Blizzards: Climate change or climate bunk?

February 25, 2010 7:16:08 PM PST
My accountant is an 'Up In The Air' kind of guy. He lives in Philadelphia, but at tax season, he flies around the country to visit his clients. Today, an e-mail arrived in advance of his scheduled visit, tomorrow. It reads, in part: "Climate Change? Bite me! Too much white stuff. Flight may be cancelled."

He is not the only person to voice such sentiment this winter. As the East Coast braces for yet a third record blizzard that may bring another 12 inches of snow, it is a logical reaction. "If the world is warming, then why is it so cold?"

At UC Berkeley, climatologist Dennis Baldocci points out the difference between weather, which is short-term, and climate, which studies the effects and changes of that weather across longer periods, like centuries and decades. "It's the jet stream," he said. "Every year, it delivers a variance of strong weather. And that is part of the normal pattern."

Baldocci makes a distinction between science and belief, especially in looking at climate change. "It's a matter of looking at the independent data and that data shows that generally, the world is warming," he said.

Not all climatologists agree. At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, John Christy, who directs the Earth System Science Center, has earned a reputation as one of the more respected climate change 'doubters.' He says the data shows that winter strengthens his case.

"We're looking at natural weather variations that still haven't departed from average weather patterns," he said. "Yes, the northern polar ice has shrunk, but in the South Pole, it has expanded. It would be odd to say that the North Pole has global warming and the South Pole doesn't."

So, what might we safely conclude from these two conversations? That it is real cold, back east...and if the planes don't fly, maybe my wife and I did not need to finish our taxes last Sunday.

And the climate change debate continues...