Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/14/2010

Expert: Blizzards "consistent with" climate change

By Andrew Freedman

As is often the case with extreme weather events, the recent record snows have sparked spirited discussions about global climate change. Some climate change skeptics, such as Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, seem to think the snow is evidence against manmade climate change. Most climate scientists think otherwise, however.

The debate is playing out in the press, making the front page of the New York Times on Thursday, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, among other outlets.

I contacted Jeff Masters, who is the director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, for his perspective. Masters has a Ph.D. in air pollution meteorology from the University of Michigan, is a former "Hurricane Hunter," and is a prominent voice on extreme events and climate change.

Andrew Freedman: Earlier this week you wrote a blog post, "Heavy Snowfall in a Warming World," in which you argued that major snowstorms such as the ones that have repeatedly slammed the mid-Atlantic this winter may in fact be consistent with manmade climate change. This goes against a view propagated by some in the media and politics lately, which is that the snow and cold weather must be evidence *against* climate change, and therefore climate change isn't such a big deal anymore.

Here at CWG, many a commenter has speculated about whether the recent storms have anything to do with climate change. At the risk of repeating your previous article, what would your message be for them about the possible relationship between a warming climate overall, and record-breaking snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic region?

Jeff Masters: A 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology found that 61-80% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches in the contiguous U.S. between the years 1900-2001 occurred during winters with above-average temperatures. In other words, the old adage, "it's too cold to snow," has some truth to it. The authors also found that 61-85% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters that were wetter than average. The authors conclude, "a future with wetter and warmer winters ... will bring more heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches than in 1901 - 2000."

Keep reading for the rest of the interview ...

Jeff Masters, Weather Underground director of meteorology
The authors found that over the U.S. as a whole, there had been a slight but significant increase in heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches between 1901-2000. So, there is evidence that the climate of the U.S. over the past 100 years is colder than optimal for heavy snow events to occur. If the climate continues to warm, we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where winter temperatures are at the optimum for heavy snow events. One good piece of news is that the very heaviest snowstorms -- extreme "top ten" snowstorms like the three record-breaking storms this winter in the mid-Atlantic -- thus far show no evidence of getting more frequent, at least between 1948-2001.

AF: A point I often hear from readers who are skeptical of manmade climate change is that, to them, it seems that those who emphasize the risk of climate change often claim that any extreme event, be it a heat wave, hurricane or blizzard, is connected to climate change in some way. It strikes them almost like meteorological profiteering, if you will, and seems odd to them that seemingly opposite weather phenomena (heat waves vs. blizzards) can be tied to climate change. Do you think that criticism has any merit to it from a scientific standpoint?

JM: There are some cases where extreme events are improperly blamed on climate change. For example, the number of violent (EF-4 and EF-5) tornadoes has not increased in recent decades, at least as far as our crude data on these can tell. Yet, sometimes I hear a violent tornado being blamed on climate change. For phenomena such as hurricanes, blizzards and heat waves, the best science that we have does predict that the dice are now loaded in favor of stronger such extreme events. A warmer world provides more energy for the strongest storms to get stronger, be they hurricanes or blizzards. When an unprecedented hurricane, blizzard or heat wave occurs, though, it should not be blamed on climate change, as no single weather event can be blamed on climate change. It is proper to say that such an occurrence "is consistent with what we expect to see from climate change," to draw attention to the very real risks that an increase in these extreme events will pose.
The effect of climate change on extreme events is just beginning to be apparent, and there is a high amount of natural variation, so it is controversial. It's also true that even though we expect the strongest storms to get stronger, it may be that the total number of storms will go down. The storms will also shift in their preferred paths, so the net damages will go down for some regions, and go up for others.
There is a high amount of uncertainty about how climate change will affect extreme events.

AF: What have been some of the reactions to your piece from your readers, as well as your peers in the meteorological community? As you know, weather forecasters as a group tend to be more skeptical of manmade climate change than those who specialize in climate change research.

JM: Well, it's been a mix. The people who tend to write me directly about climate change issues tend to be the ones who have made up their mind before hand, so their reactions are predictable.

AF: Lastly, on a different note... As a fellow climate science communicator, I'm curious to ask you this question: How big a credibility hit do you think climate science in general has taken in the U.S. as a result of "climategate" and other recent IPCC controversies? Do you have any suggestions on where science, and specifically the peer-review process, should go from here?

JM: I think the "climategate" affair and the recent attacks on the IPCC and the head of the IPCC have been very effective in making the general public mistrust climate scientists and the science they do. What I like to call the "Manufactured Doubt Industry" is extremely powerful, experienced, media savvy and well funded, and a bunch of disorganized scientists bent mainly on pursuing the truth really can't compete. Chris Mooney has some excellent suggestions in his new book, "Unscientific America," about encouraging scientists to learn more communication skills, engage in more public outreach, and become more involved with politicians and the media. Maybe I'll be inspired to write a Hollywood sceenplay with climate scientists as heroes.
In the end, it's probably going to take an obvious impending climate disaster to motivate meaningful action on climate change. It took the Antarctic ozone hole to motivate action to ban CFCs, and there will have to be something even more obvious and compelling to motivate action on CO2. Will a new record warmest year ever in 2010 do it? A record strength Arctic Dipole upsetting the usual weather patterns over the Northern Hemisphere, triggering sea ice melt all the way to the North Pole this summer? Both of these events are possible, but I doubt they would be sufficiently motivating.
I predict that when the Arctic ice cap is 90% gone is when we'll finally get serious about combating climate change. That will occur sometime between 2013-2030, according to several leading sea ice experts. The glaciers in Greenland should really speed up when that occurs, which should get people's attention.

The views expressed here are the author's and interview subject's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | February 14, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, News & Notes, Science, Snowmageddon  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: More snow a day away
Next: Monday snow amounts manageable, for a change


So you talked to some hack who, surprise, surprise, continued to push his ideological, non-science, nonsense.

Is there any position with the Washington Post that is not filled with a hack? Credibility hit? You have none.

Posted by: ooyah32 | February 14, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

makes sense to me that above average temps can sometimes lead to bigger storms but this month certainly has been colder than average not warmer and hasn't that been true for the winter as a whole? In other words, seems like a great theory but not sure it fits the facts.

Posted by: randym3 | February 14, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Whoa. Almost all coastal cyclones have plenty of moisture here. It's the cold air that is limiting. The required cold wedges form because of subsidence, aided by outgoing reradiation, which is interfered with with increasing carbon dioxide. Consequently the limiting nutrient for our snow--cold air--becomes less deep/strong.

Even the NOAA Climate Change Science Program Synthesis Document (itself subject to criticism) says that greenhouse warming will reduce snow in the south--and the last I heard, we're about as far south at low elevation as snow gets.

Finally, how about a look at the data? The statement about g.w. and east coast blizzards is more correctly an hypothesis. So is there any trend in DC snow as the world warmed about a degree C since 1884, whe our records begin? The answer is a clear and obvious no.

Did I mention that the increases in moisture flux would almost be impossible to tease out of the year to year noise, give the large interannual variance?

So this hypothesis fails on mechanism, consensus, and observations. The ump would call this a strikeout.

Posted by: pmichaels1 | February 14, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I am surprised a scientist would cite only one study to support a position. I would look for confirming studies, if there are any. If there are not, I would be suspicious of just waving around one study. To be fair, this is a blog and not an exhaustive report, and I expect Dr. Masters would do this if he had time and space, if he has any other literature to draw from.

I expect that the 2006 study cited had a host of limitations, identified by the authors, along with recommendations for further research to remedy shortcomings in their work. As do most research papers. I would like a link to look at that study, if it is publicly available. I think the general readership would be surprised at how much the authors don't really know.

And, it goes without saying, the authors' methodology should be held to public scrutiny, not hidden behind scientific journal pay walls.

Better do devote more resources to adapting to inevitable climate change, and less to this type of research.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | February 14, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, conversing with Jeff Masters, wrote, "Earlier this week you wrote a blog post, "Heavy Snowfall in a Warming World," in which you argued that major snowstorms such as the ones that have repeatedly slammed the mid-Atlantic this winter may in fact be consistent with manmade climate change."

Do you know what really caught my attention with that blog article of his? The fact that he threw out that whole, "warmer air holds more moisture" hypothesis and left it at that.

Why didn't he take the next logical step and show what the temperatures were? Were the temperatures warmer than normal?

Why did he throw out the hypothesis and fail to follow up with the supporting data?

Do you know what is really disturbing? The number of news outlets that picked up his hypothesis, never questioned whether the hypothesis aligned itself with the real data, and ran with it. That is truly disturbing. But I have given up expecting any sort of unbiased, investigative journalism from the dinosaur media. :(

The old media is marginalizing itself and doesn't even know it. But I digress.

One of the Newsbusters writers did the work the dinosaur media just want do. He looked up the actual temperature and compared it with normal temperature for each of the days with big snow. And he has supporting links. The article is here.

On each of the big snow days, the temperature was below was normal for that day.

Also, didn't this very site predict the snow? Weren't those predictions based upon the El Nino?

More in my next comment.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

You are really going to run this with input from ONE source? How about a dissenting view? I guess being a blog means some long standing journalism tenets don't apply, but it would be nice to see a newspaper present both sides and let the reader decide. I love the CWG, but this is certainly a poor effort in my mind. Sorry for the negative feedback, I really do enjoy you guys!

Posted by: 4seamed | February 14, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

OK, how about if I say big snows and below average temperatures are consistent with Global Cooling? How are you going to disprove that?

I'd even state that cold winters and abundant snowpack are essential for the return of the glaciers. Disprove that.

I can say that the sun is out and it's a nice day for shoveling. I think I'll go shovel snow.

Posted by: Curmudgeon4 | February 14, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Can any man made climate change proponent please name one weather phenomena that does NOT provide support for man made climate change? I still haven't heard one. Hot means climate change, cold means climate change, lots of snow means climate change, no snow means climate change. I guess only if the weather is exactly the average temperature and precipitation for record history it means we need to start riding bikes and using the new curly q light bulbs.

Posted by: accgrad | February 14, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

mR. q, get a life. commenting here, you are not going to change anybodies mind, it just makes you look like an ass.

