As the Northeast digs itself out of the third major storm of the season — and possibly the worst winter storm in 40 years — people may start to wonder, “What happened to global warming?” In fact, after last week’s blizzard, a perplexed Bill O’Reilly put a call out to Al Gore, asking him to explain why “southern New York has turned into the tundra” if the earth is supposed to be getting hotter. The answer is simple: global warming causes more precipitation, which translates to more snow when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.
Photo credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
Plenty of pundits and politicians have used the season’s (already) record snowfall as proof that climate change isn’t real. The believe a hotter world means less snow. But their logic is flawed. Warmer air soaks up moisture like a sponge, meaning that as the earth’s temperature rises, more moisture collects in the air. So when a storm gathers and hits a cold patch of air, it unleashes massive amounts of snow.
There is a clear consensus in the science community that climate change will cause more frequent and more intense storms. Storms, of all types, result from energy in the atmosphere — the more heat, the more energy. Considering that 2010 was the hottest year on record, it should be no surprise that we’ve already seen multiple mega-blizzards this season. As Al Gore explained to Bill O’Reilly, “A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”
Eventually, it is likely that the world will get hot enough for it to stop snowing, but for now, warmer temperatures mean moister air, and as long as temperatures dip below freezing, we’ll continue to be pounded with snow. Either way, we need to curb our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our carbon footprints — by huge amounts. Or else Mother Nature will continue to have her way with the world.
WHY THIS MATTERS
While some people are interpreting the increased snow we’ve been experiencing on the U.S. East Coast as evidence against global warming, that’s a dangerous and flawed assumption. The massive snowstorms actually scientifically support the fact that climate change is changing weather patterns, and it’s important for the public to see the true cause and effect relationship between the two instead of simply thinking “if we’re still having snow, the Earth must not be getting hotter.”
Via Media Matters