The past few weeks have seen unusual cold and record snowfall in the Northeast. All kinds of folks point at me and say: this global warming stuff you talk about can’t possibly be true. Nothing shows their ignorance of the issue to be deeper.
Sometimes, it gets cold for a few days in April. But we don’t automatically think that summer has been cancelled. Likewise, a few cold and snowy days, even a whole season of cold, do not dispel the prediction that our climate is getting warmer.
We know from eons of past experience, confirmed by scientific models dating to the observations of Tycho Brahe in 1584, that the average temperature will be higher in July than January, a few cold days in April notwithstanding. Similarly, climate models based on existing data predict that the average temperature in 2050 will be higher than in 2015, a few snowy days or seasons notwithstanding. What happens along the way is what we call “noise.”
Likewise, I would not link any particular rainstorm in California to the demise of climate change. Long-term and widespread drought in the western United States is consistent with the ongoing global climate change in that region, even though there will be wet days and wet years along the way.
The year 2014 was the warmest on record for global temperatures—not everywhere, but globally. One can always find a spot that was colder than the average, but cherry-picking the data is not a useful approach when it comes to predictions of the long-term climate of a planet.
A lot of people want to believe that the problem of global warming is not real. They look to cold days as proof. Elected officials, for example Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, like to capture the public’s desire to believe that global warming is not real by telling us that it ain’t so. Unfortunately, throwing a snowball in the U.S. Senate chamber only freezes Senator Inhofe’s ignorance into the historical record.