4 February 2010

The weather question of the month- and the correct answer.

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The Atlantic portions of Arctic remain warmer than normal in January. Image from NSIDC NOAA.

The Atlantic portions of Arctic remain warmer than normal in January. Image from NSIDC NOAA.

It’s been a cold and very snowy winter in the Eastern USA and in Western Europe. Very likely the worst in 30 years. All that snow and cold has resulted in a very common question to every meteorologist I know and that certainly includes me. Same for every person involved in climate change research too.


First of all most people in the climate and weather forecasting field prefer climate change instead of global warming. It’s more accurate. Secondly, if I have learned one thing over the past 30 years as a forecaster, it’s that weather is extremely local to people.

If I forecast a 10% of the area to get rain and it turns out to be a perfect forecast, I guarantee you that every person who got rain thinks I blew the forecast. It doesn’t matter if the next block over is sunny. People only care about the weather where they are.

So when we have cold and snow, people immediately chant what happened to global warming. The answer to this in short is nothing. If the whole planet was getting snow then things would be different. Climate is made up of a lot of weather. Even in a warmer world that is most certainly coming, we will still have blizzards and record lows. Just not nearly as many of them.

One of the multitude of other signs the planet is warming besides thermometers is the number of record highs is steadily increasing compared to the record lows.

The cold air, in the East of America and the West of Europe, has come from the Arctic and it has actually left the Arctic quite warm. Sea ice for January is running way below the long term average. Sea ice in December was too and if you look at December alone, then the decrease is now running at 3.3% per decade.

Below is an exc. video featuring my friend Stu Ostro, Meteorologist at the Weather Channel, along with one of the top climate experts at the Nat. Center for Atmospheric Research, that explains the answer to this months question very well. Not only that, it’s based on science instead of political opinion.

So check out Peter Sinclair’s Global Warming Crock of the Week! (gotta love that name)