The Grey Lady weighs in

by Caroline Brown

If it seems like I’m obsessed with the weather, it’s because I am. Curt and I went on a CANOE RIDE yesterday. In New England, in January. (The blog header shows what the same lake looked like a year ago.) But rest easy everyone, because the New York Times’s Maria Newman wrote yesterday that the unseasonably warm weather in the Northeast is not due to global warming:

Some people in the Northeast think global warming may be responsible for the unseasonably warmer conditions across a large part of the country, from the northern Plains to the East Coast.

But meteorologists say that just because it’s practically shirt-sleeve weather in this part of the country doesn’t mean it’s balmy all over. In Louisiana, two people were killed by tornadoes on Thursday, and residents are still cleaning up debris. And in the Rockies, still recovering from a blizzard last week, several inches of snow that were expected to fall in the area today, and combined with gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, it could sharply affect visibility.

“Global warming is a misnomer,” said John Cristantello, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Upton forecast office in New York. “Everybody likes to blurt out those words.

“Just because it’s warm in one area doesn’t mean it’s not cold in another area,” he said.

The reporter doesn’t even frame the debate correctly. To imply that the cause of the warm weather in the Northeast isn’t global warming because the Plains are getting cold temperatures & snow is somewhat uninformed and fairly irresponsible. Of course it’s not global warming–that’s common vernacular, but the preferred scientific term is “climate change,” not “global warming.”

What if the reporter had asked the meterologists her questions based on the correct term of climate change, not global warming? Does that change the conclusion? It certainly makes irrelevant the “but it’s cold in other areas” argument. I don’t care if the paper presents alternative theories to climate change as the cause for the strange weather, but couldn’t the reporter at least present the argument correctly?

So if global warming doesn’t explain it all, what does?

El Niño is part of the reason, meteorologists say. The periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean tends to create milder conditions in this part of the world.

So don’t worry, it’s only El Niño–not climate change, whatchamacallit, global warming, or gosh, whatever it’s called. Goody, I’m not going to worry about it anymore.


4 Comments to “The Grey Lady weighs in”

  1. Whew I’m glad I can ignore the fact that I went on a bike ride in 74 degree weather in the mid-Atlantic through blossoming flowers. Yet somehow it’s not time to start planting. In fact most of the farmer’s markets are closed. I’m so confused.

  2. Climate change is an ongoing process on earth. Weather is strange to us if its weather we haven’t had in our lifetimes or in recent memory. This weather is unusual but not out of the range of what happens weather-wise.

    That said there is no doubt that civilization is producing too much greenhouse gas and other forms of pollution. Its just that Mother Nature’s normal changeability makes it hard to discern what the effect of that pollution is exactly at any point in time.

    In the NE USA we have El Nino and the Jet Stream to vary our weather and it does — some years in the Boston area we get 8 feet of snow. In the early 1990’s we had a year with zero snow in one Winter (1992?). In Ontario they tell me they always expect lots and lots of snow. Different latitudes produce different attitudes …. and different expectations re weather.

    10,000 years ago Yellow Stone National Park was under hundreds of feet of ice. 5,000 years ago it was warmer than it is now. Once again it is warming up. Its definitely climate change but its not a simple task to determine why.

    All of this should have no barring on the need to use much, much cleaner sources of energy (among many environmental needs). Once China and India really get going we should pray that cars and other engines will be producing near zero pollution — or the consequences will be dire. Whether all of our weather right now is due to our industrial practices or not.

  3. Actually, “global warming” isn’t a misnomer (no wonder they can’t predict the weather without computers!) — it has been documented that average temperatures are rising worldwide, which means the outliers (temperature highs and lows) are both creeping upward.

    Check this out from the Independent Online:

    Professor Jones [director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia] said: “El Niño makes the world warmer and we already have a warming trend that is increasing global temperatures by one to two tenths of a degrees celsius per decade. Together, they should make 2007 warmer than last year and it may even make the next 12 months the warmest year on record.”

    Climate change including freak storms, and storms that are worse than usual, and odd seasonal fluctuations, are things that are theorized to be worse because of the warming. The World Meteorological Organization is studying the upcoming El Nino to see how it interfaces with the warming trend.

    Frankly, given the Bush Administration’s willingness to interfere with the freedom of speech of its agencies, I wouldn’t be surprised if the meteorologist they interviewed was just repeating the Party Line. “Huhhuhhuh, global warming? Where did I put that globe warmer, anyway?”

    I can’t read the New York Times any more either — there’s a definite list to the right in all their reportage.

  4. I have to admit, it is strange to peek in on Syracuse NY via webcam and see grass instead of snow on the ground. I do recall that Christmas day in 1981 (or was it 1982…) was over 70 degrees which was certainly very weird.

    I have to agree with frankwinters; when the rest of the world gets up to speed on automobiles, (not to mentiong factories) there better be a way to keep emissions down to as near-zero as we can get them no matter what it costs to do it.

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