I cannot think of a better time to do a Reality Check on global warming than immediately after that headline-grabbing polar vortex that propelled the coldest air in nearly twenty years right here into the tri-state.
Consider this quote:
"A preponderance of global observational evidence shows the Arctic Ocean is losing sea-ice, global temperatures are warming, sea level is rising, large landfast ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctic) are losing ice mass, and precipitation patterns are changing."
Who do you think said that? Was it Al Gore? A climate scientist? Or maybe tree hugger who wants us all to give up our cars and ride bicycles?
In fact it was none of those.
This quote is from The U.S. Navy's Climate Change Roadmap published in 2010. The Department of Defense is taking global warming seriously.
The last few days, the weather has been brutally cold and citrus trees all the way south along the Alabama Gulf Coast have been damaged. Thousands of travelers were stranded by wind and snow and many record low temperatures have been set.
Does this disprove global warming?
Absolutely not! The cold snap is weather and global warming is about climate and nothing has changed. Our planet continues to warm and each year it is warming faster.
Ninety-three percent of the heat has accumulated where you do not feel it - in the ocean.
The graph shows ocean heat accumulation in blue and the much smaller amount accumulating in the land, ice and air in red.
That's why climate scientists do not over-react to sharp, brief or even historic cold snaps.
So will we say goodbye to cold waves and record lows on a future, warmer earth?
The numbers tell a convincing story.
There were more record lows than highs in the 60s and 70s followed by a string of years from 1993 through 2012 where record highs outpaced lows.
For the first time since 1993, during 2013 there were more records lows.
Climate scientists are not over-reacting to this either because global warming is not about a single year, but about the long term.
The story of the researchers trapped in Antarctic ice is a thorn in the backside of climate scientists - not because it disproves global warming, but because it's simply not the whole story.
Seasonal Antarctic Sea ice has been increasing since 1979. But it is increasing because of changing winds and ocean circulation, not a due to a cooler climate.
Ice is also increasing on the bitterly cold high ice plateau of east Antarctica. However, in West Antarctica more ice is melting than the other two locations combined are gaining.
So when you sum up, Antarctica has a net loss of ice.
When scientists surveyed 29 thousand indicators of global warming from bark beetles in Alaska to the date of grape harvests at vineyards to damaged coral reefs in tropical oceans, more than 90 percent indicated the earth is warming.
Global warming is real. There is a consensus among climate scientists
And the only factor that explains it is greenhouse gases from human activity.
The only question left is… What do we want to do about it?
That's Reality Check.
Real Climate, www.realclimate.org
Skeptical Science, www.skepticalscience.com
U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, 2010, Climate Change Roadmap.
U.S. Department of Defense, 2010, Quadrenniel Defense Review.
U.S. Department of Defense, 2013, Assessing Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Military Installations: Policy Implications.
U.S. EPA, Climate Change, http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/
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