Put this in the column: you knew it was coming…
Watts Up With That: NWF’s winter weather wackiness
As Steve outlined in the WWF and the EPA Endangerment Finding, the IPCC relied upon the World Wildlife Fund’s production of non-peer-reviewed literature as a climate science authority. Anthony reports on the IPCC being riddled with WWF citations. Not to be left out, our friends at the National Wildlife Federation have put out another timely piece on Confronting Global Warming.
The title of the newest contribution is “Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States” and the PDF can be downloaded from their website. It is a well-manicured report with glossy photos of wildlife, folks enjoying ice fishing and skiing, and snowplows. Here is the introductory paragraph to get a flavor of the quality of the report:
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 will still experience significant year-to-year variability in snowfall and temperature because many different factors are at play.
A few brief comments: (1) Throughout the report, there is unscientific language in the headlines similar to “seemingly peculiar” like “odd-ball”, “erratic”, “surprises”, “patchy”, and “thrown for a loop”. It is clear that the audience of the report is the layperson in the public, but using such terminology obfuscates the scientific message being made. (2) As the first paragraph highlights, there have been changes in winter weather during the past 20-years, a rather short time period to be making proclamations about trends or climate change for that matter. Also, the equivocal nature of the final sentence needs to be translated: global warming “slowly” changes the character of winter… year-to-year variability and different factors are at play = natural climate oscillations and modes of large-scale variability trump the changes associated with global warming during the past 20-years.
Recent odd-ball (sic) weather events.
Caption to the wonderful graphic uses the familiar weather events as “examples” of what global warming is expected to bring. This smattering of weather events runs the gamut. Record cold, warmth, snow, lack of snow — it is all there. All weather events if defined as extreme are therefore expected. Unexpected is the terminology that pervades every unemployment report or bit of economic news — and now, seemingly peculiar weather events. Taken individually, these events are easily explained by synoptic variability combined with the large-scale climate modulator du jour such as El Nino or the North Atlantic Oscillation. Ascribing them to potential characteristics of global warming grossly overlooks the real culprit here: the tilt of the earth away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere = winter.
The rest of the article is puff about skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowplowing, and homelessness — all important socioeconomic concerns. But this is not hard science, but speculation about feedbacks outside of the climate system into the economy. But the more important question is how the media is covering this very timely report: confronting global warming during a brutal winter in the Northern United States even during an El Nino. It is so extreme that in Florida there is a national guppy shortage due to the recent cold snap. Two major outlets have run with the story.
First up is the Washington Post (online edition…the print edition used the Headline “Winter offered as proof of warming”), “Harsh winter a sign of disruptive climate change, report says”
Since the winter is only a month old, it is doubtful that the report’s scientists could have conducted the necessary research to understand why December 2009 – January 2010 has been anomalously cold in the US. But leaving that aside and the fact that the report leaves out such connections, let’s return to the Post.
This winter’s extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.
That’s not fact, that’s speculation. What long-standing patterns, huh? The Washington Post quotes the lead author, a Harvard trained climatology PhD:
“It’s very hard for any of us to grasp how this larger warming trend is happening when we’re still having wintry weather,” said National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the new report’s lead writer.
Straw man alert! No one said that wintry weather would stop! The grossest analogy is such: in North Dakota, a few degrees warmer in winter means the difference between 20 below zero and 17 below zero. Winter will always be cold, and some will be worse than others depending on, for instance, high pressure blocking events over the North Pacific or North Atlantic. Nothing remotely close to that level of explanation exists in the report.
Second is the Detroit News. Study: global warming means wacky weather near the Great Lakes.
In coming years, global warming will have a bizarre, seemingly incongruous impact on winters here in the Great Lakes region: shorter, milder cold seasons coupled with bigger winter storms.
That is the consensus among researchers involved in a National Wildlife study titled “Oddball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-up Call for the Northern United States.”
In coming years or now? And, this consensus is among two researchers of the NWF study. Wacky, bizarre, wild.
Regardless of the veracity of the claims in the NWF press release parroted by newspapers around the nation, non-peer-reviewed literature such as this is important for raising awareness of particular issues. However, it should not be used for policy and definitely not infiltrate the hallowed IPCC. The lack of ANY meteorological or climatological explanations relating winter to natural variability (non-global warming) reflects a distressing bias in the NWF report. Using only 20-years worth of data to prognosticate future climates is indeed oddball.