Posted by: samdman95 | February 14, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Wilmington, NC, several hundred miles south of here and nearly at sea level had 3.6 inches of snow on Friday and just before Christmas in 1989 had 15". And In 1960, Jacksonville, NC had 13.3 inches of snow. The SE NC ocean beaches had about 5" on Friday. Baton Rouge, Mobile, and other low-altitude areas also saw snow on Friday as did parts of NW Florida. Not much but there was snow. Galveston, TX has had accumulating snow in two winters in recent years.

Meanwhile glaciers in the Andes and atop Africa's highest mountains and many other places are rapidly shrinking. Snows in the southern U.S. notwithstanding we are most definitely not in a period of global cooling.

Global warming is happening; it may be a natural cycle. But there's no question that mankind's reckless pumping of so much fossil fuel emissions and other junk into the planet's atmosphere is accelerating Earth's rapid warmup. Not too many hundreds of years hence there may not be many of us left to discuss global warming.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | February 14, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Some Facts of Life:

Satellite measurements show in the global average, January 2010 was the 3rd warmest over the last 32 years. Over just the Northern Hemisphere, January 2010 was THE warmest. February thus far is also markedly warmer than average.

Continuation of this trend through 2010 would rival the warmth of 1998, the warmest year over the same 32 year period. That was attributed at least in part to the strong El Nino. In contrast the current El Nino has been described mostly as moderate. Draw your own conclusions.

The fundamental research question is whether the conjunction this winter of El Nino with extreme values of the Arctic Oscillation (AO and/or NAO) and high latitude blocking are interdependent or a coincidence of natural variability. Whatever the answer - perhaps unknowable with complete confidence - it sure both interesting and fasinating

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

On November 17th, 2009 Jason Samenow wrote, "Our winter outlook, and several others that have been issued, are calling for better than average chances of a snowy winter because we're currently experience a weak to moderate El Niño event (an event characterized by warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures over the equatorial Pacific that can lead to shifts in weather worldwide).

Source of the above quote, is this very blog.

Hmmm.... that's odd. I can't seem to find the words "El Nino" in your column, Andrew??? Why is that?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse


"Not too many hundreds of years hence there may not be many of us left to discuss global warming."

Hundreds of years from now, I'll go out on a limb and say that NONE of us will be here to discuss global warming. If you have anti-aging pills, let me know.

Posted by: 4seamed | February 14, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Major snowstorms in 1996, 2003, and 2010 are "consistent with" a seven year cycle. A mere 30-40 years ago in the 1970's the problem was global cooling. Look it up.

Posted by: mgb711 | February 14, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

So you talked to some hack named Galileo who, surprise, surprise, continued to push his ideological, non-science, nonsense that the earth revolves around the sun. All the visible and commonsense evidence clearly indicates that the sun revolves around the earth. Anybody with two eyes can see that by just looking up at the sky.

Is there any position with the Copernican Post that is not filled with a hack? Credibility hit? You have none.

Posted by: xandersun | February 14, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

If I were to give you and Mr. Masters the benefit of the doubt, I would have to assume that the two of you were unaware of the El Nino weather ramifications.

Darn it! So much for the benefit of the doubt!

You wrote about the El Nino weather just a little over two weeks ago.

And under the subheading "Gargantuan snow totals", you wrote (and quoted Jeff Masters), "As reported by the always meticulous Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, many stations in the Southwest also set new all-time records for lowest barometric pressure readings on Jan. 21. In Los Angeles, the pressure fell to 29.07 inches of mercury, which broke the old record of 29.25, set in 1988. Big cities from San Diego to Salt Lake City saw their records fall as well, leading Masters to state (about the Jan. 21 event in particular), "We expect to get powerful winter storms affecting the Southwest U.S. during strong El Niño events, but yesterday's storm was truly epic in its size and intensity."

So you did know about the heavy snow that El Nino's bring, but you failed to mention it in this column. You make it sound as if the "warm air" is a byproduct of global warming and not the El Nino. Even though you know it is related to El Nino.

Why is that?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now. After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events."

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | February 14, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Technorati: I did look it up. The "cooling" thing is a myth. A review of the scientific literature a couple of years ago found that the vast majority of papers published in the 1970s predicted warming, not cooling.

Posted by: mirrorball | February 14, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Phil Jones admits that since 1995 there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

Source of the above quote.

And a new study (supposedly to be published in Nature) - AGW is refuted.

--begin quote--
Although we reject AGW, we find that greenhouse gas forcings have a temporary effect on global temperature. Because the greenhouse effect is temporary rather than permanent, predictions of significant global warming in the 21st century by IPCC are not supported by the data.
--end quote--

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Bad link in my last comment. The correct link for the new study that blows the AGW hypothesis out of the water is here. Sorry about that. Darn fingers can't keep up with the brain.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, both you and Mr. Masters previously discussed the heavy snows that come with El Nino's. But both of you failed to mention that in this column.

Don't you think this column is very misleading?

Was that intentional?

I don't see how it can be anything but intentional.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 14, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Blah,Blah,Blah,Blah,Blah! Someone who has been drinking the Al Gore Kool Aid one too many times.

Posted by: stinkerflat1 | February 14, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The hemispheric snow coverage this winter is about 50% greater than 97/98 and 98/99 ==> 50% greater with moderate El Nino than with strong El Nino. The earlier El Nino winters were at least as warm as this season, so it's clear there is more to the greater snowfall than just an increase in moisture due to a warmer atmosphere. El Nino alone can't explain the snowfall this winter. Sorry, facts count, opinions based on facts count, opinions based on self justifying hand waving do not count.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Hilarious how quickly all the "pollution doesn't cause global warming" crowd turns out and shrieks bloody murder.

Posted by: Langway4Eva | February 14, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

SteveT, buddy, easy on the bold - accepted blog protocol calls for ALL CAPS if you want to shout...

Also help me out here - is it global warming or climate change? What's the difference, and what's worse?

Posted by: jhorstma | February 14, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse


Hi there, the convention on CWG blog is that the moderators or CWG reps use bold type to distinguish them from other bloggers.

I'll defer to Steve or Andrew to respond to your good question.

Posted by: krosseel | February 14, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"So you talked to some hack who, surprise, surprise, continued to push his ideological, non-science, nonsense.

Is there any position with the Washington Post that is not filled with a hack? Credibility hit? You have none.

Posted by: ooyah32 | February 14, 2010 "

That "hack" has a PhD in meteorology from the University of Michigan... or can't you read?

And BTW, why don't you offer your own credentials before attacking those of someone else....

Posted by: Hensleys | February 14, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the clarification - my apologies to SteveT...

But I am curious as to the distinction between "global warming" and "climate change"...

Posted by: jhorstma | February 14, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Nice article. Jeff Masters is a well spoken guy and it rings true. Obviously from my call sign I'm on the side of believing in this whole thing. The science makes sense. Heck, Carl Sagan talked about all this 20 years ago, and it is playing out.

What I believe in is that we need to stop polluting less and the weather has changed in my lifetime. I don't need a dissenting view telling me why it is OK to continue my polluting life. It is our home, lets clean it up, then we won't have to have this debate anymore.


Posted by: ThinkGreen | February 14, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

@jhorstma: Climate change is the more accurate name. Global warming is good for scientists, because unlike the Rush Limabughs of the world, they understand that global warming doesn't mean the whole world turns into a rainforest, and that cold weather in winter doesn't disprove it.

Posted by: mhardy1 | February 14, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

@Katie / ThinkGreen

I think your version of the precautionary priniciple, to take action in the face of uncertainty, is worthwhile and makes (common) sense.

Posted by: krosseel | February 14, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that Maine, Vermont, New Hamspire & NY are snow starved, & Winter events in many area's have been cancalled; due 2 no snow. So, if record snow in the mid Atl. is somehow proof that GW is false, then lack of snow in NE must b proof it does exist. Just because 1 area is having extremes, doesn't prove or disprove anything. If next winter is mild & snowless will it prove anything?

Posted by: VaTechBob | February 14, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

FCPS is closed tomorrow. If we get another 1-3" tomorrow night they'll probably close again Tuesday (Jack Dale said as of right now they are planning to open 2 hours late Tuesday).

Posted by: oriolesfan23 | February 14, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, the past few El Nino's have been so darned MILD & RAINY, that I was fearful of another 1997/98-style BUST this winter! Fortunately, the Greenland Block changed things a bit this year.

Also when I was a boy during the 1950's the thinking on the advent of Ice Ages, was of the opinion that Ice Ages resulted from the existence of an OPEN, ICE-FREE Arctic Ocean!!! The way the thinking went, the ice-free Arctic resulted in greater evaporation, resulting in greater winter snowfall over the upper latitudes of the North American continent during "milder" winters than present. These "milder" winters combined with "cooler" summers at high latitudes resulted in snowpacks which didn't completely melt during the summer. After a number of consecutive years experiencing such conditions, the snowpacks turned to ice, forming continental glaciers, which then began to move southward. Hence, ironically, "global warming" could, AND PERHAPS STILL CAN [!]create a climatic feedback effect which would initiate the onset of a new Ice Age!

Perhaps the presumed future melting of the Arctic icecap may provide a means of testing this hypothesis formulated by the climatologists of the mid-twentieth century. If they were right, the global warming doomsayers could be in for a big surprise!

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 14, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

i know who you are and while i disagree with your global warming position, i gained a lot of respect for you during the storm because you DID NOT get pulled into the AGW argument/discussion/distraction (unlike myself...).

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

@Mr Q.

On numerous occasions, we here at CWG have attributed the snowy winter to El Nino and the strong blocking pattern -- i.e. modes of natural variability. Those are the dominant mechanisms. The issue discussed in this article is whether greenhouse warming might be acting as an enhancer...i.e. causing extreme events to become more extreme (and there is legitimate debate about how big any effect it is). No meteorologist or climate scientist will argue greenhouse warming alone would cause these blizzards.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Follow up question re climate change:
Assuming that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of man-made global warming (BIG assumption I realize, open to lots of emotional debate on both sides), and given the finite quantity of fossil fuels remaining to be burned (to be replaced by some form of renewable energy that is less polluting yet more expensive, in net present value terms, than fossil fuels), then does the rate at which climate change damages (again, big emotional argument I realize) the planet exceed the rate at which we deplete our supply of fossil fuel? Is the issue relative or is there an absolute "point of no return" that renders this analysis moot?

