Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

“I’ll see your snowstorm and raise you two heat waves”: The odds on odd weather

In A/C news on December 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm

From my Dec. 3 AlterNet piece on weird weather:

Officially it’s not even winter yet, but freakish 60-mile-an-hour blizzards and frigid temperatures have already walloped the Pacific Northwest, while record a-foot-in-a-day snows hit the Northern Plains and Rockies. With improbable weather becoming routine, forecasters may be in for another wild ride this winter.

There’s no way of knowing exactly when or where extreme cold or heavy snow is going to hit during the next three months, but the forecast does call for a 100 percent chance of someone — most likely a Republican who wants to gut environmental regulation — seizing on such weather as proof that the planet isn’t warming.

But by July, the snowshoe was on the other foot. Environmentalists were having a good laugh at the expense of Inhofe, and the big environmental groups were taking advantage of the heat wave to draw attention to global warming.  However

When heatwaves, droughts and floods are exhibited as evidence of climate disruption, does it make it that much easier for people like Inhofe to whip up more confusion the next time a winter storm hits? Is there any cool-headed way to talk about the crazy climate of recent years?

I try to answer that by talking with two prominent climate scientists — Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech and Michael Mann of Penn State — and reviewing the published evidence. The answer’s both simple and not so simple.