On Global Warming Misfires

It gets you a little nervous about what is happening to global temperatures. When it’s 75 degrees in Chicago in the beginning of March, you start thinking. On the other hand, I really have enjoyed nice weather. (President Obama)

When I heard him say those words, I shook my head and wanted to shake some sense into him because he should know better. Then again, he is a politician who does what politicians do. For most of the eastern US, winter 2011-2012 was abnormally mild. However, regardless, of one’s stance on global warming, I shake my head at anyone who any point in time to promote or criticize global warming – and yes – I criticized President Obama on these pages at the time.

Not long after President Obama’s remarks, the Wall Street Journal published a guest columnist – Dr. William Harper, a physics professor at Princeton University. Dr. Harper concluding paragraph began with these words.

The most important component of climate science is careful, long-term observation of climate-related phenomena, from space, from land, and in the oceans.

I agree with Dr. Harper’ concluding statement, but it is interesting to examine the data that he used. He opened his column with President Obama’s quote in order to counter the president. Interestingly, the majority of the data he cites in his article is specific point data rather than long-term data. In other words, he did what he criticized President Obama for doing.

My point is that there is a difference between weather and climate. Whereas both are important for any location, the key difference between the two is the time involved. Each of us know how the weather can change very quickly, climate, on the other hand, involves years of data to establish climate. Therefore, discussions about climate change should involve climate data – not weather data.

So here we are, in this period of abnormally scorching temperatures across the much of the U.S., ridiculous comments continue to come forth.

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45 thoughts on “On Global Warming Misfires

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head here–weather is incredibly changeable but climate is a different animal altogether. And if they look at the trends in climate–and weather–for the past 40-50 years, they’d see how much of a problem we’ve created. Thanks for this, Frank.

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    • Weebs,
      I know what you are saying, but just to be ornery, is 40-50 years of data enough? (;) … I gotta keep people thinking.) Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for commenting.

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      • The only sure thing about the anthropological climate change debate is that there are two camps of people, each thinking the other is very wrong. That has never been a good model for success in any endeavor that will only be successful if people pull together.

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        • Margie,
          Good points … and let me add one more, the sides will do what the can to discredit the other, including lying. On the other hand, I see more than two camps: 1) The No Ways 2) The Yes caused by humans, 3) The Yes caused by something other than humans. Thanks for going visiting this past post.

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  2. Actually the thing that drives me most crazy about climate change is that the man-made factors that have contributed to it — to whatever degree — can be lessened. And it is in everybody’s best interest to do so, whether it means that our air is simply cleaner, it is wise to do it.

    And that used to be the philosophy of Republicans as well as Democrats. Some of our greatest environmental achievements were enacted with a strong coalition of Republicans (Senators Stafford (R-VT) and Chaffee (R-RI) who worked with the Democrats to enact the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act and others. Everybody benefits from those. Well, except the current crop of Neanderthals.

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  3. I love science, but climate study is not true science in the sense of testable hypotheses. Climate study just uses big computer model simulations subject to garbage in, garbage out. I have already read that the next UN climate change report will be factoring in a few input items that it had wrong.

    Real science allows a hypothesis to be tested. They said they just found the “God” particle in a collider in Europe. Okay, maybe they have. They can test it again with different scientists and repeat the experiment to see if the results repeat. They already are gearing up for a retest.

    It is unfortunate that climate science cannot do that. In a way it is like economics, another favorite subject of mine, but again one that has very few testable hypotheses. When you cannot test the hypothesis in a controlled experiment the field in question is subject to takeover by hacks, politicians, zealots, folks with an agenda. That is sad. I see it all over the place in Economics and Climate Change.

    The view I take is this: the facts point to an overwhelming warming over the last 100 years at the surface level. But did man cause it? The UN panel says yes, but other scientists say the UN model predicts other things in the atmosphere which are not true. I have read where upper atmosphere effects show the planet cooling at the top, causing compression down below and thus warming, release of CO2 all in alignment with a coming glacial period, which we have every 10,000 years or so due to orbital precession or planetary spin precession.

    So, I take the prudent skeptic’s approach: Be it whatever, man should not dump on the planet and turn it into a toilet bowl. Newtonian laws clearly show some bad cause will bring about some bad effect. So whatever climate theory has to say is still best guess, but man should avoid excessively dumping CO2 or whatever into the atmosphere.

    I agree with your point about it being incorrect to use weather to say anything about climate.

