When it gets below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it snows. I was on Fox Business last week, during the big snowstorm that reached out and touched 50 states, and found myself repeating this salient fact.
The segment was touting a theme Fox had been following all week: That the mammoth winter storm meant death for Al Gore's theories. They even planted a copy of An Inconvenient Truth in a snowdrift and used a Gorecam to watch it get buried. Piling on, the Virginia Republicans did a TV ad urging state voters to recall Rick Boucher and Tom Periello, Democratic congressman who'd had the temerity to vote for cap and trade.
But snowstorms don't negate global warming, they really don't. The Center for American Progress mustered out Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, to point out that "snowfall does not equal a drop in temperature." According to Masters, "As long as it's cold enough for snow, precipitation means a snowstorm." That used to come under the heading of common sense.
Joseph Romm, on his Climate Progress blog, reminded us that this is the warmest winter on record, and that January 2010 was the warmest for the planet ever. "The scientific literature predicts that you will see more intense winter storms because of global warming," he said.
That's because warmer temperatures mean heavier precipitation. At the National Wildlife Federation, climate scientist Amanda Staudt reports that global warming has already brought a pattern of larger and more intense snowstorms in the upper Midwest and Northeast.
Other changes we've seen:
As I mentioned on Fox, I did an E Magazine article called "Losing Winter" in 2008 that looked at some of the dramatic effects of warmer temperatures (particularly on New England, where I live). I went up to Vermont, and visited ski areas whose owners have had to create summer destination tourism and beef up snowmaking to stay alive. I called on maple sugar makers whose families have been in the business for hundreds of years -- but are now contemplating getting out because the delicate freeze-and-thaw cycle they need has largely fled to Canada.
By the end of the century, Northeastern temperatures could rise by eight to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, which means half the "snow days" we now experience. The Union of Concerned Scientists said that (under some dire scenarios) by 2100 only western Maine could have a reliable ski season, and snowmobiling would be confined to northern New Hampshire -- for only two months. Average temps in New England have risen 4.4 degrees F since 1970.
We will continue to have snowstorms, though. And Al Gore and his fellow traveling climate scientists don't have to give it up.
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