Friday, February 21, 2014

Is U.S. Winter Weather Weirdness Due to Climate Change or Is It Just Winter?

The weather this winter in the U.S. has been really weird. It has led some to speculate, including myself, that the declining arctic sea ice or other climate change impacts may be playing a a role. However, given that a group of leading climate researchers have recently come out with an opinion in regard to climate change that "we consider it unlikely that those consequences will include more frigid winters", it is challenging make a case that climate change is causing the winter weather weirdness.

It is of particular note that most of the articles suggesting winter weirdness may be in part due to declining arctic sea ice reference the research of Rutgers climate scientist Jennifer Francis. However, even Francis doubts that declining arctic sea ice is causing the weird winter weather. She stated
"The media certainly had a field day with the “attack of the polar vortex” in early January, and in their hyping of the story, some misquoted me (and others) by saying that climate change caused the unusual cold spell. Of course this sort of event has happened before, and this one wasn’t unprecedented. I also agree that greenhouse-gas induced warming will reduce, not increase, the likelihood of breaking cold temperature records — the data already show this."
Casting further doubt on the the influence of arctic sea ice on the winter weather is that fact that the massive decline in arctic sea ice is mostly just a summer occurrence. As stated by Cornell climate scientist Charles H. Green,
“The lag between decreases in sea ice extent during late summer and changes in the mid-latitude atmospheric circulation during other seasons (when the recent loss of sea ice is much smaller) needs to be reconciled with theory.”
It is ironic that the current weather impacts a large segment of the populations' opinion about climate change and that this bout of weather weirdness is being taken by some as evidence that climate change might not be a hoax. So, opinions of some about climate change are being influenced by weather that is probably just due to it being winter.

Related Article
Weather Weirdness and Arctic Sea Ice

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