Posted by: jhorstma | February 14, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

anytime some @#$%!#$ like sen. james inhofe (or any of the posters here who said or implied as much during the recent storm....) expresses belief that the local cold and snow disproves global warming, some inconvenient facts SteveT pointed out bear repeating:

"Satellite measurements show in the global average, January 2010 was the 3rd warmest over the last 32 years. Over just the Northern Hemisphere, January 2010 was THE warmest. February thus far is also markedly warmer than average."

i'm just sayin'....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

As for the adage that "it's too cold to snow"...Colder air can hold less moisture [precipitable water] than warmer air; there's less "absolute" humidity. Hence less moisture can precipitate out of colder air.

Most meteorologists use relative humidity rather than absolute humidity. A parcel of air at 75F with 80% relative humidity contains far more water vapor than the same parcel of air at 25F with 80% relative humidity because the ABSOLUTE humidity of the 75-degree air is greater than the ABSOLUTE humidity of the 25-degree air. PW or "precipitable water" is a far better yardstick of anticipated precipitation than is relative humidity. If a parcel of air at 75F and 80% relative humidity is suddenly cooled to 25F, a lot of water in the form of rain, sleet or snow will precipitate out due to the decrease in carrying capacity for water vapor as the air is suddenly cooled.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 14, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Interesting how the pro-AGW crowd tries to claim now that any and all weather is proof of "climate change"/"global warming."

Robert Kennedy Jr. said recently that the 'lack' of snow in the D.C. area was proof of global warming.

You can't have it both ways.
I also find it interesting that the pro-AGW crowd never really addresses the actual points raised by ClimateGate, they just dismiss it with the same condescension they always use. Now that the evidence that there is any actual warming is in doubt, they have to call it "climate change" instead of "global warming."

And why is it that the pro-AGW crowd, so vehemently pro-evolution, is so terrified that the Earth's climate can change over time just as life does?

Posted by: sidbluntley | February 14, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse


Very interesting explanation of humidity and precipitation -- thanks!

Posted by: krosseel | February 14, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

So Andrew, maybe you could explain how snow in Hattiesburg, Mississippi fits in with this post?

Quite honestly, you have last all credibility with me now with this post. You're on firmer ground when arguing that global temperatures are increasing. In fact, January 2010 was very warm globally. Instead, you make an inane post on localized weather phenomenon calling it evidence of climate change.

This is just ridiculous. It's intellectually disingenuous and an abrogation of your responsibility to present the evidence in a clear and straightforward manner. Instead, you make a post about how blizzards are evidence of climate change. All the while ignoring THAT IT'S SNOWING IN HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | February 14, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I've avoided this topic because it's too emotional for some to properly analyze. However, I'd like to make a few factual points:
1- For much of the past decade or two the East Coast has seen a decrease in snowy winters. This has often been attributed to Global Warming. Remember the "if it were only a few degrees cooler, this rain would be snow" comments in year's past?
2- For this winter many AGW skeptics have pointed out, mistakenly, that blizzards and cold refute AGW. The response from the climatologists and meteorologists is "AGW or Climate Change may be responsible for snowy winters.
- You can't have it both ways: lack of snow is man's fault, and lots of snow is man's fault. So which is it?
3- The same arguments are made about droughts and rain, where there is too little, it is AGW, when there is too much, it is AGW.
- so my main question is: what is this mythical optimal climate/weather earth is supposed to experience? When in our history did we experience these optimal conditions?
I've noticed a shift from Global Warming to "Climate Change". But this simple truth is that humans are SUPPOSED to have an impact on climate and weather. All animals do. Changes existed long before the existence of man, and will exist long after we depart. We have an obligation to conserve resources (which nobody should argue against, regardless of your stance on AGW/Climate Change) so future generations are not left without resources.
Whatever one may think about this debate, it is irrefutable that global warming would make a much larger area of land mass livable (Canada and Russia). So in some respects, a 1-2 degree warming might actually be "optimal conditions" for humans to live under. It would prompt relocation of tens of millions of people, but this is normal in our history. We need to stop thinking about this within the lenses of our current situation, and think about it with a more historical perspective.

Posted by: GovITguy | February 14, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

So let's ask the converse: are these recent blizzards inconsistent with a world which is not experiencing anthropogenic climate change?

Posted by: JDunning | February 14, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

global warming causing snowstorms=horse apples

Posted by: sidehillman | February 14, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

While he is not, strictly speaking, a climate scientist, Dr. Masters' blog publishes regularly on the issue of climate change, and he generally agrees with the vast majority of climate scientists that human activity is contributing to warming of the earth's climate. I thought that one of his most interesting recent blog entries was on the manufactured doubt industry:

Human nature being what it is, and given the enormous vested interest of powerful economic actors in denying global warming, science will not trump politics+money until confronted by disaster--particularly in the United States.

Posted by: h0db | February 14, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Robert Kennedy Jr laments that kids in northern Virginia never get to go sledding anymore. Forget the seven year heavy snow cycle in the DC area that goes back at least 20 years. Don't confuse me with facts.
The 2005 hurricane cycle (Katrina, Rita, Wilma) was more proof of global warming. Except the tropics have been pretty quiet since then.
If global climate change, man made or other wise (not five, ten, or thirty year weather cycles but a long term climate shift like the Little Ice Age or the Medieval warm period) really exists, one year of unusual weather neither proves nor refutes it.

Posted by: jandmva | February 14, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Jeff Masters had me until his comment dismissing "climategate": "a bunch of disorganized scientists bent mainly on pursuing the truth really can't compete."

Let's apply line that to other scandals:

The current economic crisis: "a bunch of disorganized bankers bent mainly on pursuing the general prosperity really can't compete."

The clergy sex-abuse crisis: "a bunch of disorganized priests and bishops bent mainly on pursuing sanctity really can't compete."

Watergate: "a bunch of disorganized politicians bent mainly on pursuing good government really can't compete."

Did Masters deliver that quote with a snicker? Or is he really a mindless ideologue?

Posted by: crcurrie | February 14, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

It's difficult to link snows like we have gotten the past week to climate warming for two reasons. First, they are nothing new. We have been getting deep-snow blizzards inthe D.C. area every few years, like clockwork, for decades.....I still remember the Blizzard of '66 well.....and '79, 83, 87, 96, and 2003.

Second, if climate warming has been going on for years, as some people (incliding Mr. Freeman) are trying to prove, than why are we suddenly getting enormous snowstorms NOW, after several years of very low-snowfall winters? It just doesn't make sense. This winter has hit with a bang, not a gradual increase in snowfall with climate warming.
So, in short, IMO, the tie of big snowfalls to climate warming is, if not nonsense, then at least highly doubtful. The fact is that it is simply an extremely strong, active El Nino pattern, interacting with an unusually persistant block over Greenland, that is driving Arctic air south over the eastern part of North America, not unlike the winters of the late 1970's.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | February 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse


Do think evolution is full of crap, and Earth is 6,000 years old?

Posted by: Langway4Eva | February 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. When average snowfalls dropped for a while, global-warming proponents blamed -that- on warming:

Skeptics pointed out that weather and climate are two different things.

Now that Snowmageddon has hit, the warmists are making the opposite claim. How can unbiased observers see this as anything but the plainest opportunism?

Look, folks, it's like this. Whether the earth is warming at all or not -- and the British "expert" at the center of Climategate is now conceding that it appears not to have done so since 1995* -- that's a separate question from whether such warming would be partially anthropogenic, i.e., man-made. Also a highly debatable proposition.

So until the first argument is proven beyond a reasonable doubt via hard, credible data made available to the entire scientific community -- rather than by data that's made up, "lost," and/or mysteriously hidden away -- there wouldn't seem to be much point in arguing the second claim.

That is, unless the actual point is self-congratulation, moral posturing, and/or control of others' choices and economic well-being. If that's what you're really in it for, feel free to continue with the meteorologically-correct claims du jour. Just don't expect to persuade those who have other priorities.

*See these stories from the UK press for more:
Climategate U-turn as Scientist at Centre of Row Admits: There Has Been No Global Warming Since 1995

World May Not Be Warming, Say Scientists

Posted by: solidstate | February 14, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: joshct | February 14, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, CWG, for going to somebody of Dr. Jeff's stature for an answer. For people who follow weather (as opposed to climate) this is perhaps a confusing issue. Oceans, and ocean temperature and current, play into atmospheric conditions and climate in ways that no one fully understands. I am no meteorologist -- heck, no. But I do understand the ENSO effect to the extent that a lay person reading up on it can. And I do understand that more heat in the atmosphere means more energy for storms to draw on. What I can't understand is why so many people are so viscerally angry about this blog entry? Few of you are scientists. Dr. Masters follows and reports on hurricanes and tropical cyclones every day, basically. On what basis are you calling him a hack and a liar? You want the scientific advances that give you up to 5 days warning that Katrina is barreling down on you, but not the ones that tell you that we're screwing the planet? Does not compute.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | February 14, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

But of course!! If it's cold and snowy it because of global warming, if it's hot and dry it's also because of global warming! That way no matter what the weather it is always because of global warming!!

Posted by: capsnumber1 | February 14, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Does it not bother you why your leaders changed the theme from Global Warming to Climate Change? Did it make you question for even a second?
This really is the perfect example of liberalism vs. conservatism in that liberals tend to see what they want to believe vs. conservatives who generally believe what they see

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | February 14, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I think it is important to be specific when we discuss things like this. For instance, the title of this blog should be "Expert: Blizzards "consistent with" man-made climate change" or Expert: Blizzards "consistent with" Global Warming. The climate changes for a myriad of reasons but the one that we seem to only really care about is the potential man made changes.

I don't pretend to know for sure how much man is contributing to global warming, if at all. What I will say is that your expert, when he states "What I like to call the "Manufactured Doubt Industry" is extremely powerful, experienced, media savvy and well funded, and a bunch of disorganized scientists bent mainly on pursuing the truth really can't compete." is full of crapola. There is no better funded, organized, supported and media savvy group than the one that puts forth the man-made global warming argument. From the Nobel Peace Prize to the Democratic party to a certain former VP to the schools and media that label those not on board as simply "deniers", they have had every opportunity to present their argument. They refuse to have a serious debate on it - since according to them the science is settled. If it is settled, it would seem to me to benefit everyone to take the deniers seriously and have a public discussion of this issue.

