Global warming surprises

James H. Fetzer and J.R. Dunn
The joke goes that every time Al Gore opens his mouth, the temperature drops ten degrees. And it's not a bad one, as far as political jokes go, not in the least because it appears to be rather close to the truth.

In the week since the International Panel of Climate Change "report" on global warming was released, the weather has in fact been quite unusual - though not in the sense that the IPCC and other warming advocates might prefer.

Throughout the week, much of the country was gripped in subzero cold, with lows of up to 27 below in Minneapolis, 3 below in Chicago, and a nice round zero in Pittsburgh. The cold wave has held on since the last week of January, and shows no real signs of abating over the week to come. (Unless a rise to the low 20s is considered some kind of relief.)

Upstate New York was hit by over six feet of snow in less than twenty-four hours on Wednesday, February 7th. Another two feet fell on Thursday, with more expected over the weekend. Over the same period, West Virginia suffered its worst snowfall in nearly thirty years.

Nor is it limited to the U.S. In the UK, temperatures have taken a rare plunge below freezing, with much of the country in the low 30s, and snow threatening to shut down south-central England. This follows a spate of killer storms across Europe that left almost forty people dead.

And in Southeast Asia, the temperature has dipped to the unheard-of mid-40s, the lowest in living memory, causing serious discomfort in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and northern Thailand. The culprit in this case is a wayward mass of Siberian air, which must have passed over China on the way south.

Climate change advocates will counter by pointing out that weather is not climate, and they'd be quite right. But here's the thing: virtually all global warming models predict that the bulk of warming will occur during the winter. The Greens enjoy going into hysterics every time there's a hot weekend in August, but that's all theater. The biggest change would come with milder and less snowy winters, as was seen during the Medieval warming period of the 10th to 13th centuries, when an expanded growing season led to a revolution in agriculture and a vast increase in population.

That's not what's happening today. Despite episodes like that of last December, which was far milder than usual, recent winters have seen a slow but steady march toward more inclement weather. The winters of 1999 and 2000 were a near-match for our present one, with national U.S. temperatures in the teens for lengthy periods, blizzards across the south, and some of the worst storms in a century in Europe and the Mideast. Several of the winters since have also had unusually cold periods.

All this serves to underline the contention that if anything is happening to the climate, a linear progression to a warmer status is not the explanation. The warming advocates have been predicting exactly that for a quarter of a century (I first heard of the warming thesis in 1983. The temperature was in the low 40s, in New Jersey,  in late May.) and it hasn't happened. Despite all the PR, and the reports, and the Gore film, the theory is beginning to show its age.

One of the major qualities of nature is that of surprise. The evolution and expression of world climate is very likely far more complex and difficult to follow than we currently grasp. The problem is that the current warming "consensus" may be stifling the research that might in fact tell us what is occurring and how to prepare for it. The earth's climate may have a far bigger surprise in store for us than we can now guess.
The joke goes that every time Al Gore opens his mouth, the temperature drops ten degrees. And it's not a bad one, as far as political jokes go, not in the least because it appears to be rather close to the truth.

In the week since the International Panel of Climate Change "report" on global warming was released, the weather has in fact been quite unusual - though not in the sense that the IPCC and other warming advocates might prefer.

Throughout the week, much of the country was gripped in subzero cold, with lows of up to 27 below in Minneapolis, 3 below in Chicago, and a nice round zero in Pittsburgh. The cold wave has held on since the last week of January, and shows no real signs of abating over the week to come. (Unless a rise to the low 20s is considered some kind of relief.)

Upstate New York was hit by over six feet of snow in less than twenty-four hours on Wednesday, February 7th. Another two feet fell on Thursday, with more expected over the weekend. Over the same period, West Virginia suffered its worst snowfall in nearly thirty years.

Nor is it limited to the U.S. In the UK, temperatures have taken a rare plunge below freezing, with much of the country in the low 30s, and snow threatening to shut down south-central England. This follows a spate of killer storms across Europe that left almost forty people dead.

And in Southeast Asia, the temperature has dipped to the unheard-of mid-40s, the lowest in living memory, causing serious discomfort in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and northern Thailand. The culprit in this case is a wayward mass of Siberian air, which must have passed over China on the way south.

Climate change advocates will counter by pointing out that weather is not climate, and they'd be quite right. But here's the thing: virtually all global warming models predict that the bulk of warming will occur during the winter. The Greens enjoy going into hysterics every time there's a hot weekend in August, but that's all theater. The biggest change would come with milder and less snowy winters, as was seen during the Medieval warming period of the 10th to 13th centuries, when an expanded growing season led to a revolution in agriculture and a vast increase in population.

That's not what's happening today. Despite episodes like that of last December, which was far milder than usual, recent winters have seen a slow but steady march toward more inclement weather. The winters of 1999 and 2000 were a near-match for our present one, with national U.S. temperatures in the teens for lengthy periods, blizzards across the south, and some of the worst storms in a century in Europe and the Mideast. Several of the winters since have also had unusually cold periods.

All this serves to underline the contention that if anything is happening to the climate, a linear progression to a warmer status is not the explanation. The warming advocates have been predicting exactly that for a quarter of a century (I first heard of the warming thesis in 1983. The temperature was in the low 40s, in New Jersey,  in late May.) and it hasn't happened. Despite all the PR, and the reports, and the Gore film, the theory is beginning to show its age.

One of the major qualities of nature is that of surprise. The evolution and expression of world climate is very likely far more complex and difficult to follow than we currently grasp. The problem is that the current warming "consensus" may be stifling the research that might in fact tell us what is occurring and how to prepare for it. The earth's climate may have a far bigger surprise in store for us than we can now guess.