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Environment

Don't mention the weather.

No doubt everyone reading this blog knows about the fun that conservatives have been having with the recent snowstorm and its implications for the climate change debate--note, for instance, the igloo constructed by Senator James Inhofe's family as a future home for Al Gore.  This is probably inevitable, given the sheer amount of snow that has fallen in recent months, and in such unusual places as Dallas and Baghdad.  But it's also unwise. Climate change alarmists are right in distinguishing between "weather" and "climate."  Moreover, turnabout is fair play; skeptics may be having their day now, but what happens if we get a few days of hot weather this summer?

If we want to have an intelligent conversation over global warming, we need to ask what it would take to falsify it; after all, what cannot be falsified cannot be properly termed science.  And while one can make a strong case that an increase in global temperatures can make snowstorms more likely, what are we to make of interpretations to the contrary?  Last year environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. complained that, thanks to global warming, "Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don't own a sled."  A study done at Columbia in 2005 noted a marked reduction in snowfall over North America over the past 150 years.  The National Resources Defense Council points out that "[s]ince the early 1950s, snow accumulation has declined 60 percent and winter seasons have shortened in some areas of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington."  And while Great Britain is in the midst of the coldest winter in thirty years, the Daily Telegraph helpfully suggests that "the surprise with which we have greeted the extreme conditions only reinforces how our climate has changed over the years"; after all, during the 19th century "extreme weather" used to occur "every five years or so."

In other words, global warming produces more snowfall and snowstorms, except when it produces fewer of them.  Of course, the climate change establishment will respond that climate is highly complex, and not subject to such simplistic analyses.  I'm certain that it is, which is why I'm not building an igloo in my front yard.  But the American economy is complex, too, and I sure don't want to see it thrown into further confusion, and a deeper recession, on the basis of claims that are not apparently falsifiable--and not, therefore, science.

Categories > Environment

Discussions - 15 Comments

What is the scientific difference between climate and weather? Is it the difference between species and individual? Or is the difference one of degree?

If the former, how helpful is it to infer the essence of the species from the aggregate of individuals? Is it like saying the human species is characterized by the fact it is composed of humans?

If the latter, then how long does the weather have to be in order to be climate? Two days? A year? 10 years? 50? Who decides? When will I be old enough to witness the change from weather to climate?

A climate has weather, or rather, a climate has general weather conditions. The climate in my area of northeast Ohio has a fairly broad range of temperatures, but I have never experienced anything over 110 degrees or under about -10 degrees. In my climate, just south of Lake Erie, we tend to get a lot of snow until the lake freezes over. We get so much snow that when my son, living in Bethesda, MD, was asked about the historic snowfall in that area yesterday, he said, "Back home when I was growing up we would call a day like today Wednesday." We have an average annual snowfall of 106 inches. That is just sort of a symptom of our climate. We are below average so far this year, but last year we had 123 inches, somewhat above average. We have had above average snowfall every winter since 2002.

http://www.chardon.cc/textdocuments/snow.htm

You can witness daily changes in the weather. Changes in climate in a geographic region -- don't bet on much change. Even true believers in global warming find a degree's change in a regional average over a decade to be pretty radical over a couple of decades.

Sorry about that last sentence.

I think there's evidence throughout this blog (I'm especially thinking of posts by Hayward and Paulette) of some fundamental misunderstandings about how climate change / global warming is theorized, and what phenomena support or falsify it [Here come the cries of "condescension!!!"] This is a great place to start to get a better conceptualization of global warming, one that looks to the larger scope, beyond a few snowy winters in Chardon or one big snow in the mid-Atlantic:

"It's So Cold, There Can't Be Global Warming"
http://www.wikio.co.uk/video/2590926

As for snow, consider this timeline graphic of snow cover for the Northern Hemisphere:

http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/indicators/snow-cover-extent.gif

There you go, again.

I was just making an example of a climate using the one I live in to explain the difference between the words weather and climate. If I am making a point within that descriptive definition it is that all climate is local. There is no world climate, really, except in the general way of saying we have weather conditions that range from the arctic to the tropical.

Your snowfall chart only goes back to 1960. There is no indication of where the measurements are taken. I don't know what you expect anyone to do with it. You remind of my daughter who came to me with a pimple on her nose that other day and said, "There, I have acne. You must take me to a dermatologist."

Isn't one of the problems with the grand and generalized global warming "science" that its theories are extrapolated from a variety of local data and finding a true world-wide, a-historic trend has been very difficult without fudging that data a bit. Your video is cute, but what I take away from it is that to get caught up in the science of "now" is to ignore that the data used is limited, in terms of history and scope.

Yes, that's right Kate, I provide a chart showing how snow cover has declined over the last 40 years in the Northern Hemisphere, and that's equivalent to your daughter who diagnoses herself with acne after finding a single pimple, yet your stat about Chardon having above average snowfall since 2002 is meaningful how, exactly?? [Who's caught up in the science of "now" - and "out my window"?]

