Archive
2013
March
2012
January
February
March
April
October
2011
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2010
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2009
August
September
October
November
December
Sep. 30, 2011

Another climate change question answered

by Neil Wagner

Click to enlarge images
Post on Twitter
Share on Facebook

.

Ingrid asks:
Heavy snows like we had last winter proved to me that global warming is not reality. But I have to admit that the heat waves and droughts a lot of the country got this summer make me a little less sure. What do blizzards and heat waves say about climate change??

Answer:
A region’s climate consists of that area’s typical seasonal weather averaged over many years. Earth’s climate consists of all the world’s regional climates averaged together. If you live in an area like the American Midwest, you can typically expect to see cold and snow in the winter and heat — sometimes extreme — in the summer. While anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is causing Earth’s climate to change rapidly, it’s not changing so rapidly that we’ve seen our last Midwestern snow fall. Imagine Minnesota without snow or cold in the winter — that’s pretty dramatic stuff..

While there is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activities are warming our planet’s average temperature, scientists are quick to point out that no one weather event can be attributed to climate change. Though I’ve heard scientists point to the particularly strange weather we’ve had recently and say that, because of climate change, it will become the new normal.

In short, a blizzard or a heat wave — even a entire season or two of extremes – is not a sign of climate change. But if we look back 20 years from now and see this year was part of a long term pattern of progressively erratic weather, that’s when scientists will really start piecing the puzzle together.

CAN’T GET ENOUGH WHAT ON EARTH?

WOE on Huffington Post

WOE on Facebook — get updates, climate change fun facts, download WOE avatars & desktop wallpapers and more!

Interview: Katie Kline, Communications Officer at Ecological Society of America interviewed me via Skype for the ESA’s Ecotone blog. Read and hear it here.

Video: Bebbo and Kito were featured in one of Jim Parks’ terrific Today’s Green Minute episodes. See the video! Learn moreabout it.

About Neil Wagner

Neil Wagner's What on Earth? comic strip uses humor to discuss global warming.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

topics