01 Mar 2003 Winter Weather Advisory: Snowstorms Aren’t Evidence of Global Warming
“The average American in the upper Midwest and the Northeast… [is following] the wind-chill factor more avidly than sports statistics… Floridians… [are] watching their crops freeze…”
Another complaint about this year’s weather? No.
It’s a description of the winter of 1977 from The Weather Conspiracy,1 a book published over 25 years ago. The description was cited as evidence that the world would soon be plunged into a new ice age.
Back in the 1970s, environmentalists blamed unusually cold weather on “global cooling.” Today, they blame cold weather on – if you can believe it – “global warming.”
We shouldn’t have taken them seriously then. We shouldn’t take them seriously now.
“Increased extreme events like [this year’s heavy snows] are very, very much in line with the predictions of climate models,” Melissa Carey of the Environmental Defense Fund recently told CNSNews.com. “Increased precipitation and more extreme precipitation events like flooding or blizzards, hotter summers… increased storms like hurricanes and tornados [are likely].”2
Perhaps they are in line with the climate models she relies upon. But they’re also in line with the predictions for global cooling and, for that matter, global nothing-at-all.
Say what one will about the environmentalist claim in the 1970s that harsh winters were signs of global cooling – at least it made a certain amount of sense intuitively.
Blaming global warming now certainly doesn’t.
And for good reason. The kind of weather we’ve been experiencing suggests that global warming is not occurring.
Cold weather and snowfall are only possible because of cold air masses that form in polar and Arctic regions.
Air masses cool by emitting heat both toward the ground and into space as they move over snow and ice-covered surfaces. As long as air masses remain warmer than the surface, they continue cooling as they travel.3
If the planet truly were warming, one would expect fewer cold air masses of this type, not more.
One doesn’t need to know this, however, to recognize that what advocates of the global warming theory are saying is rubbish.
Heavy snows have occurred under all sorts of conditions. Despite what the Environmental Defense Fund says, big snowfalls should not be seen as evidence that the global warming theory is correct.
Consider these storms during and immediately following the Little Ice Age of 1650-1850, when the planet was colder.
A February 1717 storm dumped more than three feet of snow on Boston and up to six feet of snow further north.4 A storm in January 1831 blanketed states from Georgia to Maine in up to 30 inches of snow.5
In 1899, the Great Eastern Blizzard pelted snow from Georgia to New Hampshire. Montana temperatures dropped to 61 degrees below zero; Georgia’s to 12 below.6 Miami froze.7 Ice developed throughout the entire Mississippi River, while tugs were frozen out of Lake Michigan ports.8 Virginia received 30-40 inches of snow;9 Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City and New England, three feet.10
So much for the notion that big snowstorms are proof the planet is warming right now.
Some environmentalists are smart enough to know their credibility on global warming is stretching thin. They know most Americans can’t buy the idea that cold weather events such as blizzards are evidence of global warming.
So environmentalists have come up with a plan to explain it all.
Over the past several years, some environmentalists have shopped around the idea that global warming can trigger – you guessed it, global cooling. It supposedly does so by causing more clouds to form, which in turn prevents the sun’s energy from reaching the earth in the first place.11
This gives those environmentalists who have staked their reputations on global warming enormous flexibility.
If the planet warms, global warming is to blame.
If the planet cools, global warming is to blame.
If the planet does nothing at all, that, too, could be evidence of global warming as global warming’s warming and cooling effects could simply be said to have cancelled each other out.
We’ve all heard the saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
No one has a saying for what the environmentalists are now trying to do to us.
David Ridenour is Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
1 The Impact Team, The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age (New York: Ballantine, 1977), pp. 5-6.
2 Marc Morano, “Environmentalist Says Blizzard Consistent with ‘Global Warming’ Trend,” CNSNews.com, February 20, 2003, available online at http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=\Culture\archive\200302\CUL20030220a.html as of March 6, 2003.
3 For more information, see David Ridenour, “Don’t Like the Weather? Don’t Blame it on Global Warming,” National Policy Analysis #206, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., August 1998, available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA206.html.
b “February Weather Facts,” National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C., as cited in “Don’t Like the Weather? Don’t Blame it on Global Warming” (see footnote 3).
5 “January Weather Facts,” National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C., as cited in “Don’t Like the Weather? Don’t Blame it on Global Warming” (see footnote 3).
6 “Weather Service Marks Centennial of Record Cold Wave,” NOAA News, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C., available online at http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/s123.htm as of March 5, 2003.
b “February Weather Facts,” National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C., has this to say of the 1899 cold snap: “Perhaps the greatest of all arctic outbreaks commenced on this date. The temperature plunged to 61 degrees below zero in Montana. At the same time, a ‘Great Eastern Blizzard’ left a blanket of snow from Georgia to New Hampshire. The state of Virginia took the brunt of the storm, with snowfall totals averaging 30 to 40 inches.”
10 “Weather Service Marks Centennial of Record Cold Wave.”
11 Alex Dominguez, “Study May Prove Greenhouse Effect,” Associated Press, March 4, 2001.