I will say that to me, it seems that "experts" contend that everything that happens seems to be tied to climate change. That may just be my perception but if it's hotter than normal, colder than normal, normal, wetter or drier, more of fewer extreme events, one hears that it's due to GW.

Finally, it is imperative that scientist tell us what they don't know as well as what they do know. One only hears things like temps will rise by x amount in y years. Perhaps they could come up with a confidence scale like the one CWG uses for forecasts.

Posted by: amaranthpa | February 14, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | February 14, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

good catch....

in saying,
"And why is it that the pro-AGW crowd, so vehemently pro-evolution, is so terrified that the Earth's climate can change over time just as life does?"

sidbluntley reveals that his/her opinions ARE NOT based in reality.

"vehemently pro-evolution"?!? what the heck is that?!?

(sidbluntley, please correct me if i'm wrong, but i'm assuming you're vehemently "pro-6-day-creation and pro-noah's-ark-as-real-history.)

sidbluntly and i have noted the same correlation: a disproportionate number of AGW denialists are evolution (i.e., science) denialists....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The math behind AGW is faulty. And now that we are finally getting some transparency into the data and methods behind AGW research this will soon become obvious to everyone.

Posted by: HughJassPhD | February 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

From a scientific perspective, what events could occur that would disprove the theory of man-made global warming? A real theory needs falsifiable predictions.

From a humanist perspective, what are the upsides of global warming? If it ultimately creates more arable land via increased precipitation and food production in high latitudes which reduces starvation, there is an upside.

It seems a little weak to argue that man-made climate change, as we must call it now, is just behind all bad weather. That's the danger of reducing the data to sound bites. The process is obviously complex. In fact, the greater opportunity for the environmentalist is to fight pollution. When people are wearing masks everyday, like in Beijing, the world will demand change. Until then, it is very hard to sacrifice for something that is a difficult to observe.

Posted by: staticvars | February 14, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse


"And I do understand that more heat in the atmosphere means more energy for storms to draw on."

I'm pretty sure most people aren't ignoring that. But here's the issue: that effect may explain larger storms, but it doesn't explain several inches of snow in Atlanta.

All the latest blizzards show in regards to climate change is absolutely jack. Nada. Nothing. Two blizzards over a stretch of land that accounts for less than 1% of the total land surface area of the globe tells us absolutely nothing other than we go two blizzards. Not even snow in the southeast United States proves or disproves climate change.

Which is why Andrew's post is absolutely ridiculous and hypocritical. Andrew denounced those who saw the cold December as consistent with a globe that is not warming. And yet here is with a post saying the blizzards are consistent with a global that is warming. He and others like him try to have it both ways. In so doing, they do far more damage to their discipline than help.

If anything should be learned from climate-gate, it's this: for God's sakes, act like scientists. Stop this stupid yellow journalism sensationalism. Drop Al Gore, and depoliticize the whole thing.

Andrew Freeman's post is pure hypocrisy, which angers me because he's always been above that sort of thing.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | February 14, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

@amaranthpa, Perhaps the oddest thing that has changed about science today compared to what went on 100 years ago is scientists' unwillingness to debate their work.

Posted by: prokaryote | February 14, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

There are already so many comments here that one more is probably going to go unread. It is extremely dismaying that that there has been so little progress in stopping the destruction of the tropical rain forest. The loss of all these irreplacable trees is arguably causing more of whatever climate change is happening than all other human activity combined.

Posted by: RAB2 | February 14, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I read your comment, RAB2, and I agree.

Posted by: KelsiN | February 14, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

@JerryFloyd1, the entire state of Alaska on the other hand, has experienced a net increase in glaciation. The basic fact is that while some glaciers recede, others expand, and so far, when the expansions have been included in the glacial figures, there has been an increase. This is most notable in Alaska as well, because the Polar regions were originally theorized to be the areas of the globe where we would first take notice of AGW effects, and also where such effects would be strongest (It's kind of difficult to notice slight warming near the Tropics, but the more reliant your culture and region is upon cold and snow, the more of an impact that warmer temperatures would obviously have upon life in general).

Also, Mt. Kilimanjaro's snowpack decrease has been shown to be a direct result of the deforestation on and around that particular mountain. The snowpack is not being lost due to warming temperatures, but rather sublimation. The humidity levels have dropped around the mountain dramatically, because the forests that typically held the moisture which supplied the condensation, and precipitation, for sustaining the snowfall accumulation levels required for a constant snowpack on the peak, have now been turned instead into grassland and dirt, which cannot hold the moisture amounts required for sustaining such.

Every ice field has different reasons behind its growth, decline, and so on. In the Arctic, the ice coverage is largely dictated by oceanic currents, whereas in the mountains, it is often determined by precipitation levels.

Posted by: TheAnalyst | February 14, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I have to say though folks, that our cold and Winters in general of the past few years, have been increasingly going against any theories of a warming planet whatsoever. It is one thing to say that blizzards and snowfall are still possible despite AGW, but when you have record breaking snowfall pushing its way ever further South towards the Equator, that simply does not fit into the hypothesis at hand.

With all due respect, what I take away from Dr. Masters' statement is that he really doesn't understand just what is happening, and that is mostly the God's honest truth with a lot of the scientists involving themselves in Climatology. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their levels of competency either, but rather the complexities of our natural climatic systems, and our subsequent lack of an understanding in how they all truly work. Therefore, with such a lack of complete understanding, it is really far reaching to interject a label of "Anthropogenic" into issues dealing with climates varying and changing over time.

Posted by: TheAnalyst | February 14, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

BTW, thank you Andrew for going out of your way to contact Dr. Masters for an interview. Also, I am glad that you asked him the appropriate and timely questions in regards to many of our concerns.

Posted by: TheAnalyst | February 14, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

@TheAnalyst: According to NASA ( ), the truth is that Alaska is losing ice at the rate of 84 gigatons a year. I don't know where you got your information that it's increasing, but I can't corroborate it.

Posted by: kevinwparker | February 14, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

perhaps in light of recent comments like,

"...our cold and Winters in general of the past few years, have been increasingly going against any theories of a warming planet whatsoever..."

it's worth recalling SteveT's inconvenient facts:

"Satellite measurements show in the global average, January 2010 was the 3rd warmest over the last 32 years. Over just the Northern Hemisphere, January 2010 was THE warmest. February thus far is also markedly warmer than average."


"The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show. The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said."

again, i'm just sayin'....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

as a snow lover, i am extremely pleased with the possible AGW/blizzard connection....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

staticvars, you said,
"From a scientific perspective, what events could occur that would disprove the theory of man-made global warming?"

well, this question was asked during the storm and someone (forgive me, i forget who) answered to the effect of, "that's easy! 10 to 20 years lower temperatures globally."

as my previous post indicates, that's NOT what we're seeing....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

As a regular reader of Dr. Master's blog, I can assure he isn't a "hack." He refers to multiple peer reviewed journal articles in his blog. He illustrates his points with graphs He adds reader supplied pictures when he reports on weather events. His writing is very readable. His blog is 99% solid science. He ventures into providing his opinions on weather related movies and books on occasion. When he wades into supplying his opinion on things political, he backs it up with data.

By the way, I think warm air holds more moisture than cold air because it provides more energy to the moisture so more of it is in the gas phase.

Posted by: Diane30 | February 14, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Kevinwparker, the Gulf of Alaska is losing 84 gigatons of ice a year. That's true. But your body also loses 2200 calories a day. The economy also loses 31 million jobs a year (and that's in a good year). What's important isn't the amount of the loss; it's the amount of net loss. Sadly, the article you linked to only says:

"The study’s authors found that the annual ice mass lost from glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska has been 84 gigatons annually"

Net loss isn't mentioned.

I don't know what the net loss (or net gain?) margin is, but I do know that the largest tidewater glacier is advancing:

Posted by: nlcaldwell | February 14, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the Mr Q link to an article where the person examined temperatures during the snowstorms, noted that they were colder than average, and claimed that this debunks the "warm air can hold more moisture" link, there is one HUGE problem. The moisture sources for these events isn't the local area. For our big DC snowstorms, the sources are either the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or both. Heck, with the 2/5-6 event, there was clear link in the satellite imagery to the tropics.

The critical temperatures are NOT the local ones where the snow is occurring. The critical temperatures would be those over the water bodies that supply the moisture to the storm.

Posted by: foul_throw | February 14, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

boy, nlcaldwell,
only someone absolutely determined to assert that alaskan glaciers are gaining net mass could read kevinwparker's link as NOT referring to net loss....sheesh. i'm really curious as to where you got the idea that alaskan glaciers are growing. (i have an idea, but i'd rather not assume...)

is this unequivocal enough for you?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

seriously, why do you think alaskan glaciers are growing?

you cited an article that said that ONE certain glacier (hubbard) is growing.

after mentioning hubbard, the VERY NEXT SENTENCE says, "This is in stark contrast with most glaciers, which have thinned and retreated during the last century."

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Ah, finally, the AWG post - Walter, I too strayed into this during the blizzard posts.

We were taught "for every action, there is a reaction," and when the normal systems of the earth cannot keep up with managing and filtering the pollution we emit every day and every year, there is going to be another outcome (ha, kind of like my ice dam situation this week). What do the naysayers think happens to all that stuff spewed into the air? Pollution and the harm it does to humans and the ecosystem is very well-documented. Why anyone acts surprised by even longer-term consequences is beyond me.

I sailed around Cape Horn over Christmas this year, and while it is their summer, the sight of those severely retreating glaciers was dismaying, to say the least. And as I understand it, permanently retreating or melting glaciers cause the mountains to literally "spring up" from the release of the downward pressure.

