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What to Do When Someone Says: “It’s Cold Today, So Climate Change Isn’t Real”

What to Do When Someone Says: “It’s Cold Today, So Climate Change Isn’t Real”

How many times have you heard someone inform you that global warming “isn’t real” because it’s a cold day, or it’s been an unusually cold winter?Longing to talk back to science deniers? We’ve got you covered — and then some.

Let’s start with some terminology. Scientists are increasingly preferring “climate change” to “global warming” because of its increased accuracy, and because it tends to head off these kinds of conversations at the pass and because global warming is only one aspect of climate change. Yes, the globe is warming overall, but that’s not the only thing going on. The Earth’s climate is changing over time, creating a new trend that appears to be moving more quickly than it would naturally, indicating human involvement. Weather, however, is not climate; it behaves erratically and may appear to be all over the map when viewed in isolation, but when viewed as part of the larger climate trend, certain patterns emerge.

Those patterns are going to include colder winters in some parts of the world, along with warmer summers. Some regions are experiencing drought conditions while others are dealing with flooding and heavy storms. Superstorms, like Sandy, are brewing in some regions, while hurricane seasons are more sustained and ferocious in other areas. Each of these things is part of a bigger network of interacting events, because the Earth’s climate is an extremely complicated place.

What exactly is happening here?

Well, for one thing, a concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing surface temperatures to rise: that’s global warming. As air and ocean temperatures rise, they set off a chain reaction across the Earth, because ocean and air currents are critical to how the climate behaves. A phenomenon known as thermohaline circulation plays an especially key role. Normally, the oceans create a continuous conveyor belt of currents, with air warming at the Equator, floating towards the Poles and getting colder, and gradually sinking. This generates continuous movement, which also drives climate and weather systems.

When this is interrupted — as for example when the ocean heats up too much, or sea ice melts, affecting the density of ocean water — the climate shifts in response. Weather patterns can become disrupted; researchers, for example, have linked melting sea ice with changes in weather patterns in Europe. And warming weather in one place can create cooling weather in another.

The weather on an individual day, or during an individual season, actually doesn’t provide that much information about overall climate trends. However, when researchers pull data from multiple days, seasons, and regions together, looking at it in a historical context, it can start to reveal patterns. These patterns can be collated with other observations, such as measurements of sea ice, increases or decreases in temperature, ocean acidification, and rainfall averages over time, and the intensity of storm systems, to provide information about how the changing climate is affecting the weather.

When someone says “climate change (or global warming) isn’t happening because it’s cold today,” they’re betraying a lack of scientific literacy, and an incomplete understanding of the research and methods behind climate science. The numbers are clear: the globe is warming overall, forcing radical shifts in the climate, and the Earth’s weather is changing with it.

If someone tries to tell you otherwise because it’s a cold day, point out that the Earth’s temperature has increased by 1.4F over the last 100 years, which is an abnormally fast rate. And make a note of the fact that warming atmospheric temperatures create a range of atmospheric phenomena that can affect the weather, right down to unusually cold days or winters.

Related articles:

Global Warming “Irreversible,” Warns Scientific Body

Global Warming Destroying World Coral Reefs, Costing Economy Billions

Extreme Weather Events to Increase, Warn Scientists

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Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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168 comments

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1:45PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

Quote @LOLGOP on Twitter: If one snow storm disproves climate change, one Republican infidelity disproves the "sanctity of marriage."

1:36PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

More insults, Charles T.? That's just not nice. You'll hurt my feelings. Or not.

What four names? Where? I went back through all the comments and couldn't find one where where you posted any names. I guess I missed it. Nevertheless, as I said - other than reading reports, my options for doing "my own research" are extremely limited, as are the options of almost the entire world.

BUT, if I read 10 reports that indicate YOU are misinformed, it wouldn't matter if they were prepared by MIT, Harvard or Mad Magazine, you'd probably still accuse me of "not doing my own research" and "being spoon fed" and all the rest of that foolishness you spewed trying to make yourself look important and wise. Yet YOU have not proven anything.

Neither have you responded to my query about how big a meteorological impact YOU think such a huge increase in the world's population would have. Do keep in mind that those new inhabitants to the planet and their use of fossil fuels, etc. pump CO2 into the atmosphere. Oh and you might want to consider how one little volcanic eruption on the edge of the Indian Ocean about 125 years ago affected the entire planet's weather, temperature included, for a few years. (But I hear the sunsets were do DIE for!)

Oh yeah and about the ice core - They can go as far back as 100,000 years in some places. But some places are more reliable than others. Most places that get to 8,000-9,000 are pretty reliable. Did you know there was a sudden,

11:17AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

Deborah S. It appears you never took any Science classes in College or High School. It is clear you did not research the 4 names I posted. You seem to believe propaganda and not science. If you did look at all those Artic Ice Cores you would find them to be not that old. To bad you have no clue what research is. Enjoy your ignorance. It is midly amusing to me. Have you done any research on your own on what the CO2 levels historicaly in the atmosphere. The Ozone hole is actually a natural occurance. It has to do with the Earth's rotation.

7:52PM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

Watch this. It's an icebreaker taking people to....wait for it.... The North Pole! They first went to the North Pole in a icebreaker in 1977, arctic icebreaker tourism started in 1989 and costs 25,000 US dollars, 30,000 people have been there since then.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1665032/icebreakers-smash-frozen-arctic-ocean-surprising-ways

They have been trying to clear the arctic for years! Trying to establish the north west passage, and routes to oil fields etc, and see global warming as a boon! Hiding behind it as they slowly chip away at the ice cap. ...By the way, these are nuclear icebreakers...I know I know! I thought the North Pole was on land too, but it isn't! I think they should ban icebreaker ships, I really do.

7:43PM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

Oh, Charles T., do I have to go and take sample ice core plugs from the arctic myself? Why can't I just rely on the research done by the scientists. Most of them are pretty smart, you know. They usually weed the not-scientifically-inclined out before high school. Well, that's unless an NSI REALLY wants to dissect something and didn't get a chance to do it in grade school.

Has the carbon dioxide level been the same, Charles? Has it REALLY? Even if it has there is a MAJOR force at work against the planet's ecology that wasn't present 8,000 or 1,100 years ago - 7 billion people, give or take a hundred million or two. Don't forget to include all the environment polluting mod-cons that 7 billion and their ancestors have used.

Then there's that hole (or is it holes) in the ozone ...

7:13PM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

@Angela R. you've GOT to be joking. An itsy-bitsy ice age is responsible for the United States of America AND Laura Ingalls Wilder career as an author, not to mention Michael Landon's comeback as an actor and career as a director and Melissa Gilbert's acting career as well! Amazing!

8:14AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

Wow what a bunch of sheep being led around with such bogus propaganda. It seems most of you Man Made Climate Change Loons can't do any of your own research you need spoon fed lies. There is more prove that Man is not the cause but Nature is doing what it wants to.

12:07PM PST on Mar 5, 2013

Turn your head and tell them to move to the Desert!!! Then i'd call them an ignorant baffoon.

9:55AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

7:25AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

So Man Made Cliamate Change is a Kool Aid Cult?

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