Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow and Climate Change

Brrr... It's cold out side and look at all the snow! Where's the Global Warming?

These last couple of weeks have been a boon for the Global Warming Denialists. I've seen so many people claiming that all the snow that has fallen on us the last few weeks are proof that Global Warming is some kind of lie.

Snow means cold, right? And if it is cold that must mean that there is no Global Warming. That's pretty much the whole argument summed up right there. Really, do these people expect an eternal summer? The axis of the Earth isn't dramatically shifting. My biggest ripe about the whole mentality is that there is very little thought put into the whole Global Warming thing.

First, just because you have snow on your doorstep doesn't mean the whole world is covered in snow. You can't extrapolate the world's temperature based on the temperature at your house.

Second, that brings us to the next point. There are not only two temperatures, snow and not snow. Global Warming talks about the rise of temperature, the amount of precipitation is a complex side effect of the temperature and a variety of other factors. One of the driest places on Earth is in Antarctica, meaning it gets very little precipitation. So since it snows less there, does that mean it is warmer?

Third, the weather is not the climate. Temperature is very noisy and confusing the noise for a signal is a novice mistake. Factors like El Nino make using the weather to predict the climate completely unreliable. We can't point to a weather event, say Katrina, and say this is proof of Global Waring, just as someone can't point to the pile of snow and say that it is proof against Global Warming.

Finally, I believe that Al Gore did somewhat of a disservice to Climate Science. Anytime Global Warming comes up it is now about Al Gore using his private jet to fly around the globe. The science in An Inconvenient Truth may have been sound, but he has effectively turned off the minds of a good percentage of the population who believe that this is some kind of liberal conspiracy.

NPR has a nice article up on why you have to think about things a bit deeper before making broad generalizations.

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