As I write this, several inches of snow are predicted later today and this evening for the northeastern U.S., and the predictable flood of lame-ass jokes about Al Gore, stupid scientists, and global warming alarmists is clogging Twitter. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) set the gold standard for this genre of know-nothing humor, encouraging his grandchildren to build an igloo in Washington, D.C., in February 2010 during a record snowfall there and dubbing it "Al Gore's new home." Photo op! (the media equivalent of "Squirrel!")
To quote a favorite movie line from Michael Caine, pardon me while I fall down laughing.
So, what's the real story, as opposed to the line being pushed by the
fossil fuel industries and their dupes? Does a cold snap, and an early
snowfall, really mean we can ignore climate science? Um .... no.
Skeptical Science covers both phenomena, cold days and heavy snow,
in its usual informative style. For cold days, it points out that in
recent decades, the ratio of new record high temperatures to record low
temperatures in the U.S. has risen dramatically. For more detail on
this issue, see this post from Climate Progress on record highs and record lows.
But, here's the key point to remember: while the underlying model from the National
Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) suggests that the ratio of
record highs to record lows could climb from 2-to-1 during the 2000s to
50-to-1 by 2100, even in 2100, there would still be occasional record cold days somewhere in the U.S. What would those record cold days say about global warming? Not a damn thing.
While we are on the subject, a couple of additional things to note,
which make it clear that the trend toward higher temperatures continues
1) The ratio of record
highs to lows (for the date) spiked in the U.S. during the summer of
2011. For August, in particular, it reached the alarming level of
2) According to the National
Climatic Data Center, August 2011 was also the "318th consecutive
month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was
As for heavy snow, it's actually an expectable and predicted outcome of
global warming. Why? To quote Skeptical Science, "Global temperatures
in the last few months of record snowfall are some
of the hottest on record. Warming causes more moisture in the air which
leads to more extreme precipitation events. This includes more heavy
snowstorms in regions where snowfall conditions are favourable. Far from
contradicting global warming, record snowfall is predicted by climate
models and consistent with our expectation of more extreme precipitation
events." (emphasis mine)