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    • Randel,
      You may many good points. Keep in mind that not everything in science is testable – that is, it comes from direct observation. However, that direct observation of evidence is subject to verification … and this verification is the key factor. Regarding the recent “God particle” news, this past post is still applicable. https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/on-science-at-work/

      On the other hand, just because someone disagrees with the science does’t mean that science is wrong. Certainly, we see this happening in more volatile issues, thus people finding some reason to disagree because the finding doesn’t fit their paradigm.

      Thanks for sharing your many good thoughts!

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  4. Hi Frank, good post as always! I’m currently studying Environmental Policy and Management in grad school and one of the things I find both fascinating and frustrating is the current debate over whether climate change actually exists and/or is even a problem. I think one of the largest problems is the fact that so much misinformation has been put out by opponents of climate change. This undoubtedly is one of the reasons the President would even make this type of comment. The science community needs to do a better job of informing the public of the very thing you discuss in your post. Until that happens, we’re likely going to continue hearing and reading statements such as the two you’ve covered today.

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    • I work with scientists. They do have serious trouble putting things into understandable English. That’s part of why this debate is so confusing.

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      • Elyse,
        Good point. Just to add more to the equation, let’s not forget that many in the public don’t know enough science to comprehend a clear, understandable explanation.

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    • Jason,
      Good info! Whatever the data, the skeptics use what they don’t have to counter, plus moving the benchmark goalposts. I just thought of this … what is the correlation between those not believing in evolution and global warming. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  5. Exactly right, my friend. On something as quickly changing and complex as weather patterns, any one datum point is meaningless. And climate is definitely a VERY huge, and exceptionally long-lived, system that can only be marked with trends.
    Kinda like the discussions I had with some folks around the time of the infamous faster-than-light neutrinos – all that data might SEEM to prove something, but you need to take a long-view examination.
    And you have NEVER offered me the option of having everything striped to my satisfaction. What’s the hang-up on having everything checked? 😉 😀

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  6. what the skeptics are missing is something significant – it’s not as important “what” is causing it as much as it is the fact that “something” is causing it. therefore, steps must be taken. i sooo wish i could remember the name of the book i read about ten years ago, written by a british geologist, that completely and accurately predicted exactly what is happening now in terms of floods, storms, droughts, etc.

    the worst part of global warming is not the warming. it’s what’s called the “redistribution of moisture.” the warmer air sucks up more than the usual amount of moisture. the warmer air is more turbulent and clashes more heavily with colder air, thus causing more tornadoes and hurricanes. the moisture that’s been sucked up will then get dumped somewhere, thus causing greater floods and rivers above their banks. warmer air will cause faster mountain snow melt, which washes downstream before the downstream has subsided enough to handle it. the floods will wash out crops, thus escalating food prices.

    stop me if any of this has not happened yet.

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    • Rich,
      Skeptics always find a way out to justify their position. No matter how many years of data one provides, it’s not long enough. Whenever patterns are mentioned, they are part of natural cycles … and so on, and so on. thanks for sharing your profound comment.

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  7. What you’re saying is so true. Just before you’re having a hot summer and we’re having a cold winter doesn’t mean the climate is changing. It just means there are swings and cycles. xx

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    • Spiced,
      Absolutely, the planet has swings and cycles. On the other hand, having them does not mean there is no climate change … thus one reason for the dilemma. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. I support Obama but I don’t know what “Barry” was thinking when he made that utterly stupid statement, but I know that I’m more than “a little worried” about what’s been going down over the past 50 years climate-wise. If I were a polar bear I’d feel really doomed.

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    • Lame,
      Interesting that you mentioned polar bears. We recently saw “At the Arctic” at our Omnimax theater. I love those films, although this one was more political than I like. Nonetheless, the struggle of polar bears was the feature. Thanks for commenting.

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  9. Most people don’t get it that any change in climate is an indicator of shift in earths behavioural pattern,..and its not just about harsher or longer summers or winters, the flora and fauna of places have changed drastically…climatic changes bring in mass level changes and extinctions.

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  10. Good point re weather and climate. If you have a hour or so to spare you may find this iteresting. It’s a lecture by Lord Christoper Monckton on the global warming or not!

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  11. Many good points, Frank.