Posted by: bobosnow | February 14, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

sorry, i confused you with TheAnalyst. i see that you said you didn't know what the net loss or gain was, but questioned whether that 84GT was net...sorry. (but i do think it's ridiculous to think they weren't talking about NET loss.)

where'd you get the idea alaskan glaciers are growing?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

No, wally+eva, I believe in modern science, which is that the universe is billions of years old, life on Earth is millions of years old, and that the Arctic was once 70+ degrees with alligators and palm trees. And will again someday, probably, due to forces which no one fully understands yet, since we know that the planet has gone through climactic cycles.
I am not so arrogant as to believe mankind is so powerful as to be able to destroy the planet or that we have all the answers about how the universe works yet. The pro-AGW crowd is relying on data that they have only just recently been able to start collecting and twisting it around to fit their goals.
This is what I mean by condescension and arrogance. Jumping to conclusions about things, and people, which you really have no clue about.

Posted by: sidbluntley | February 14, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

So, uh, even if you doubt global warming, surely you agree that it's a bad thing to fill our air and water with toxic chemicals, right? I'm not sure why this is even a "debate" framed in the terms of whether or not the planet is warming. Let's stop arguing pointlessly and find ways to pump less crap into the air or water we breathe.

Posted by: bkriner | February 14, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

bobosnow, you said,
"What do the naysayers think happens to all that stuff spewed into the air?"

well...i've actually heard that great climate scientist rush limbaugh express his opinion that the earth is so huge that he personally can't imagine how little ol' humans could affect its climate. besides....co2 is PLANT FOOD!

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

well, sidy, sorry i jumped to that conclusion re evolution. so why the "vehemently pro-evolution" crack?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

walter -- lol-ing at "great climate scientist Rush Limbaugh"!

...back to lurking

Posted by: natsncats | February 14, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

BadMommy1: It has always amazed me how viscerally people react to articles on climate change. In this case, I didn't advocate for anything. Neither did Dr. Masters, as far as I can tell. All he did was respond to a few questions on a small subset of a large scientific issue.

Interesting work has recently been done by the social science community, exploring how people view climate change and what sorts of biases come into play into things. In my view, most of the people who comment against articles about climate change tend to view the issue through a political prism.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

They key point in this interview has nothing to do with science. It's about human behavior:
"In the end, it's probably going to take an obvious impending climate disaster to motivate meaningful action on climate change."

He's right, of course. The climate change skeptics have won without even trying that hard. There's no political will to address this and a sense of fatalism prevails.

The real race is for clean technology and the people working on it. Hope belongs to those who take action, and there are many who working on these problems.

For everyone else, short of an overwhelming disaster that forces nations to act, I share the view that no meaningful political action is possible. We're just not capable of it and that's an observation that applies to everyone, not just the skeptics.

I am discourage, so much so.

Posted by: smoke111 | February 14, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

TheAnalyst: I am glad that you appreciate the interview and thought the questions were appropriate. I tried to include questions that have been raised in response to previous articles, actually. Thanks.

nlcaldwell: Why you've charged me with "hypocrisy" and being "intellectually disingenuous" is beyond me. I didn't argue for or against anything in this article. All that was presented was an interview with a widely respected meteorologist - a guy who nearly lost his life flying into the eye of Hurricane Hugo for research purposes - who argued that the recent anomalous snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic are consistent with what might be expected from the warming climate.

You might want to save the strong charges against me for pieces in which I actually state my own views on something.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Extreme weather is always the product of several factors that only occasionally coincide. A Katrina can only happen in a small window in August/September when the sea surface temp is very high, and then only when a storm is able ride a warm water current for days, avoid major land impacts (Cuba, Yucatan) that would weaken it before it reaches full strength, and thrive in the absence of wind-shear or any other fronts that would impede its development.
In the case of these blizzards, there is the combination of El Nino effects on Central/Western Pacific surface temps and currents, a southern dip of the jet stream picking up more Pacific and Gulf moisture, and then that moisture coinciding with random cold fronts that often occur in February in the mid-Atlantic and even in the Deep South. As with Katrina, Rita, Wilma in 2005, when the conditions are just right, starting with the ocean currents, extreme storms can happen in quick succession.
It should be easy to accept that extreme weather events may be more likely because of climate change trends if we acknowledge that we are only talking about a slight increase in the probabilities, not an always or never proposition.

Posted by: jbmindc | February 14, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

To all: Please note the comments where there is name-calling, obscenity or any other offensive material will be deleted at our discretion. One comment had to recently be unpublished. Multiple offenses may result in termination of posting privileges. Please be civil and respectful.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse


I see that you confused me with TheAnalyst, but please don't make the automatic assumption that someone who may disagree with you is to be treated with contempt and disdain. After all, I greatly enjoy your sculptures!


You're absolutely right and I apologize.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | February 14, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

nlcaldwell: I appreciate your apology, and look forward to reading your comments in the future. Best, -A

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

A few quick hitters:

1) It's the Carbon, stupid. Measured values will reach 390 ppm in 2010, a continuing exponential trend that began with the industrial revolution.

2) It's the Carbon, stupid. Part II. We ARE in a long term warming cycle. No one can refute this. Scary is the rapid increase in measured carbon, which is more than 100 ppm GREATER than in earlier interglacial cycles, stretching back hundreds of thousands of years.

3) Carbon outputs generally track closely with warming/cooling cycles. 390 ppm is nearly off the charts in a warming cycle. Answer: The earth is no longer in Carbon balance. Fossil fuel burning, land use policies, deforestation, and population explosion are all contributors.

4) Wouldn't it be smart to take a breath and maybe decide to try to bring the Carbon ratio back into balance? For the good of the planet and much of life as we know it today?

5) Unrelated: Watch those long term analogue trends. The last time we had a moderate El Nino and very low AO index was...January 1977. Remember what happened then? Bitterly to very cold temperatures, and a host of small to medium snow and ice storms from early December through mid February.

Bitterly cold.

Subzero at DCA. Daytime highs (one time) with full sun: 15F. Subzero (day/night) across the Great Lake snowbelt and Ohio Valley/Midwest for several days at a time.

Where has all that bitterly cold arctic air gone in 2010? Are future analogues going to be similar to 2010? A few degrees warmer still?

Just pondering...

Posted by: wxdancer | February 15, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse


I'd appreciate a response to my post, very early on in this string.

It noted that the hypothesis is inconsistent with the nature of our winter storms (which generally lack cold air, rather than moisture), inconsistent with scientific consensus (that southern snowstorms should decrease with warming), and inconsistent with reality (the correlation between global temperature and mid-atlantic snow totals over the last 120 years is virtually zero).

I don't disagree with you that the planet is warmer than it was and that people have something to do with it. But I think your hypothesis about warming enhancing local snowfall simply is unsupported by both fact and theory.

Posted by: pmichaels1 | February 15, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

@ Walter in Fallschurch said

"From a scientific perspective, what events could occur that would disprove the theory of man-made global warming?"

well, this question was asked during the storm and someone (forgive me, i forget who) answered to the effect of, "that's easy! 10 to 20 years lower temperatures globally."

as my previous post indicates, that's NOT what we're seeing....

Not quite. Warmer or lower temps over 10 to 20 years in and of themselves say virtually nothing about MAN MADE climate change. Warmer temps over the last 10 - 20 years simply indicate that perhaps the earth is warming, although even that could be attributed to other variables such as how and where the data is gathered or a short term warming cycle. Regardless, none of that tells us if, assuming global temps are increasing, it is attributable to man.

I am not denying or endorsing either viewpoint. I am actually kinda skeptical of both sides.

Posted by: amaranthpa | February 15, 2010 2:23 AM | Report abuse


So, there are no politics behind Al Gore? No politics behind the "eco-terrorists"? No politics behind those that do not want increased domestic oil production? Yup, no politics whatsoever. No politics behind those that want to limit production and power usage.

I see my earlier post was deleted. I guess the wine and cheese crowd can't accept open debate. That's the problem here. Only one side wants debate, the other side, that make these dire warnings based on nothing but their own opinions, do not want to be questioned. Look how al gore reacts to being questioned. I always thought that if one believed in their cause they were not worried about having to answer questions.

Recall, Katrina was just the start of much stronger storms because of "man caused global warming". What happened? Less activity. Of course then the same crowd said that's exactly what happens with global warming. They want it both ways.

In 2008, Robert Kennedy Jr, wrote an op ed complaining about the lack of snow in Northern VA, compared to when he lived there. Of course he blamed it on "big oil". Yup no politics there. And of course he wants it both ways too, too little snow, globel warming, too much snow, global warming.

Of course they feel they are being smart by trying to control the debate, and staking out both positions.

Well, outside of the wine and cheese, limo crowd, they don't appear to be too smart.

Posted by: irish031 | February 15, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

just finished off a glass of wine and a wedge of cheese... yum!

it truly is sad that this IS political. is there any other topic where we disregard the overwhelming scientific consensus so much? maybe smoking? remember how vested interests used to try to claim smoking wasn't unhealthy etc... they'd trot out their own "scientists" with their own "studies". it's actually quite a good analogy.

it's kind of difficult for beer-drinking cheese-puff-eaters to understand, but "too little snow" and "too much snow" are called "extremes" - which wine-drinking, cheese-eating scientists have been suspecting may be a byproduct of global warming.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 15, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

anytime the words "al gore" are mentioned in a global warming discussion, you can be pretty sure the person who said "al gore" has turned away from science to politics and emotions.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 15, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "anytime the words "al gore" are mentioned in a global warming discussion, you can be pretty sure the person who said "al gore" has turned away from science to politics and emotions.

Which is, it goes without saying, nothing at all like your morbid fascination with and constant references to Rush Limbaugh and Senator Inhofe. ;)

Pot, meet kettle.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Some significant logic missteps in this article, especially in the following quote:

"When an unprecedented hurricane, blizzard or heat wave occurs, though, it should not be blamed on climate change, as no single weather event can be blamed on climate change. It is proper to say that such an occurrence "is consistent with what we expect to see from climate change,""

If single weather events cannot be used as proof of climate change, then it would be equally proper to say that they are "consistent with what we would expect to see if THERE WAS NO significant climate change". In other words, by your own admission, the flashy events that get all of our attention are, in fact, not evidence of anything at all because we can't demonstrate that they are outside of natural climate varience.

Posted by: grlb | February 15, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

The global warming debate is often about politics, which means that it could often be about somebody's payday, too. Take regular CWG commenter Pat Michaels, for instance:

Excerpt from an article in the U.K. Guardian where he was listed as one of the "Top 10 Climate Deniers of All Time":

"Michaels played a starring role in Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle and is regularly used by the US media, largely because he is one of the very few deniers who has any relevant scientific credentials.

