Monday, February 15, 2010

Is weather the same as climate? It depends on whether it confirms the theory

Several people have expressed their severe disapproval of 49 states having snow--or, more precisely, my mentioning it. A commenter on one of my posts writes:
Tell us Martin, are weather and climate the same thing.
Here is my answer: Weather and climate are not the same thing in the case of reports of unusually cold weather, where we go into finger-wagging mode and give people who take note of it lectures about how just because we are freezing our booties off and considering the virtues of muktuk and Caribou jerky that this does not mean anything significant about the temperature of the planet; but weather and climate are the same thing when a newspaper reports that someone in Greenland notices a glacier starting to drip or someone in Alaska hasn't seen a polar bear in over a week, in which case we clam up and contract a bad case of amnesia about the relation of weather and climate.

I wonder how many blogs this commenter has posted on making this same point in the case of the countless reports that have reported some warm weather event somewhere that is the direct result of global warming.

In other words, no particular cold weather event can be taken as evidence against global warming, and all particular warm weather events can be taken as evidence for it.

Then there is Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education, who responded by quoting Roger Peilke:
What happens in the weather this week or next tells us absolutely nothing about the role of humans in influencing the climate system. It is unjustifiable to claim that a cold snap or heavy snow disproves or even casts doubts [on] predictions of long-term climate change. It is equally unjustifiable to say that a cold snap or heavy snow in any way offers empirical support for predictions of long-term climate change. This goes for all weather events.
I wonder how many posts Josh has made cautioning those who equate weather and climate when discussing warm weather events.


Lee said...

It took a cold winter for global warming propagandists to admit that short-term weather is not predictive of long-term climate. They weren't so forthcoming previous to this winter.

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal gave a bit of a rundown last Thursday of such talk.

E.g., the NYT last week...

"Ultimately, however, it's a mistake to use any one storm--or even a season's worth of storms--to disprove climate change (or to prove it; some environmentalists have wrongly tied the lack of snow in Vancouver, the site of the Winter Olympic Games, which begin this week, to global warming)."

...vs. the NYT in June 1988:

"The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today."

Then there is the Boston Globe in 2005:

""The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming."

Meanwhile, Professor Phil "The Dog Ate Our Hockey Stick Data" Jones admits there hasn't been a discernable warming trend since 1995:

Is fifteen years long enough to posit a trend?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the terms "weather" and "climate" have scientific definitions.

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in what Phil Jones actually said, may want to read:

Wyatt_Earl said...

It's not about Global Warming, it's about CLIMATE CHANGE. The right loves to use giant snowstorms in the US as evidence for denial, but fail to talk about the total lack of snow at the winter olympics.

Martin Cothran said...


And why did you change your terminology from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" anyway? What's wrong with the term "Global Warming"? I've become quite fond of it. Is it a way of hedging your bets?

Now let me ask you a question, is the lack of snow at the Winter Olympics evidence of Global Warming?

Lee said...

Okay, Anonymous, I'll bite...

> What Jones actually said is that, while the globe has nominally warmed since 1995, it is difficult to establish the statistical significance of that warming given the short nature of the time interval (1995-present) involved.

Let me translate: Jones is saying that he cannot pronounce the "nominal" warming trend since 1995 as statistically significant. Earlier, I said "discernable". Fine, my bad. I amend that to "statistically significant."

That seems like a pretty significant admission to me. I mean, for something that not too long ago was touted all over the media as "settled science."

And for this, we want to bring the world's economies to a grinding halt?

> And why did you change your terminology from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" anyway?

The agenda is the same regardless of whether we call it global warming or climate change: more political power.

Now they'll just have to find some other pretext.

Lee said...

Speaking of pretexts for a power grab, interesting article today over at Pajamas Media:

Money graf:

"As you examine the [NASA] email excerpts below, as well as those which I will discuss in the upcoming three parts of this series, bear in mind that the contents of these emails were intended to prop up the argument for the biggest regulatory intervention in history: the restricting of carbon emissions from all human activity. NASA’s activist scientists leave no doubt in their emails that this was indeed their objective. Also, please note that these documents were responsive to a specific FOIA request from two years ago. Recent developments — combined with admissions contained in these documents — beg further requests, which have both been already filed and with more forthcoming."

Cat's out of the bag. Global warming is outed as just another excuse for big government to get into our knickers. Guess they'll have to conjure up another one.