John said "In other words, global warming produces more snowfall and snowstorms, except when it produces fewer of them."

Well, that's a misrepresentation, at best. Read your first link to see where you're off:

"It's not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow. The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events--the ones most likely to cause flash flooding--will also increase."

So, some places, at some times, will get huge snowstorms - those snowstorms will just be accompanied by temperatures a bit higher, but still (obviously) below freezing. There will still be winters, so it will still get below freezing.

Another thing to consider is length of seasons, and the dates for first and last snow of the season. Ask someone from Alaska (who isn't Sarah Palin and/or under a gag order from BP to discuss it) and you'll hear lots of interesting stories about that, as well as species creep (northward, in our hemisphere) brought on by the seasonal shifts.

"skeptics may be having their day now, but what happens if we get a few days of hot weather this summer"

- Remember though, global warming entails the entire globe, so we can talk about summer right now:

http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/14/three-record-heatwaves-seaust/

Note, as well, that the issue in Australia is temperature - thus, use of the term, warming - not precipitation (as in the Fox & NLT razzing over snowfall)...

I told you, I was trying to explain the distinction between climate and the weather.

Next point, maybe, hard to say, I don't find you clear on this; it's nice to know "they" are willing to adjust the theory to suit circumstances.

But then, are you saying that they are not having snow down south because of cold, but just because of precipitation? http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9DQP5NG0&show_article=1 Those folks have been having cold temperatures all winter, although apparently not temperatures nor snow outside of the range of their climate since since there has been snowfall in those areas before, though not in a long time. The point about snowfall which you seem not to remember is that you can't have snow without cold temperatures.

Aren't you being a bit contradictory, saying record cold is meaningless while claiming heat waves in Australia (Didn't British colonists complain of the fantastic summer heat down there?) mean something. That's what I mean about pointing to any given locale and extrapolating anything global from it. You say, "Oh, we mustn't do that" but then you do it.

Which brings me to a final ho-hum and a refusal to argue statistics with you when we probably about two hundred years of statistics about the weather before we can know anything certain about it. I recall that you claim to know such things from sediment and tree rings, but I am not buying it.

No, I wasn't contradicting myself, and here's why...

- My claim wasn't that they're "not having snow down south because of cold, but just because of precipitation." but that big snowstorms can occur within a range of temperatures, if the average snowstorm in the midwest has typically been accompanied by temperatures between 20-25 degrees, it can still get snowstorms in the 25-30 degree range. And global warming theory is completely consistent with wild weather extremes and anomalies, such as snow (and the occasionally atypical cold temp) in Florida. It's the overall, GLOBAL averages that matter. A few days with snow now can happen, and so can several weeks of sweltering, record heat and months (or years) of drought (the precipitation will flare up elsewhere).

- What I noted about Australia was only to demonstrate that John (like you) wasn't taking into consideration the global picture (I know, arrrrghhh, the United Nations, international law, non-American people, etc.). IF anyone wanted to play the game played by Fox (and NLT) and Friends game of Prove/Disprove Global Warming by citing some record heat in one region (and I DON'T wish to play it), that COULD be done right now, as Australia's had several recent bouts with record summer heat - none of which were noted here at NLT. I was strictly noting that global warming involves the globe, so, we needn't wait for the eastern US to experience a record hot summer, as that's already occurring elsewhere. BTW, Australia also experienced a record warm WINTER last year (see the relevant chart):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8235111.stm

I'm highly doubting that 2010 will prove to be the coldest on record in the northern hemisphere, but '09 was the hottest that the entire southern hemisphere has experienced since modern records began in 1880:

http://climate.nasa.gov/news/index.cfm?NewsID=249

...not to mention that the last decade (2000-2009) was the warmest on record - for the entire planet.

"The point about snowfall which you seem not to remember is that you can't have snow without cold temperatures."

Right, as demonstrated by my saying "those snowstorms will just be accompanied by temperatures a bit higher [than any snowstorms of the past], but still (obviously) below freezing."

Yes, some southern states saw some unusual snowfall in early February, but let's see how long it stays on the ground, and let's see what temperatures are like in those states come March. I would be very suprised if anyone's still shivering in Florida then.

Your recollection about my claims (sediment, tree rings) is also incorrect.

Finally, you also said "...we probably [need/require??] about two hundred years of statistics about the weather before we can know anything certain about it"

Well, that's certainly a good, noble, conservative approach to the situation, one that your grandchildren will admire, I'm sure. "Grandma was always saying that The Founders wouldn't believe in global warming, and that it wasn't mentioned in the Constitution."

I just wanted to talk about the difference between the words weather and climate with John.