He maintains that: "When it comes to global warming, apparently the truth is inconvenient. And it's not just Gore's movie that's fiction. It's the rhetoric of the Congress and the chief executive, too."

Something he is less keen to reveal is that, as a leaked memo from an electricity company shows, he has recently been paid at least $100,000 by companies involved in coal-fired power production to make the public case against climate change. In 2007 Michaels withdrew as an expert witness from a court case about climate change, after it became clear that his other sources of funding could be revealed to the public."

@walter-in-fallschurch, you are so right. As soon as you see the words Al Gore in a comment, you can pretty much be sure that the commenter has turned from science to politics and emotions.

Posted by: squirrelgirl1 | February 15, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Thank God for the European media!

Doing the job
our biased media
just won't do.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse


If someone writes, "anytime some @#$%!#$ like sen. james inhofe ...", is that a sign that they have "turned away from science to politics and emotions"?

Just curious. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Woah. This is truly fascinating. I hope it isn't too long.

--begin quote--
A HISTORICAL OBSERVATION ON CLIMATEGATE: As this scandal runs on, it’s beginning to remind me of the Michael Bellesiles scandal. (Here’s a thorough dissection by Jim Lindgren in the Yale Law Journal — it’s a PDF; here’s a shorter summary from Wikipedia, and a thorough summary by Joyce Malcolm.)

Bellesiles, for those who don’t remember, was a historian at Emory who wrote a book making some, er, counterintuitive claims about guns in early America — in short, that they were much rarer than generally thought, and frequently owned and controlled by the government. Constitutional law scholars who expressed doubts about this were told to shut up by historians, who cited the importance of “peer review” as a guarantor of accuracy, and who wrapped themselves in claims of professional expertise.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Bellesiles had made it up. His work was based on probate records, and when people tried to find them, it turned out that many didn’t exist (one data set he claimed to have used turned out, on review, to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake). It also turned out that Bellesiles hadn’t even visited some of the archives he claimed to have researched. When challenged to produce his data, he was unable to do so, and offered unpersuasive stories regarding why.

Bellesiles eventually lost his job at Emory (and his Bancroft Prize) over the fraud, but not until his critics had been called political hacks, McCarthyites, and worse. But what’s amazing, especially in retrospect, is how slow his defenders — and the media — were to engage the critics, or to look at the flaws in the data. Instead, they wrapped themselves in claims of authority, and attacked the critics as anti-intellectual hacks interested only in politics. Are we seeing something similar with regard to ClimateGate? It sure looks that way to me.
--end quote--

Source of the above quote is Glen Reynolds of Instapundit fame and can be found here. He has a copy of the Yale Law Journal that discusses the scandal. The similarities with ClimateGate are uncanny.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse


Really? So, you are saying Al Gore, chosen "expect" on "global warming" should not be mentioned when talking about "global warming"? I guess the wine first thing this morning has taken its toll. So, you want to limit not only the debate, but now who we can talk about?

I know al is about as stiff as a two by four, but he does get pretty emotional talking about the polar bears. All the hand wringing and crying about this issue seems to only come from one side, and that of course is the al gore side.

I guess in the history of the earth, there has never been extremes in weather? That's why in 1899, Washington set a record for snow fall, and it has just been broken(or close to being broken) in 2010.

Posted by: irish031 | February 15, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I have to admit, I am disappointed with you all claiming that this storm supports climate change...What change was going on in 1978 diring the Blizzard in the northeast...I seem to remember a Time mag cover saying we are heading into an ice age...I just had to comment...want to keep supporting your wewbsite, this just makes it a little harder...

Posted by: mjnanny | February 15, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

the capital weather gang is stupid for getting into this issue, especially in defending the status quo.

"tails I win, heads you lose" arguments are ALWAYS credible.

Posted by: dummypants | February 15, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch said "it's kind of difficult for beer-drinking cheese-puff-eaters to understand, but "too little snow" and "too much snow" are called "extremes" - which wine-drinking, cheese-eating scientists have been suspecting may be a byproduct of global warming."

This is the exact kind of comment that does nothing to help further any rational discussion of this topic and instead ticks people off while enforcing the stereotypes on each side. Doing things like labeling people "deniers" and arrogantly dismissing them out of hand without seriously addressing them will not help anybody. It won't help those that believe man-made GW is a serious threat to this earth because they are not going to change anyones minds with an argument that consists of "talk to the hand". It won't help those that believe man is not the problem because it does not answer their questions they have about the science. And most troubling is that it does not help the science because something as potentially important as this needs to be able to stand on its own legs and not be protected from poking, prodding and questioning.

Posted by: amaranthpa | February 15, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

maybe that was childish of me. i was just lowering myself to irish031's level....(so he could understand....) DOH! i did it again...sorry...

also, these people DO NOT DESERVE the mantle of "skeptic". "skeptic" is a good thing. all scientists are (should be, anyway) skeptics. a skeptic can be moved by evidence, whereas a denialist never will.

time's a-wasting.... it is very frustrating to me that we're still discussing "whether" AGW is happening instead of how to deal with it.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 15, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

So I view climate change through a political prism? Hm, color me red! :D

Mr. Freedman, I do believe you were careful with the wording of your questions (which I do appreciate), but actions still do speak louder than words. Just the very act of choosing Dr. Masters to interview kind of tells me that you knew what his answers would be, and that you wanted them clearly heard. Perhaps that was not your intention, but that's the impression I walked way with.

From time to time, I see people like Mr. Q asking really good questions, which often seem to go unanswered or unaddressed. Sure, his tone may seem condescending, but that seems to be the only thing his detractors focus on when responding. Perhaps I haven't been reading this site long enough.

I look forward to more posts regarding 'climate change', especially if they contain more input from the 'skeptics' out there.

Posted by: JSTF | February 15, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Funny to me how folks can say that there is no significant evidence to support AGW. The fact is that despite mounting evident to the contrary, these folks are resigned to the misinformation that says it isn't occurring and will not be convinced by any amount of evidence that is opposite of their opinion.

Posted by: pablo_diablo | February 15, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Pat Michaels - It's good to see you here commenting on climate posts. Sorry if your previous comment got lost in the shuffle. I was away from a computer almost all day yday and was unable to respond to most comments.

The hypothesis that warming may be enhancing major snowstorms, primarily by providing additional moisture for them to work with, is not mine. I did not advocate for or against it in this article, but rather interviewed a credible expert who has some interesting things to say about the topic. So I can't claim ownership of the hypothesis, as you seemed to suggest in your comment.

Your comment about how the hypothesis is "inconsistent with the nature of our winter storms (which generally lack cold air, rather than moisture)" strikes me as overly simplistic. Yes, we usually have problems with maintaining all snow in DC and points South and east due to warm air entrainment during strong east coast storms. But that has a lot to do with storm track, not a lack of antecedent cold air. The mean storm track this winter has been perfect for all snow events in the NYC-Washington corridor.

Furthermore, the events of this winter have featured unusually high amounts of precip, on the order of about 3+ inches of liquid, for example. The excessive precip has been a key characteristic, with one storm (snowmageddon I believe) dragging moisture all the way from the equatorial Pacific. Such a moisture feed may be more related to El Nino, and not manmade climate change, of course. But it was not at all normal, and was a major factor that contributed to the phenomenal snow totals in the area.

I would be interested in seeing your calculations of the correlation between global temps (as well as US temps and ocean temps) with Mid-Atlantic snow trends before I comment in detail on that.

In general, I think you may be straying towards knee-jerk rejection from healthy skepticism on this matter. Skepticism makes complete sense, because we're dealing with something that is very difficult to detect - a regional response to global change that is embedded in weather 'noise.' But I think that instead of dismissing this outright, a more scientific approach would be to say something along the lines of "this strikes me as dubious, so let's investigate the data to see what they show, as well as what the future projections show." You claim that they show the hypothesis to be bogus, at least so far, but I'd need to see proof of that before commenting further. As Dr. Masters noted, studies have been published on this topic already. Perhaps you should add to the peer-reviewed literature on this subject? I'd be happy to report on such a study if you pursue it.

Best, -Andrew

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing man can do anyway about the climate. We can't control water levels Worldwide, we can't control how hot or cold it is going to get on a Worldwide level.

A couple of weeks ago, the Post ran an editorial on how it seems liberals are so condescending. I think this debate is a perfect example of that.

Posted by: irish031 | February 15, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

irish031: you wrote: "I see my earlier post was deleted. I guess the wine and cheese crowd can't accept open debate." Ummm, no, that's not what happened. Your earlier post was deleted because it violated our commenting policies by including profanity/ personal attacks. It had nothing to do with trying to foster or squelch an open debate.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse


From someone who considers himself in the rational middle of this discussion, the scientific community is most definitely not coming across as "skeptical" (in the good sense of the term). All I can say is that IMO your frustration, which seems to be driving your approach to this subject, is not conducive to moving forward past the "whether" part of the discussion. Telling people they don't deserve the mantle of skeptic (whether they do or don't) will not change the dynamics of the situation we find ourselves in. While I am sure there are a number of people that will not be convinced no matter what the evidence shows (one way or the other), not having an honest, serious, respectful discussion will continue to keep us from developing and implementing the appropriate response.

There are lots of people that don't believe the world was created in 6 days 6000 years ago but also have doubts about a lot of the science on AGW. Because they do, they are just not willing to open up their pockets for the government or severely alter their lifestyle in the name of AGW. Labeling and deriding them does not change what they think one bit.

And while my posts are responding to you, I don't want you to think I am singling you out specificially. When Jeff Masters says "The people who tend to write me directly about climate change issues tend to be the ones who have made up their mind before hand, so their reactions are predictable", he is basically dismissing those with opposing viewpoints. And finally, the same things I state hold true for the anti-AGW people too - they need to come and participate in an honest respectful discussion.

