Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cold Spells From Climate Change?

I have to admit, I never understand these explanations about why global climate change is supposed to be behind the cold, snowy weather such as we are recently been seeing.

The New York Times has such an article today: "Bundle Up, It's Global Warming," Judah Cohen, NY Times 12/26/10.

Let's see: overall warming implies (?) cold weather extremes. But snow in Siberia is [why?] increasing. This affects the jet stream and there is now more moisture and... blah blah blah it's supposed to be colder where it's now warmer, and old air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe, and all that.


OK, he's the expert and I'm just a journalist.

But I am still very dubious and have to admit that this all sounds like sophisticated back-filling.

This article reminds me of one that appeared when I lived back in New England: "Why the global deep freeze," by Paul R. Epstein and James J. McCarthy, The Boston Globe, Jan. 28, 2003

Epstein & McCarthy blamed that cold spell on (as far as I can tell) ocean currents, or something.

I've never understood these kind of arguments. Maybe I'm just not an expert. But there seem so many chains of influence that are each somewhat tenuous to cast significant doubt on the final argument. I honestly can't blame the public for being dubious about these kinds of articles and explanations, about being dubious of the claims that global warming implies these kinds of significant cold spells. For I have no doubt that, if it were now a very warm winter in New England or northern Europe, the climatologists and meteorologists would be offering equally logically sounding arguments about why that should be so.

Like I said, I'm just a journalist. But something doesn't smell right here.

1 comment:

SBVOR said...


There is a certain degree of (misapplied) truth to Cohen’s argument. The Albedo effect is certainly a factor as a negative feedback mechanism during glaciations. And, it could very well have a shorter term impact during the far less severe cycles of a typical interglacial warming period (such as the present one).

Again, I would argue that the AMO cycles are the single largest factor in what’s going on here. As the latest AMO warming cycle has plateaued, these other feedback mechanisms have become more influential.

Again, look for a generally flat trend for about the next 8 years followed by the same sort of cooling trend we saw from 1950 to 1979.