October 24, 2013
Unseasonably Cold Weather In October, Must Be Climate Change
The media, especially the nightly network news, has a really bad habit of confusing weather with climate. These are not the same thing. Weather trends aren’t even climate.
Yet, as parts of the country – notably the Northern Plains to the Atlantic Coast – are experiencing record cold for the middle of October the answer on the news has been, “it is just another sign of climate change.”
No, it is just a cooler than usual October. Until a week ago temperatures were actually on the slightly warmer than average, and just part of the see-sawing trend that we’ve been seeing this summer. The trend has been unusual, but unusual doesn’t mean change.
Of course the media loves to suggest that the slow storm that hit the Atlantic coast two years ago just before Halloween was climate change. Superstorm Sandy, well of course that was climate change. A couple of winters back – 2011 to be precise – there was a lot of snow in the northern half of the country – right, snow in the north – well that’s climate change.
The argument there was that warmer temperatures mean more moisture in the air and that means more snow. Too bad the next year, 2012 was a year with very little snow and warm temperatures. From Chicago to Detroit to New York on St. Patrick’s Day it was around 80 degrees. That’s the weather that is more usual for Memorial Day. That was surely a sign of climate change according to many.
But this past winter was very cold with a bit of snow. There was also not much of a spring and a cool summer. So that must be climate change too.
I’m not really a climate change denier even if I sound like one. I’m just not an alarmist when it comes to every bit of strange weather, because strange and wacky weather has been here for years. That’s actually not change, that’s normal.
I just happen to have a really good memory. I remember plenty of January days that were around 70 even as I grew up in Michigan. I lived in New York City for a long time and I remember cycling or running in Central Park on Thanksgiving Day when it felt like a spring day.
I also remember New Year’s Day when it was 70 and I remember when it was below 20. This is called weather. While some parts of the world have more consistent weather, much of the United States does not.
As for those dire warnings that mother nature is having her revenge. The truth is that Superstorm Sandy was tragic because of where it hit. In the current season of This Old House, they are showing three houses that were severely damaged by last year’s storm. An aerial map will show the density of the communities. Yes, it was a tragic storm, but when you build a house on the ocean there are chances a storm is going to hit.
Storms are weather events, not climate change.
The same can be said about the tornado seasons as well. Yes, there were some devastating tornados in recent years and these did level some communities. But again, spend as much time flying over the country as I do and you can see – especially east of the Mississippi – that there is a lot more sprawl. It isn’t just urban sprawl but what could be dubbed a rural sprawl or suburban sprawl. As more and more big box stores and shopping malls crop up, and more communities get built up there are simply – and sadly – more targets for these tornados.
The point is that we can complain about the wacky weather all we want. Just don’t confuse weather events with climate change.
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