Posted by: amaranthpa | February 15, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

JTSF: While I had read Dr. Masters' blog post, and therefore knew that he thinks there is a case to be made that climate change may be causing more heavy snowfall events to take place in certain areas, I had no preconceived notions of what his answers might be to the questions I posed.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, do you think that the 2-3 foot snowfalls reported in the 1700s by our Founding Fathers may have ALSO had 3.0" liquid associated with them? This year, we are having a record snow season after six normal to below normal snow seasons. Thank goodness we had a Mid-Atlantic blizzard winter or else, more folks may start questioning the science!

Posted by: MattRogers | February 15, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Matt - I have no idea what the liquid content of the snowfall in the 1700s was, nor do you.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Jeff Masters: Joker.
Capital Weather Gang: Jokers.

Nice call on Global Climate Change! Complete fraud--try to defend that now clowns. Total house of cards.

Where is the data behind the hockey chart graph? Oh, he cant find it.

No warming since 1995.

Honestly, how stupid do you feel?

Posted by: zap123 | February 15, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

@ Steve T,

Where does your data come from? How do we know you didn't make it up or cherry pick it, like the University of East Anglia did? Or do you keep a messy desk and frequently lose unimportant things like the data and facts that you cite to influence world policy? If you do have a source, how do we know they didn't engage in similar behavior as the aforementioned "scientists."

Posted by: octopi213 | February 15, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and talk about a hoot...had a chance to watch his dope movie this past weekend. Good grief that clown has made million up on millions pepetrating this fraud.

Anyone want some Carbon Credits? HAHAHA. ROFLMAO.

And sorry to be so crass, but sometimes it really does feel good to sit an laugh at all pompous know-it-all's who presume to know and speak for everyone.

Posted by: zap123 | February 15, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Andrew. While I may not agree on using our one-year recent weather as a climate expectation, I agree with The Analyst who said you offered fair questions in your interview.

Posted by: MattRogers | February 15, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

It does take tremendous confidence to step up publicly to the plate, with your name out there for the world to see (and try to tear apart). For that reason, I appreciate CWG for providing a forum where commentators seem to feel comfortable voicing their opinions.

Posted by: JSTF | February 15, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

In case you missed it Phil Jones of Climate Gate fame, Penn State and the UN, now admits no warming/temp change since 1995!!! Another inconvenient truth.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | February 15, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

i don't think i've ever portrayed myself as being in the "middle", but i strive to be rational.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 15, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Matt, neither myself nor Dr. Masters argued in favor of using "our one-year recent weather as a climate expectation" as you wrote. What he did say was that our recent extreme events may be consistent with what can be expected in a warming climate. In other words, these extreme events (major snowstorms) may occur more often as the climate warms. That's not the same thing as what you're suggesting, unless I am misunderstanding what you wrote. Thanks.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 15, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse


First let me say that I agree with you. I am sure you know that.

But, and you knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you? Let them continue to try to have their cake and eat it too. They do more damage to their argument than we ever could do when they argue -
---begin qutoe---
When an unprecedented hurricane, blizzard or heat wave occurs, though, it should not be blamed on climate change, as no single weather event can be blamed on climate change. It is proper to say that such an occurrence "is consistent with what we expect to see from climate change," to draw attention to the very real risks that an increase in these extreme events will pose.
---end quote---

I must admit, when I first wrapped my head around that hair splitting, I was a bit irritated. But the more I thought about it, the less irritated I became.

Picture this -

Your wife/girlfriend/spouse/significant other does something completely out in left field. Something really loopy. Downright wacky.

And you tell them, "While no single action can be blamed on insanity, it is proper to say that such an action is consistent with what I would expect to see from an insane person."

Give that one a try and let me know how well it works for you. ;)

I am reminded of the expression, "a distinction without a meaning". And that other world famous expression, "that dog don't hunt".

Or, in more modern day lingo, "I'm not saying anything, I'm just sayin."

Let them continue to argue that one, Matt. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and rest assured, I will sleep much better tonight. Now that Walter has informed me that the wine, cheese, and limo crowd will save me. Whew! What a relief! I was really worried there for a little while.

Thank you Walter; and your wine, cheese, and limo crowd. I am saved!

Mr. Q.

PS. Walter, could you do me a favor? Please remind me every chance you get about how the wine, cheese, and limo crowd will save me. I am so forgetful these days. ;)

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 15, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

mr. q.,
let's continue with your insanity analogy.

suppose, like you say, she does something wacky - once. she might storm out of the room or something, but you could indeed say, "While no single action can be blamed on insanity, it is proper to say that such an action is consistent with what I would expect to see from an insane person."

but, if she keeps doing insane things over and over, then it is reasonable to go from "action...consistent insane person" to "insane".

are we quibbling over the distinction btwn "consistent with" and "not inconsistent with"?

as to the wine and cheese crowd saving you, i'm reminded of another old saw: you can lead a horse to water....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 16, 2010 12:21 AM | Report abuse


It depends. If your definition of insanity is fluid and constantly changing, then is she really to blame? Or are you sand bagging her?

I'm not saying anything, I'm just sayin. ;)

Tell me Walter. What weather is inconsistent with global warming? Is there any?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "as to the wine and cheese crowd saving you, i'm reminded of another old saw: you can lead a horse to water.....

Please remind me of this as often as possible. I am so forgetful these days. You must remind me of this for my own good.

Mr. Q.

PS. I apologize for not drinking from the contaminated well that you led me to.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

If back in the 1980's, when Dr. Hansen first started this hypothesis/alarm, someone would have said, "You know... I bet in 22 years we will see bigger snow storms as a result of this global warming" I would have a lot more respect for that argument. But it is really difficult to have respect for that argument when arguments like that are constantly presented *AFTER THE FACT*.

It would be a whole lot more convincing if it were presented *before* the actual event.

Not to be too nit picky.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

mr.q., you asked,
"What weather is inconsistent with global warming?"

GLOBAL cooling.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 16, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "are we quibbling over the distinction btwn "consistent with" and "not inconsistent with"?"

Not to nit pick my betters in the brie and wine crowd, ...

but isn't "consistent with" and "not inconsistent with" the exact same thing? If "inconsistent" is the opposite of "consistent", then wouldn't "not inconsistent" be the opposite of "inconsistent", which would be the same as "consistent"?

I pray the brie and wine crowd can save us. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't it represent a flaw in your logic when you say that the only thing inconsistent with global warming is global cooling?

Are you saying that a 10 or 20 year lack of warming (no statistically significant warming) is not inconsistent with global warming??? The only thing inconsistent with global warming is a prolonged state of cooling?

Isn't that like saying that a 10 or 20 year flatline in temperature is not inconsistent with a prediction of rising temperatures?

How very, very convenient. It must be unimaginable fun to argue your side of the debate.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Tomorrow I will go and purchase some brie and wine. Do I also need to purchase carbon credits, or will my brie and wine suffice?

Isn't it enough to be part of the brie and wine crowd? Surely I don't need to offset my carbon lifestyle with official carbon credits?

Anonymous (Mr. Anyone but Mr. Q. ;) )

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Andrew, thanks very much. I showed on this blog last week that we've been getting major snowy seasons about once in seven years over the past two decades. So can you help me and the readers define what you and Jeff Masters mean when you say "more often" (from your most recent comment). Should we expect seasons like these on 2-3 year intervals? What increased frequency would be consistent with AGW expectations?

Posted by: MattRogers | February 16, 2010 4:57 AM | Report abuse

you really love that phil jones "admission" of "no statistically significant warming", huh?

let's take a look at that "admission".

reading the whole interview ( ) gives a significantly different impression than those snippets from your link:

question to jones:
"Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?"

"Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level."

so the trend is positive (i.e. it's getting hotter), but just barely short of being "statistically significant".

he explains further:
"Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods."

so, the problem here is it's too short a period for "statistical significance" to be "likely".

turns out i was WRONG earlier. it would probably take more like 20-30 years of cooling temps to begin to undermine global warming science.

if you consider a longer time period, say 1975 to present, or even 1975 to 1998 there IS statistically significant warming. and here's the disappointing, but not surprising, part of the article about the interview.

end part 1

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 16, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

part 2:

your article says jones agrees ("admits"?!) that 1975 to 1998 shows warming, but misinforms us:

"He [jones]...said these could be explained by natural phenomena...."

jones DID NOT say that. what he ACTUALLY said was, that to the best of his knowledge "natural phenomena" from 1975 to 1998 should have produced COOLING:

jones, from the actual interview:
"This area is slightly outside my area of expertise. When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system). Natural influences (from volcanoes and the Sun) over this period could have contributed to the change over this period. Volcanic influences from the two large eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991) would exert a negative influence. Solar influence was about flat over this period. Combining only these two natural influences, therefore, WE MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED SOME COOLING DURING THIS PERIOD." (SHOUTING mine... ;-) )

now, you can nit pick and say, well, he's only considering two factors, there may be others. but that's not the point. my point here is that your article about the interview said that jones said something he DID NOT SAY.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 16, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Matt, that was a good post you did last week, btw. In your comment above, I think you're mixing up snowy seasons and major storms. Masters is talking about major snowstorms and climate change, and he is citing studies that show that the heaviest snowstorms may become more common in the future due to climate change. You, on the other hand, are talking about snowy winter seasons, which could result from lots of little snow events, a few big ones, or even one major blizzard. So comparing the two isn't really an apples to apples comparison in my view.

Furthermore, I did not make Masters' argument. He did. So while you can take issue with what he said and question it respectfully, as you have done, please try not to stray into the territory of assuming that I agree with his assessment. I find it intriguing and worthy of investigation, and definitely worthy of discussion at this site, but I don't necessarily think it's a slam dunk case or anything like that.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 16, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Andrew. Good point about your potential divergent viewpoints. Sorry to lump you both together. Regarding storms vs. seasons, it is interesting that since the normal DC snows are so relatively modest, they ARE connected. Our biggest snowstorm cases all fall into the biggest snow season categories. They are closely tied together. So if the frequency of major snow storms increases according to this study, then the frequency of our big snow seasons would also increase. Again, I'm not sure that our recent events are justification for validation. But certainly Jeff believes it could be.

Posted by: MattRogers | February 16, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Furthermore, it would be great to know what this new frequency is expected to be. I'm assuming all we know at this point is that there will be more?

Posted by: MattRogers | February 16, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I am no expert, but here are my 2 cents.

