Jokes about record snow falls here and there – e.g. where I live – are making the rounds to poke holes in “Global Warming” ideas. And so are more scientifically-based clarifications that show that global warming is no joke. A problem is, though, that the people laughing at the jokes may not be likely to see or be interested in the clarifications.
Here is one of the best written and substantiated clarifications that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post:
Washington’s snowstorms, brought to you by global warming.
By Bill McKibben, Sunday February 14, 2010
“In most places, winter is clearly growing shorter and less intense. …But rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cod air does. The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation… The numbers aren’t trivial – global warming has added 4 percent more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970. That means the number of ‘extreme events’ such as downpours and floods has grown steadily; the most intense storms have increased by 20 percent across the United States in the past century.
“So here’s the thing: despite global warming, it still gets cold enough to snow in the middle of winter… And the chances of what are technically called ‘big honking dumps’ have increased.”
As a scientific frame for what is happening, “global warming” is very accurate. But as a frame that can quickly get the point across, “Climate Chaos” may be more to the point — the point being that global warming causes a whole range of climate disruptions on a global scale that can be not only annoying but dangerous to many.