    Here’s an additional perspective. I have kept records of first flower bloom each season for most of the thousand+ plants I have grown in my gardens since 1989. 11 years ago we moved to a property in a cooler microclimate resulting in slightly later bloom overall, duly reflected in later bloom dates. However, in looking over my records, the first bloom dates have progressively been earlier for the past 15 years (I brought a lot of plants with me 🙂 adjusting for the years in a much warmer microclimate. This year broke all records for early bloom by 2-3 weeks, even for similarly mild winter/early spring years. The only year that has come close to these dates is 2010. I find myself shaking my head each time I enter a new date and see such significant change.

    So, I am observing a definite increase in overall warmer temperatures over a period of time and a difference in plant growth and bloom. This observation is confirmed by significant changes made in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ that seems to indicate an ongoing trend in warmer weather conditions from the period of 1976-2005. The previous edition of this map shocked gardeners everywhere as it changed growing zones significantly.

    In the About/What’s New section of the USDA website, they do address the fact that these averages are less than the 50-100 year averages used to determine climate change rather than weather change. Interesting reading and it makes a connection for me between what gardeners (out in all weather and seasons over a long period of years!) are sensing and what the data is suggesting.

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    • Lynn,
      Awesome … one’s very own data collection! Many thanks … and thanks for the link as well. Thanks for the USDA link as well. Just to be difficult, opponents would say that we are in the midst of a natural, long-term warming cycle. Thanks for commenting.

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  12. Good post and good discussion. For me the question is why are the people who deny climate change denying climate change? It is more than they just don’t agree with the science.I think it is a reflection of a deeper mistrust/ fear of ?? Science yes, but I think it goes deeper still than that. (And if anyone here can tell me what it is, I’d be grateful)

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    • Nancy,
      Good questions. Probably all of the above, plus they don’t know much about science and are simply repeating something that someone said. As I’ve said before, disagreeing with science doesn’t make science wrong. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  13. Your post was excellent and I really learned a lot from your readers’ comments. What I understand you to say is that politicians should stop commenting about being for or against global warming until the majority of the scientific community steps forward with a scientifically based determination that climate (not weather) change is occurring, and that man is making it happen in ways not normally found in nature. I’m OK with that, and I trust scientists around the world will speak out in an organized way if the evidence supports manmade global climate change. At that point politicians in all countries will have no choice but to take a stand and do what needs to be done.

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    • Tim,
      My points aren’t limited to politicians because I hear a variety of people making weather statements about climate change. However, if you notice, I did not say anything about what the leading climatologists are saying. In others, data is out there; however, it has its limitations. … and yes, many good comments here. Thanks for commenting.

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  14. They say in Montana if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes it will change. Even in the summer time I usually take a coat because things can change so fast. I agree good point weather verses climate.

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  15. I had a thought this morning (rare as those are) while watching Kyushu flood. Climate change and weird weather aren’t totally unrelated. As the global climate warms, it puts more energy into the weather “machine”. With more energy available, localised storms can become a lot more intense. This can cause much greater winds, rainfall, and even lightning strikes.
    See? I’m NOT just a pretty face. 😉

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    • John,
      I know what you are saying … especially with changes in the intensity of weather changes … kind of like connecting the dots. Nonetheless, one has to be careful when using weather data. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Well I I know is I am sitting today in desert thundershowers in the Southern California desert and very high temps! Do I believe in global warming can’t really say … WELL today I do for sure! LORD! Hotter than an oven 🙂

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  17. Really interesting post with a great discussion, Frank. One of the things that stood out for me that won’t require me to repeat what someone else already noted, is your comment about God wanting us to use the planet as we see fit, etc.

    My father (a very religious man) occasionally gives me books to read that I wouldn’t pick up on my own. The last one had the bizarre notion that we can go ahead and trash this planet because come the rapture, a New Earth will be created for those chosen to go. The author seemed to imply that the faster we trash this earth, the sooner the rapture will occur. Those chosen will help to build the New Earth where, apparently, the chosen will all have jobs they love and go to every day, and presumably won’t have to worry about trashing that one either. It’s my understanding that many of the fundamentalists already know all this. It was news to me (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

    I’ve always wondered about the saying “Save the planet!” The planet, it seems to me, will be just fine as long as we don’t blow it up. I think it’s the people who will wind up extinct if things don’t change. But I could be wrong. 🙂

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    • Robin,
      I find perception from that side of society a bit alarming for it is against both my science and my theology. But that is a topic in itself.

      Regarding your thoughts, I know what you are saying. The nature forces on our planet are quite strong. If the situations lead itself to a point where the forces need to make a natural adjustment, it will at the expense of occupants – including humans. Then again, that’s my point of view. Thanks for sharing your very applicable thoughts about this topic.

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