air temperature in most areas with a seasonal snow cover
    (see Section 8.6.3.3 for an evaluation of model-simulated ­
    present-day snow cover). Because of this temperature association,
    the simulations project widespread reductions in snow cover over
    the 21st century (Supplementary Material, Figure S10.1).”

    How’s that prediction looking so far this year?

  46. Sean McCorkle

    @46
    How’s that prediction looking so far this year?

    Well, since the statement you quote is a prediction for century 2001-2100, which we’re currently only a tenth of the way into, thats hard to say one way or the other, no? But if I can believe the second graph here (Northern Hemisphere snow-covered area anomalies), there’s been a slight downward trend of 0.7%/year/decade (7%/century) since 1980.

  47. Cordilleran

    @47.

    Re: Slight downward trend

    Does that trend look quite as downward after the last couple of winters? I note the graph you link to stops at 2006. In any case, the argument presented is that warmer winters give more snow (up to a point), but is this a warmer winter for the snowy parts of the northern hemisphere?

  48. Interstellar Bill

    The most amusing alarmist predictions are for their only true threat, rapid sea-level rise. Every year without the yearned-for ‘acceleration’ means that the ever-dwindling supply of years before 2100 will need ever-faster sea-level rises to make up for lost time. For example, if the acceleration is under way by 2020, only 9 years away, the rate has to increase to four times the current rate, or a 17% annual increase, for the following 80 years to produce a 1-meter rise. If that starts now, we should be able to spot the increase by 2013 at the latest, when the rate would have increased from 3 to 4mm/year, or 5mm/yr by late 2014.

    So, Senor SmogBlog, when do you think the vaunted acceleration will show up? Could you please refrain from proclaiming ‘global warming’ until that happens? Remember that the longer you put off the acceleration, the greater the supply of melting ice you have to come up with. Have you even checked on the maximum melt rate possible? Do you really think that today’s ice-supply can melt fast enough to produce melt rates comparable to when there was ten times as much ice in the world?

  49. Sean McCorkle

    @48

    Does that trend look quite as downward after the last couple of winters? I note the graph you link to stops at 2006

    Here’s a more up-to-date graph at Rutgers that runs 1966-2010. The running mean is the dark line which is a bit hard to see amongst the other colors. Interestingly, according to this, while the winters 2007-2010 were running above average, the fall and spring snows were low enough to drag the mean to below average in all but 2009. 2o07-2010 weren’t all that snowy, if you count spring & fall. So yeah, the last couple of years are not inconsistent with a downward trend, although a few years do not a century trend make.

    In any case, the argument presented is that warmer winters give more snow (up to a point), but is this a warmer winter for the snowy parts of the northern hemisphere?

    Good question, and I don’t know the answer. It would seem that temperatures over the bodies of water that give rise to the atmospheric moisture are the most important when it comes to precipitation totals. Scenarios in which large temperature fluctuations on smaller geographic scales, which average out to little or no change in hemispheric or large scales, which give rise to increased average precipitation don’t seem all that unreasonable. It could be cold in one part of the country, but the moisture comes from another part which is warmer than usual.

  50. What’s interesting is that climate scientists had actually predicted increased snowfall because of increased precipitation, so I am not sure what all the shouting and denying’s about. The snowfall does not prove global warming but is consistent with its predictions.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/4436934/Snow-is-consistent-with-global-warming-say-scientists.html
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-02-14/news/ct-oped-0214-page-20100212_1_global-warming-term-climate-change-snow

  51. Nullius in Verba

    #51,

    Well, the first link doesn’t mention any predictions of snowfall, it only says it is ‘consistent’ and that weather is not climate, which are both perfectly true. The second link does, but I think has misunderstood.

    I was amused that the author of the second link claims to be a guy whose scientific education pretty much ended with the old “Watch Mr. Wizard” TV show and a subscription to Popular Mechanics. That’s very good.

    What scientists predicted was increased precipitation and decreased snowfall, because they figured the precipitation would melt before it hit the ground. But I don’t think it’s so clear that they predicted it would show up already, as opposed to by 2050 or so. (I know some predicted the US would turn into a burning desert of death by 1996, but I presume we’re discounting them.)

    Everyone is clear, or ought to be, that heavy snow for one winter doesn’t mean global warming is wrong, because weather is not climate. The issue ( the ‘shouting and denying’) is over the continued attempts to wriggle out of that when it suits, by connecting weather to climate whenever it seems to support AGW.

    So long as climate scientists and science journalists keep trying it, sceptics will keep taking the free hits by making jokes about it. They ought to stick to the science, even when it doesn’t directly help belief in AGW, like the NOAA just did.

  52. Snow requires a combination of precipitation with cold temperatures. The issue is the cold temperatures. The AGW-faithful have of course leapt on the precipitation.

    Pretending that the phrase “global warming” implies that water will never freeze again is quite the strawman argument.

    The science actually says that the water capacity of the atmosphere increases rapidly as the atmosphere heats up. More water in the atmosphere results in increased precipitation globally. This is exactly what we’ve seen – a sharp increase in precipitation over the last several decades tracking the increase in temperatures. Whether that precipitation falls as rain or snow depends on the local ambient temperatures.

    If it falls in January in New York City, it’s probably going to fall as snow. If it falls in the summer it will be rain. If a lot falls in winter you get “Snowpocalypse”. If a lot falls in the summer you get record floods.

    This is what climatologists mean when they tell you that climate is not weather. You can’t claim that you live in a rainforest just because it’s wet outside and you can’t insist that you live in the Arctic just because you see a few flakes of snow.

    What scientists predicted was increased precipitation and decreased snowfall, because they figured the precipitation would melt before it hit the ground.

    citation please.

    I know some predicted the US would turn into a burning desert of death by 1996, but I presume we’re discounting them.

    citation please.

  53. Obama didn’t even mention the climate change crisis in his State of the Union Address and without political support, the CO2 theory is dead. And we might want to consider too that the IPCC funding has been pulled by the Republican voted majority as carbon markets collapsed and world governments walked away from the scientific warnings of unstoppable warming. So why are these scientists not marching in the streets about this crisis and why are they not at least acting like this is as planetary emergency? Shouldn’t they be on CNN and Oprha? Why is the world not treating this CO2 climate crisis like the emergency the UN says it is? Because It was wrong. Move on.
    I’ve never felt comfortable telling our children that CO2 is going to cause out of control warming for them or their children so should we reconsider this whole issue of CO2 causing pollution still? What ever climate change “was”, its over now. If you think the now former believer majority voters will not vote yes to taxing the air to save the planet, YOU are the new denier. Continued support is dividing environmental efforts and not helping anyone. It’s a lost cause now. Get ahead of the curve and fight pollution and fight this Disco science that’s wasting more and more valuable recourses at the cost of social reforms. How about: Population Control? Is the climate change movement sustainable for another 25 years? Of course not. And besides, wouldn’t real planet lovers be happy a crisis was averted? The worst crisis ever for mankind and the planet was not real, be happy, not disappointed, Why did we so flippantly condemn our kids to a death by CO2 like fear mongering neocons based solely on lab coat consultants we bowed to like sheep? We have to move on.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »