Snowstorms don’t mean climate change threat has passed: expert

British Columbia’s holiday snowstorms drove everybody crazy. But, apparently, no one more so than climate scientists.

“Every time there is a freaking snowfall, it seems like everybody is going, ”˜What’s going on?’” Andrew Weaver told the Straight. “It’s frustrating as a climate scientist.”

Weaver, a climate-modelling expert at the University of Victoria and a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explained that whenever a cold streak hits, some people question accepted theories of climate change and grow skeptical about global warming. But a few days of snow does not mean that the Earth is not getting warmer.

“People mix up weather and climate,” Weaver said in a telephone interview from Victoria. He described weather as what is here and now, like the sun shining or rain falling. Climate, on the other hand, is more long-term.

Weaver explained climate change as a “shift in the distribution of the likelihood of the occurrence of weather events towards the warm”. He continued, “What that means is it doesn’t mean that it will never be cold; it means that the likelihood of it being cold diminishes with time, and the likelihood of it being extremely warm increases with time.”

A probable reason for 2008’s cold snap is La Nina, according to Weaver. He explained that El Nino is a warm phase of atmospheric interaction and La Nina is the opposite—a cold phase.

“So there is overall warming, but it is not happening in a straight line; it oscillates as we go up,” Weaver said.

Because weather patterns in 2008 were partly shaped by a relatively strong La Nina, it was often cooler than the last few years.

Perhaps it is surprising then that early data indicates that 2008 is on track to be one of the 10 warmest years on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Furthermore, a December 16, 2008, NOAA media release states that the global land surface temperature for 2008 was the fifth warmest on record, 0.80 degrees Celsius above the 20th century mean of 9.0 degrees Celsius.

Weaver complained that too often, people’s definition of normal is only based on what happened the previous summer. “It hasn’t been a cold year,” he said, “It’s just that it has [been cold] relative to last year. 2007 was the warmest year on record for land temperatures alone. So it’s a little colder this year.”

Weaver, author of Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World (Viking Canada, $34), noted that for decades, climate scientists have consistently said that with climate change, many parts of the world should expect an increase in overall precipitation. “So the fact that we’re getting snowfall records is entirely consistent with what we’ve been saying,” he said.

Climate change due to human activity is largely caused by the release of CO2 emissions, which trap the sun’s energy within the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report states that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 379 parts per million in 2005, greatly exceeding the natural range for the last 650,000 years.


You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
NHChemist
NOAA came out with it's 2008 climate summary and stated that 2008 was "near average", not one of the 10 warmest years. See http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090108_decemberstats.html. This article is another example of the media's futile attempt to convince us that we are about to die unless we accept onerous taxes and regulation to stem Global Warming.

Wake up and smell the flowers. In the US 1934 was the warmest year on record, not 1998. During the Midieval Warm Period, the earth was warmer than it is now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political, not a scientific panel. Many scientists formally associated with it have renounced its conclusions.

Don't swallow the coolaid, research climate change and global warming and make up your own minds.
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Travis Lupick
The above comment misrepresents the facts. Follow the link in the comment and you will find that NOAA states that 2008 temperature in the U.S. were near average. The link does not say that 2008 temperatures were near average, as the user suggests it does.

The text in my story states that, according to NOAA, global land surface temperatures for 2008 were the fifth warmest on record. The link in the story supports that statement.

Climate change does not recognize the borders of nation states. Temperature readings for individual countries are not especially useful in tracking climate change.
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Guessing the weather
But, understanding just what the threat might be takes a different turn, if you look at: www.iceagenow.com .

There, author Felix Robert offers some startling ideas about ocean warming helping to usher in an ice age, cyclical events that seem to occur every 11,500 years or so ( one is due apparently ). The author also indicates that earth magnetic reversals play an important role in things, as well.

Check out this link from the Huffington Post ( on topic ):
http://www.iceagenow.com/Huffington_Post_demands_Gore_apology.htm
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Tom Harris
Did Dr. Weaver actually say the following? It is really nonsense:

"Weaver explained climate change as a “shift in the distribution of the likelihood of the occurrence of weather events towards the warm”. He continued, “What that means is it doesn’t mean that it will never be cold; it means that the likelihood of it being cold diminishes with time, and the likelihood of it being extremely warm increases with time.”

Climate change really just means a change of climate and that can mean cooling as well, something that, in the not too distant future is far more likely than warming since we are near the end of the current interglacial warm period.

I think Dr. Weaver must have been misquoted.

Tom Harris
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
P.O. Box 23013
Ottawa, Ontario
K2A 4E2
Canada

http://www.climatescienceinternational.org
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Travis Lupick
In response to the above comment, I'll present the following information from sourcewatch.org:

"It has been found that the web sites of the International Climate Science Coalition, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, and the Australian Climate Science Coalition are all hosted at the same IP address, by a single Internet service provider in Arizona.

The ICSC site highlights news on climate skeptics from all over the world. It also propagates skeptics' conspiracy theories on climate change."
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prsteffens
The earth has been through a known 13 ice ages and 13 subsequent global warmings. Nearly all of Al Gore's facts have been disputed by reputable scientists especially the rise in ocean levels. The latest predictions from reputable scientific bodies in France and New Zealand forecast an average of 0.7mm per year for the next 50 years. That will total of 1.3 inches. That is very worrysome as we live in a location on the BC coast where there are salt water beaches and clamshells that are now 300 feet above the existing high tide elevation from past high ocean levels. At the present rate of ocean rising, it will be 2769 years before we see the same ocean levels as was seen at the height of the last global warming.
The earth has many natural long term cycles it goes through, and we do not know what causes them all. We must all reduce our carbon emissions, recyclye all we can, and minimize our impact on the environment. You must be aware that this will not stop global warming. It will come and there is nothing you can do about it.
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Guessing the weather
Travis: What, though, is the climate change threat ?

See an interesting article at this link:

http://www.longrangeweather.com/climate_change.htm

Check out the video, as well ( filmed in March 2007 ) noted as follows;

"Possible New Ice Age?

See Robert Felix's 28-minute seminar on the possibility of an upcoming new Ice Age. Program was taped at the March 2007 Harris-Mann Seminar.

Click here to view segment"

Now, that's fascinating.

The snowstorms, they just might mean the real climate change threat is actually unfolding - an ice age in the making. One fueled by global ocean warming ( underwater volcanic activity fueling that ), throwing more moisture into the air; if the temperatures are cold enough, that moisture will be snow, rather than rain.

And the cycles apparently happen like clockwork, no matter the level of human activity, whatever that might be.

Hmmm ... the title of your article takes on new meaning.

The question is, just what is the real threat, assuming there is one ?

see www.IceAgeNow.com for some further interesting materials.

"Not By Fire But By Ice" ... hmmm ... I've skimmed the book ... now I need to read it through.

Yikes !

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Ann
It is unfortunate that "global warming" became embedded in people's brains before scientists started to commonly use "climate change" because this has led to quite a few misconceptions. Just because the AVERAGE overall temperature of the planet has warmed doesn't mean that everywhere is going to warm at the same rate. Right from the outset, scientists have warned that the results of "global warming" would be "UNPREDICTABLE climate change". They warned of rapid changes in weather patterns, in extremes of heat and cold, undependable rainfall in places that could once depend on a certain average, and an INCREASED number of floods, wildfires, forest and agricultural pests and diseases, human diseases, droughts, and food shortages.

Are we not seeing this? About 100 years ago, there used to be around five natural disasters around the world every year. About 20 years ago, there were about 200. Now there are so many occurring simultaneously in different parts of the world, it's hard to keep count.

Warming is not a good way to measure what is happening because it is confusingly contradictory. For example, the coldest places on Earth, the Polar regions, are warming faster than the hottest places around the Equator. Take your minds off local "temperature" and look at the devastating consequences of shifts in weather patterns because of the warming trend. Check out the conveyor belt current that starts in the North Atlantic and drives ocean currents around the world. It is driven by a combination of the warm Gulf Stream and the Polar cold. The Gulf Stream is slowing because the Arctic Current is warming. This is changing temperatures, rainfall patterns, etc., along the west coast of Europe down to the bottom of Spain where decreased rainfall has required them to move entire vineyards north. As NHChemist says, educate yourself! Neither industry nor government will tell you the truth. Neither will the scientists they pay to cook up doubt and confusion.
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Tom Harris
I think it is worth posting Travis Lupick's response to my question about whether or not Dr. Weaver really said the ridiculous quote he is attributed with:

Travis Lupick: "In response to the above comment, I'll present the following information from sourcewatch.org: "It has been found that the web sites of the International Climate Science Coalition, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, and the Australian Climate Science Coalition are all hosted at the same IP address, by a single Internet service provider in Arizona. The ICSC site highlights news on climate skeptics from all over the world. It also propagates skeptics' conspiracy theories on climate change." Submitted by Travis Lupick on Fri, 2009-01-09 20:29.

Lupick's post is a very good demonstration of the anti-intellectual response of many of those who simply want to silence their opponents instead of respond to them - smear them with nonsense (which the claim about an Arizona connection is, although why would it matter - I found Arizonians a nice bunch when I was in Tuscon lin 2007). The accusation about conspiracy theory is also a typical charge that has no foundation. Thanks for the illustration, Travis.

Now, can anyone answer my question - did Dr. Weaver really say what he is quoted as saying? I find it hard to believe.

Tom Harris
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
P.O. Box 23013
Ottawa, Ontario
K2A 4E2
Canada

http://www.climatescienceinternational.org
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Travis Lupick
The quote is accurate. All it means is that as time goes on, climate change will make warm weather events increasingly likely to occur.

More on weather versus climate, from Dr. Andrew Weaver's Keeping Our Cool (page 6-7):

"Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. For example, as I write this in Victoria, it is partially cloudy, the temperature is 16C, and the winds are about 5 km/h from the north. Climate, on the other hand, would give the likelihood of occurrence of a particular weather event. Another way of looking at climate is that it is the statistics of weather. Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.

"When scientists make projections of future changes in climate, they are not making long-range weather predictions. Instead, they are making predictions of the change in the statistics of weather. In climate prediction, we examine how the shape of the distribution of a particular aspect of weather, such as temperature or precipitation, changes in the future. We might make predictions of the change in mean temperature or the change in the likelihood of occurrence of a particular event."
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