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George Will’s next column won’t deal with a simple reality: Washington is wilting while the Arctic is melting

June 25th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Simply put, Washington, DC, weather is miserable at this time.  It feels like the middle of August, at the moment, with temperatures nearing 100 degree with very high humidity. Life for many: air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned office, with too much sweat in the seconds moving from one air-conditioned space to another.

Right now, with temperatures predicted in the high 90s for most of the coming days, we’re about to shatter the record for the hottest June on record (see Capital Climate).

A frequently heard question heard from 10 year olds and 70 year olds alike: If June is like this, what will August be like?

It remains, of course, impossible to state that any specific weather event results from climate change. After all, these high temperatures are not, on any specific day, yet setting records.  And, even though the 2010 spring was the warmest one for Washington, DC, in recorded weather history, a single season, in a single region, does not ‘establish’ climate change.

In a counter-factual situation, if Washingtonians were wrapping themselves in sweaters (outside their overly air conditioned buildings) in June, with near record cold days day after day after day, with a season that set a record for average low temperatures, there is every reason to believe that James Inhofe, George Will, and the remainder of the anti-science and anti-reality denier echo chamber would be pontificating with truthiness-laden falsehoods seeking to undermine Americans’ understanding of science and of the risks that climate change presents.

When it came to Washington’s snowfall, Jim Inhofe even recruited his grandchildren to help make a snow fort as part of his disinformation.  Have to wonder whether any of these kids’ science teachers exposed them to basic science.  After all, that big snowfall might actually be reflecting climate change.  The basics:  warmer temperatures leading to more evaporation with more moisture in the air leading to more severe precipitation events. And, oh by the way, global warming doesn’t mean that winter disappears … DC temperatures during the ‘Snowmaggedon’ weren’t abnormally cold, they were simply ‘winter’. There is a rather simple formula for this:  below freezing temperatures + lots of moisture in the air typically = snow).

In contrast to their gleeful disinformation amid snowfall, Inhofe’s and Will’s silence in the face of sweltering temperatures is striking … albeit not surprising.

Reinforcing the striking (not surprising) silence: not a word on how Arctic Ice “is cracking up and melting down at record rates so far this year”.   Following a very warm May and with temperatures near Siberia  some 10 degrees about average, Arctic Ice is on track to, potentially, be the youngest (e.g., thinnest) that we’ve seen since serious ice tracking began with the least distribution: e.g., lowest total ice mass.   Note that Arctic Ice is now, at this point, below 2007 levels at the same time and the current “record” for least ice mass came in September 2007.  Unlike the 100 meters at the Olympics, breaking records on the low side is not a good thing when it comes to Arctic Ice.

Again, don’t be surprised if prominent WashPost (disinformation) columnist George Will fails to put out a glib 500 word essay linking sweltering DC with melting ice in a calm for a concerted national action to end our fossil foolish addictions.

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Tags: climate change · environmental · George Will · Global Warming · Washington Post

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Jun 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Dear Mr. Siegel –

    Please assist me with a logical conundrum.

    How is it that when there is record cold and/or snowfall, it is just weather – – but when there is record heat it is proof positive of global warming?

    Simply not the case and you are playing games. What is in the post?

    It remains, of course, impossible to state that any specific weather event results from climate change. After all, these high temperatures are not, on any specific day, yet setting records. And, even though the 2010 spring was the warmest one for Washington, DC, in recorded weather history, a single season, in a single region, does not ‘establish’ climate change.

    Thus, don’t play games to assert that this post asserts that a single weather event is “proof positive of global warming”.

    Whether done by Sen. Inhofe in one direction or the author of this entry in the other – doesn’t the cherry tree get picked clean, regardless?

    While you think that you are being clever and perhaps even ‘fair’, John, the issue is what the larger trends are. Here is a rather basic point: every decade, we are seeing more high temperature records and fewer cold temperature records. This is the graphic re the US, you can find similar analyses / graphs for other countries / continents / regions.

    If the United States climate wasn’t changing in one direction, over time, writ large we should expect two things:

    1. A rough balance, between highs and lows, with perhaps some ’see-sawing’ with colder and warmer periods.
    2. A (slow?) decline in total records as it should, with more years of data, become harder to set either record highs or lows.

    The data, as shown in the graph, throws these two expected results aside. There is no rough balance, with the data showing increasingly significant movement toward more record highs and fewer record lows.

    I would like to draw your attention to several NCDC maps below – –

    The first is divisional rankings of this past winter, Dec 09 thru Feb 10. Note that it was one of the coldest on record in many places – with the national ranking coming in as 18th coldest.

    Second, the period Mar 10 thru May 10 shows record heat in the Northeast and Upper Great Lakes, but significant cold throughout the West. In fact, the cold has persisted into June – making it the coldest calendrical springs in many areas of the Sierras and Cascades. The reason – a persistent jet stream trough over the West and ridge over the East.

    Third, I have noticed your increasing antipathy towards coal and your embrace of nuclear.

    “Embrace of nuclear”? Wow, can we say an overstatement to an extreme level. That suggest some massive promotion of nuclear power as the core solution path toward our problems. You will not find such an assertion from me.

    As for coal, well, the burning of coal is a leading element in making the planet untenable to support a prosperous future for my children. From mercury in the food system to acidification of the oceans to global warming, coal’s costs are too high — and those high costs simply are kept ‘external’ to the financial arrangements.

    Given the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico and the even greater secrecy and corporate control surrounding the nuclear industry, can you state categorically that an accident on the scale of BP (or greater) would not occur as part of a nuclear build out?

    Best – JE

    PS – While I am at it – remember all the talk about the Australian drought a few years back? There was even a National Geographic article last year. Turns out the drought broke and in a big way – which is what usually happens in semi-arid to arid zones. An area that averages 25 cm of precip per year does not alternate between 20 cm and 30 cm – – rather, a more usual pattern is 4 years of 10 to 15 cm and one year of 75 cm.

    Here is a precipitation % map from ABM for the past 6 months – –

    Note the prodigious amounts of rain in the Murray-Darling Basin. Also, Lake Eyre is filling for the second year in a row – a rare occurance, indeed.

    PPS – And since it is all so personal, anyway, I went snowshoeing in the middle of May and x-country skiing in late May.