• Sun
  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 11:33am
CommentInsight & Opinion
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Extreme heat and cold muddy scientists' climate change message

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 11:53pm

A record-breaking chill sweeping North America this week that was so cold a zoo in Chicago had to put its polar bear indoors has prompted inevitable questions about climate change. As temperatures fell to dangerous levels, in some cases even lower than on the surface of Mars, media commentators and posters on internet forums were wondering how the weather could be so cold if the world is supposed to be warming. New York tycoon Donald Trump spoke for many when he tweeted that a scientific research ship that had been trapped by unexpectedly thick Antarctic ice was proof that global warming was a lie. But Australians experiencing their hottest ever summer beg to differ, as do scientists who warn that we should not confuse weather and climate.

The North American space agency Nasa defines weather as "conditions of the atmosphere ... over a short period of time". That was what the deadly cold that killed at least 21 people and disrupted hundreds of flights across North America was; a rare phenomenon known as a polar vortex that for several days brought frigid air from the Arctic. Most climate scientists contend that no single weather event can be linked to climate change. The extreme high temperatures in Australia, where meteorologists have had to add new colours to their heat maps, fall into the same category.

Provisional research by the World Meteorological Organisation puts last year as the seventh hottest globally since records began in 1850. More greenhouse gases in the atmosphere meant a warmer future and increasingly severe weather was inevitable, it said, highlighting Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded when it hit the Philippines last November. Rising sea levels resulting from the melting of polar ice are believed to increase the risk of such extreme events. People affected by freezing conditions, and climate change sceptics, ignore such trends when temperatures plummet. The confusion is an added challenge for officials trying to develop policies to keep temperatures in check.

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ccartier
Global warming means more inconsistent and more extreme weather. It does not mean consistently hotter weather.
mercedes2233
"Warming" does not mean warmer weather? Do those people have a limited vocabulary?
Diomedea
If you look at this page, you will see how the cold in the US was more than offset by increased warmth elsewhere. Thus the extreme cold weather in the news (which may or may not be related to global warming) does not indicate that there is any overall cooling. In fact, the evidence still appears to be that we are heating up our planet (as identified by most climate scientists).
****www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/polar-vortex-brings-cold-here-and-there-not-everywhere
FFrand4513@fleckens.hu
That's why it's called climate change, because people don't read what it does before making a comment about how "warming = hot"
asiaseen
Whoever wrote that editorial probably has (a) little or no scientific training, (b) not looked at the evidence with an analytical eye and (c) has merely parroted press releases from academics on the CAGW gravy train - no toeing the CAGW line, no grant funding.
Diomedea
Dear Asiaseen, given that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic warming is taking place, it is you that find yourself on the wrong end of the argument from those who know what they are talking about. This is about the difference between weather and climate. Weather is what you experience today, but climate is the overall picture that covers the trends. The instability of the polar vortex is related to the warming Arctic. Thus global warming led in this case to a cold snap in the US while the air above the Arctic was suddenly warmer. See here for a scientific explanation - ****www.arctic.noaa.gov/future/warm_arctic_cold_continent.html
FFrand4513@fleckens.hu
Not as much as oil companies make and they get people like you to parrot it for free
mercedes2233
"Australians experiencing their hottest ever summer beg to differ". Really? Here is an extract of a report of an Australian 'hot' day on Dec 5, 2013:
"The really cold air and the really heavy snow is due later in the day, but snow is already falling today across the high country of New South Wales and Victoria.
And yes, it's December 5. The fifth day of summer. Your calendar is not wrong."
So much for the global warming people's preachings!
Diomedea
One swallow does not a Summer make. Unfortunately, despite individual blips in both directions, the general trend is warming in the Australian Alps, as everywhere else. ****info.anu.edu.au/ovc/Media/Media_Releases/1997/snow.html
 
 
 
 
 

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