'Global warming' is an unfortunate misnomer in that our actions cause change in the environment, whether that manifests itself as a warming or cooling in any particular area. perhaps a net warming of the planet causes air and ocean currents to shift causing some areas to get cooler for instance.

glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting, and there are other measurable signs of a changing climate. how much of this is due to man can be disputed, but I don't see how it can be claimed that the ammount of pollutants we pump into the atmosphere is having a neutral or positive effect on the planet. If you lock yourself in a garage with a running car, you will die of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is clearly not something that is innocuous. putting aside for a moment the monetary costs of reducing polution, who cares if we are wrong about it? worst case scenario, we reduce polution, it has no effect on the climate, and people are breathing cleaner air and living healthier.

as far as providing both sides of the debate, as far as I can tell there is much less science on the anti climate change side. if the majority of evidence, and the majority of scientists point to one conclusion, then do you really have to give equal time to all sides? If that were the case, then shouldnt we also have an opinion from someone who things that these blizzards are happening because God is angry with us, and someone who thinks that the government is seeding clouds to create blizzards etc? If there are legitimate, peer reviewed studies that dispute climate change, then they aught to be given a fair shake, but if there is one study suporting one side and ten supporting the other, should they get the same ammount of attention? I say not.

That being said, I do find it somewhat annoying that global warming or climate change is the scapegoat for everything. I think it turns a serious issue into a cliche and makes people more skeptical of it. lets not blame every specific problem we have on it until there is science to back it, even though it is a serious problem.

Posted by: timdgoff | February 16, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Matt - no worries. I think your assumption is correct re: a new frequency.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 16, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Matt Rogers wrote, "Furthermore, it would be great to know what this new frequency is expected to be."

Such information will not be provided before the fact. It will be provided after the fact. And even then it will be subject to change as necessary to fit real world observations. ;)

What I want to know is what were the observed temperatures versus the average temperatures for the days of 6+ inches of snow accumulation. We have been repeatedly told that warmer air holds more moisture. But they don't actually say if the air was warmer than usual on the days of 6+ inches of snow accumulation.

What were the temperatures on those days? And were those temperatures warmer than average?

Thanks in advance,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to all those involved, it cannot be said...this winter specifically...that the snowstorms seen in the East are consistent with climate change. I've been extremely displeased with folks on both sides of the debate in the last couple weeks. Climate change cannot...I repeat...cannot be proved or disproved by the events of the last week, last month, or last three months. It is physically and meteorologically impossible for that to be the case.

What has happened this winter is consistent...completely consistent with the meteorologically regime that is currently in place...which is independent of climate change. The main driver globally is El Nino. The main driver in the mid-latitudes of the N Hemisphere has been the Arctic Oscillation. Outside of the AO influence, the weather globally has generally behaved consistently with a moderate to strong El Nino, like the one that developed this year. If you look back in the last 50 years, there has only been *one* winter where this combination of factors has remotely been so extreme. That was 1965-66. And that year is by no means a perfect example because the strength of the El Nino was a bit greater then than it was this winter (along with somewhat of a different development), and the development of the Arctic Oscillation was different then. This is just looking at two specific indices. Solar influences and other teleconnections aside, there is not a single winter that really matches up well with the unique combination of factors coming together this winter. Independently, everything that has occurred this winter has happened before. So to have this extreme AO or a moderately strong Nino, is not unusual. But to have it in concert is unique.

So the bottom line: We simply haven't seen this sort of winter before in modern times. Meteorologically, it makes sense though. With a moisture infused subtropical branch of the jet stream (an El Nino hallmark), and a powerfully negative Arctic Oscillation, providing colder than normal weather for much of the Eastern Seaboard, you have an incredibly ripe setup for a storm or series of storms in the East. Cold air supply from the AO ensures that it will be snow. It's that simple.

So for anyone to try and use the series of early February snowstorms as an example of climate change or to state that we're witnessing the new normal, because of climate change, is not explaining the whole story to the general public.

Posted by: mattlanza | February 16, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Matt. Those are excellent points indeed. The negative Arctic Oscillation is supposed to give us a better chance of colder-than-normal weather (which describes February here) and the El Nino is supposed to give us enhanced moisture from the south (which also describes February). Nothing happening here is inconsistent with those two major driving forces. We typically tend to get heavy precipitation events during El Nino events (whether rain or snow, if cold enough). And Mr. Q, here is the temperature anomaly map (in C) for the seven days leading up to our big one...notice the Mid-Atlantic and South (our moisture source area) were all running notably colder than normal.

Posted by: MattRogers | February 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

mattlanza, I think you bring up some good points and allude to the fact that one storm or series of storms cannot prove or disprove climate change. climate change is a trend, not based on isolated events. In order to know whether or how quickly it is occurring, we need to look at trends over time. occasional blips up or down are not as important as the average trend over all, in any metric (temperature, storminess, etc). I think that non experts (such as myself) on both sides tend to forget this and say things like "This snowy, cold winter disproves global warming" or "This big hurricane proves global warming". it is a lot simpler to comprehend this way, but we need to understand that nothing about climate is simple (as is evidenced by how hard it is to predict the weather), and a single data point on a single metric does not really mean anything.

Posted by: timdgoff | February 16, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Rogers. That is as I expected; colder than normal.

I just tried your link, and it didn't work. :(

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Mattlanza: You raise some great points. However, I don't think Dr. Masters was saying that climate change can be proved or disproved by the recent snowstorms. I think he was saying that there is some support in the scientific literature for thinking that heavy precip events - including major snowstorms - will occur more frequently as the world warms, and that perhaps the blizzards were an example of this. I agree that there has been a lot of miscommunication on this issue, and that the dominant factors this year have clearly been El Nino and the unusually negative AO. But I find it curious that you're attributing everything to natural variability, when in fact there could be other things involved, including long-term human forcing of the climate system.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 16, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the reply. I know that Dr. Masters likely wasn't attributing it directly, but like you said, there's been a serious communication gap (on both sides of the issue) in the last couple weeks. I understand and appreciate the argument made that warming will lead to more moisture, likely leading to heavier precipitation events. But there has been a feeding frenzy on recent events trying to use them as an example to back up this point. In reality, I see absolutely nothing abnormal about what has happened recently that would imply climate change may have contributed to this series of storms. Now, if we see this sort of thing happen over the next 5-10 winters, there is definitely an argument that may be made. But given the excessive moisture provided by El Nino and given the cold air supply provided by the AO, it's only logical that something of this magnitude had the potential to occur.

I think it's incredibly misleading though to attribute anything about these storms to climate change, because you can't. That's like saying Barry Bonds' 678th home run was specifically attributable to steroids (allegedly). You can't prove that. However, there is a body of work that exists suggesting that if those allegations are true, his excessive home run hitting would probably be the result of steroids. At this time, there is not a body of work that exists that suggests that we're getting fiercer blizzards with heavier snow than in year's past.

Like I said above, we've never seen a combination of the AO this negative and an El Nino of this magnitude before (and again, that is JUST looking at those two factors alone...there are other things, such as the solar conditions we've witnessed this winter and other teleconnections that could be analyzed). On paper, this combination leading to big, juicy storms would make sense. So at this point, I don't think anyone can say with any validity whatsoever that an anthropogenic signal aided these storms in being so strong. Again, over time, that case can be made.

You also have to keep in mind that snowfall climatology behaves like this. Normal snowfall rarely, if ever occurs. The average is made up of these ridiculous seasons like this winter, 95-96, etc., combined with those occasional snowless winters or ones with paltry snowfall. And the big winters like this don't occur nearly as much as the wimpier ones. So again, if we see this occurring over a period of time, then there may be a case to be made. But as a synoptic meteorologist, when it all "makes sense" to me, I cannot accept that anyone can say with validity that a long-term climate signal had any impact whatsoever on this series of storms.

Posted by: mattlanza | February 16, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman,

In your column, Mr. Masters was careful to maintain the hair splitting that, while no single weather event is proof of global warming, a blizzard like this an expected byproduct of global warming. And of course, he thinks we are experiencing global warming. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

Which I liken to having it both ways.

But in your reply to Mattlanza you wrote, "I think he was saying that there is some support in the scientific literature for thinking that heavy precip events - including major snowstorms - will occur more frequently as the world warms, and that perhaps the blizzards were an example of this."

You appear to either -
a. have confused yourself with your own hair splitting
b. are now attributing the blizzards to global warming
c. misspoke (been there, done that, got the t-shirt)

What gives? Are you really attributing the blizzards to global warming?

Did you not see Matt's comment that the temperatures at the time of the big blizzard were notably below normal. That doesn't square well with the whole warming world and warm air carrying more moisture part, does it?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 16, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Mattlanza: thx for your thoughtful response. I'm in agreement with much of what you wrote, but I am going to leave the conversation there at this point because I don't want to overstep and assume to speak for Dr. Masters, which I don't. If he wants to respond he can do so here, or on his blog. Thanks again!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 16, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, Matt, et. al.: Much appreciated. Just have to hand it to you guys for your site. I don't live in DC, but I do pop in from time to time because there are occasionally some articles I overlook in my day to day reading. There aren't many places for just the general public to get interesting, useful weather information and viewpoints on climate/weather. You guys are doing a good public service to the Capital Region. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: mattlanza | February 17, 2010 1:05 AM | Report abuse

CWG - i second that! pretty darn amazing, and a testament to you all, that people not from the washington area read this blog/website!

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, Waaaaay off-topic but I wanted to know your take on the President's push for new nuclear power plants since we've seemed to agree on it in the past. I'm all for it, though I'm afraid it will take some time to put anything into motion.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


I am not familiar with the specifics of President Obama's "push for new nuclear power plants". Since I don't know the specifics of his plans, I should avoid commenting on his plans.

As you know, I am in favor of nuclear power. I am 100% in favor of phasing out existing U.S. coal fired power plants and replacing them with nuclear powered plants.

I hope that answers your question, and I apologize for not knowing the specifics of President Obama's "push for new nuclear power plants". :( If I can find time this week, I will look into his plans.

It is good to see you advocate for nuclear power.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse


I did some quick reading on President Obama's nuclear power plant loan guarantee program. It looks good. Definitely a step in the right direction.

I hope Congress gives him the full 36 billion that his 2011 budget requested for the program. That would be fantastic news.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company