Global Warming and the Big Snow

by Ellen

Maryland Snow -- Photo Credit: Bryan Doyle

The incredible amount of snow covering the mid-Atlantic states is big news — in more ways than one.  The record snowfall is fodder for some anti-global-warming voices to use as “evidence” that global warming can’t be a problem.  If the earth is getting warmer, why are we getting hammered by extreme winter weather?

Weather is different from Climate Change

As NASA puts it,

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.¹

Both sides of the aisle are using the recent snowy weather to prove their stances on global warming.  Non-believers are grabbing photo ops — see Fox News place Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, in a snowbank.  Those worried about global effects of climate change claim that extreme weather proves the world is out of whack.  I side with the believers.

The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report entitled, Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States.  They explain the weather this way:

Global warming is having a seemingly peculiar effect on winter weather in the northern United States.  Winter is becoming milder and shorter on average; spring arrives 10 to 14 days earlier than it did just 20 years ago.  But most snowbelt areas are still experiencing extremely heavy snowstorms.  Some places are even expected to have more heavy snowfall events as storm tracks shift northward and as reduced ice cover on the Great Lakes increases lake-effect snowfalls. Even as global warming slowly changes the character of winter, we still experience significant year-to-year variability in snowfall and temperature because many different factors are at play.² (my emphasis added)

If you read my post back in the fall (What’s the Confusion about Climate Change), then you know the numbers of Americans believing in global warming were already falling.  A new survey confirms this alarming trend. According to the Washington Post:

On Wednesday, Yale and George Mason universities released a survey showing that just 57 percent of people said global warming “is happening.” That was down 14 percentage points, from 71 percent, in October 2008. Fifty percent of people said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming, down 13 points from 2008.³ (You can find the survey here.)

Maryland Deer in Snow -- Photo Credit: Marian Schubauer

What comes after Copenhagen?

Whether you’re digging out or watching the snowflakes on your television, there is still more work to be done.  I’ve signed petitions, changed light bulbs, taken fewer car trips, and voted for politicians who favor cutting back on greenhouse gases.  I still sometimes feel helpless.  Now that the Climate Change Conference is over, what can we do?

Don’t despair.  There are still ways for us to tread more lightly as individuals while we make it clear to others that slowing global warming is a priority:

  • Help formulate a new plan for 2010.  They’re the group that collected over 15 million signatures asking for a clear treaty to come from the Climate Conference.  Take a short survey by February 14th to tell them what YOU want to see happen next.
  • Join Al Gore’s Repower America.  Let’s find cleaner sources of energy for all of us.  You can find me here on the wall.
  • Change those light bulbs, bring your own bag to the market and walk there when you can, but we must also think BIG:  It really does help to buy local dairy, meats and produce when possible.
  • Green Up your home’s electricity if you have that choice.  Yes, it costs a little bit more, but it sends a clear message that we want renewable sources of energy.  Ask you local electricity provider what renewable options are available.
  • Host a talk for The Climate Project in your community.

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1)  What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate?, NASA. 2/1/05.

2) Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States: National Wildlife Federation, 2010.

3) Harsh Winter a Sign of Disruptive Climate Change, Report Says, by Juliet Eilperin and David A. Fahrenthold. Washington Post, 1/28/10.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Jim February 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Thank you BodyEarth for helping me with the distinction between weather and climate. As a historian, the distinction is similar to the one made by Ferdinand Braudel in his study of the Mediterranean: that between events (those things that we are fully aware of) and long time (those changes that are so gradual that we may not be aware of them, but they’re happening)!

Elizabeth February 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Interesting blog piece…however….
I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing a Global Warming. I do believe there is legitimate, evidence based, earth balancing climate change. That is what the research indicates, and what thousands of scientists back. The world is starting to ease back into a cooling pattern, and since global warming no longer can be defended with that pattern, climate change has become the new politically correct term. However, history shows the earth to be in a cyclical fluctuation of its warming and cooling patterns. For me, this is logical. When I was a child, we were warned about a coming ice-age. My kids are hearing about global warming…and so it comes and goes around. As far as carbon footprints go….the earth survives because of carbon…and mother nature creates far more than humans can ever emit! However, we do have a responsibility to be wise stewards of the ourselves and the earth! A great article with the historical perspective regarding Global Warming/Climate Change!

BodyEarth February 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to comment, Elizabeth!
I believe the science does show that the earth is warming consistently and in correlation with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, regardless of which scientists people choose to believe, can we afford the risk of inaction in case we humans do influence warming?
If you have a chance, please check out the decision grid that Greg Craven presents near the end my blog post, “What’s the Confusion About Climate Change?”

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