Published on January 8th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan14
Not Cold Everywhere
January 8th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
There’s a bit of news coverage right now about the cold weather that’s hitting certain parts of the world, but don’t jump into the idea that we’ve entered global cooling. Take a look at the rest of the world and a little historical perspective, as well as the reason why some of us are getting this cold weather in the first place.
2009 5th Warmest Year on Record
Despite many people claiming that colder weather in certain places is a sure sign that climate change (or global warming) is nonsense, take a look at this fact: 2009 was the 5th warmest year on global record (since 1850).
It’s Relatively Warm in Much of the World
Additionally, while Europe and my home state of Florida may be seeing some abnormally cold weather, other places (i.e. Canada, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and south-west Asia) have been seeing abnormally warm weather lately. In many places it has been more than 5 °C above normal and even 10 °C higher than normal in some parts of northern Canada (see the map at the top of the article to compare abnormally warm areas with abnormally cold areas).
Why is It So Cold in Europe?
Why is it so cold in Europe? The Met Office tells us that, “over the past three weeks the Atlantic air has been ‘blocked’ and cold air has been flowing down from the Arctic or the cold winter landmass of Europe.” So, whereas we normally get the warming effect of that warm current, we have been getting the opposite since about Christmas — cold air currents from the north and northeast.
Oceans Warm, Too
As Climate Progress shows us, this warmer weather (globally) is not just on land but also in the oceans.
Just a couple weeks ago, the Australian weather bureau let us know that “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Niño of 1997-98.” The warm water has continued into this week, a more recent report shows. Global temperature anomalies in the oceans for December 28th through January 3rd are presented visually in the graphic below from the Australian weather bureau.
In addition to this report from the Australians, the NOAA also just reported that “El Niño strengthened during December 2009, with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) encompassing the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Weekly values of the Niño-3.4 index increased slightly with the most recent value reaching +1.8°C.”
Short-term Weather Events Not the Same as Long-term Climate Change
Of course, we have to look more broadly, across the globe, when reporting whether or now global temperatures are warmer than normal of colder than normal. However, more important than that, we must keep our eye on the long-term changes, not just the short-term weather events (which are always going to vary).
A good recent article on ecopolitology, “Communicating Climate Change: The ‘Isolated Weather Event’ Problem“, discusses this.
Also, remember the point above — 2009 was the 5th warmest year on global record — as well as the fact that this last decade was the hottest decade on record and the 13 hottest years on record have been in the last 15 years.
Climate change (i.e. human-induced, extremely fast and catastrophic climate change) isn’t happening? Even if the next 7 years become cooler again, the long-term data would probably show an unnerving warming trend. However, top scientists (James Hansen and the UK Met Office) predict that 2010 will break the record again and become the hottest year recorded.
via Climate Progress
Images 1 & 2: via Met Office
Image 3: via Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre
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