As far as we know from historical evidence, the earth has warmed and cooled over time. However, we have not been observing that phenomena for very long with the type of measurements we use today, because we haven't had such instruments for such measurements for very long. If science is about observation, then observing the temperature and weather conditions of the whole world over time is a major task and to really understand that, i.e., the global climate, is going to take time and careful observation. "...we (need, require, gee whiz just have got to have, cannot make serious intelligent scientific observation of this huge aggregate of climates with constantly changing weather conditions without) about two hundred years of statistics about the weather before we can know anything certain about it." and certainly before we can do anything about it, assuming there is anything to be done at all.

I was merely being sarcastic (joking) about your tree rings and sediments. Not quite as you are joking about what I will tell my grandchildren. I must have made you feel sensitive about this subject. I have noticed in observing your responses over the years that your comments get longer, say less and have more personal attacks or attacks of the whole blog (as if all agreed) in some seasons than in others. How do you account for this?

No, Kate, I really do think that there's a good chance your grandkids will admire you for your resistance to the global warming hoax.

"I have noticed in observing your responses over the years that your comments get longer, say less and have more personal attacks or attacks of the whole blog (as if all agreed) in some seasons than in others. How do you account for this?"

Well, firstly, I can't account for something I disagree with. I don't accept your premise. Plus, don't forget it's only been a few years. We'd really have to observe my comments for a couple hundred years - at least! - before drawing any conclusions, or taking any precautionary measures.

And yes Kate there's mostly agreement on this blog. Which is fine, unless someone stubbornly resists acknowledging that fact. There's a reason it's called No Left Turns. I wouldn't be surprised if you became a blogger on here someday. But nobody to the left will ever be, no matter how polite.

"I have noticed in observing your responses over the years that your comments get longer, say less and have more personal attacks or attacks of the whole blog (as if all agreed) in some seasons than in others. How do you account for this?"

It's not complicated, Kate. As the chances of Craig's political agenda ever being carried out in his lifetime tend further and further toward zero, he feels increasingly marginalized and frustrated, and needs to lash out. And since he's a local (probably an AU professor) NLT and the Ashbrook Center are the most convenient targets for his rage. Furthermore, as long as people like you, Kate, keep trying to engage him in rational discourse, he will continue to do so.

Yes, O.S., I know. PWS has even dropped comments to the effect that we all ought to ignore Craig. Others have mentioned by email that Craig is a troll of the Looney Left, obdurately stupid and other rude things they have civilly kept off the blog's comments section. I keep thinking that I (we) must not be being reasonable and rational enough in our discourse to persuade him. Aside from that, as I was raised, ignoring anyone who speaks to us is rude. Of course, I was raised well before the Internet changed the nature of "speaking".

Surely, in politics at large, we will have to be persuasive on the issues at hand to have our ideas gain reasonable ground on the field of democratic republican play. Persuasion is the essence of our political games and conservatives have to be persuasive. Maybe we are not. Do you look at America and see your political agenda likely to be carried out? I don't think mine is. Pete and I are discussing something like that in another thread. I began writing on here to try to learn to argue. I am still not very good, yet. If I were any good, I would have persuaded Craig Scanlon of all sorts of sensible things long ago. Not eons or even decades ago, but how about last year or even right now?

Craig,yes, there is a reason that this blog is called No Left Turns. If they put a Leftist on the the front page of NLT, he would get an even more negative response than Thomas Frank does on the WSJ opinion page.

After Kate shed some crocodile tears for my tame remarks about how her grandchildren will admire her stand against the climate change scientists, she casually mentions, "Others have mentioned by email that Craig is a troll of the Looney Left, obdurately stupid and other rude things they have civilly kept off the blog's comments section"

...or maybe they were just counting on you passing them along later in the comments, and mission accomplished? Oh well.

Remember though, Kate, as you've admitted before, "nasty in politics is not really a problem for [you]."

http://nlt.ashbrook.org/2009/03/new-uc-berkeley-center-may-investigate-ashbrook.php#comment-59664

Only a "Looney Left"ist can be "obdurately stupid" - the right is entirely sane, leve-headed, reasonable, civil and, of course, open to persuasion via civilized debate and discourse, right? I'm reminded of the recent post here at NLT about "Why Are Liberals So Condescending?" - which as a longtime reader of this blog really just stunned me.

Why do you suppose Frank gets a negative response? Do WSJ readers count on that paper to only give them opinions right-of-center?

Kate, getting back to the climate, if you wish to "balance" your knowledge on the climate change issue, perhaps you could read something like this, produced by climate scientists, every time you read something from Hayward, Powerline or the WSJ.
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/indicators/

Yep, I am brutal. I am also done arguing with you.

Oleaginous - Why would you say that the "chances of Craig's political agenda ever being carried out in his lifetime tend further and further toward zero" if, as is constantly the cry from the right, Obama is a radical leftist who rules with an iron fist and never reaches across the aisle? If that were truly the case, I'm sure I'd be getting at least a few things that I'm in favor of, policy-wise, whereas I've actually been rather displeased by Obama (Repealing the DADT policy would be fine, but I honestly don't rank it as a high-priority issue - far from it, really).

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