One of the most vocal criticisms I get is when I write about weather events around the globe. For example one commenter, “beaker” recently wrote this criticism to my story about Denver setting two new record low maximum temperatures on consecutive days, breaking one record that stood for 118 years:
“Why is this site so obsessed with short term extrema? All this will do is reinforce crackpot opinions on long term climate change on the basis of irrelevant weather noise.”
In a nutshell he’s saying “weather is not climate”. We all understand that. I always make sure that I tag such entries as “weather” and not “climate change”. It’s not the first nor will it be the last time I get criticized for talking about weather events on a blog that focuses mostly on climate change. As I pointed out though, weather is in fact my career, so I reserve the right to talk about it.
To his credit, “Beaker” was gracious in acknowledging that he was not specifically referring to me as a “crackpot”. It is true that any single weather event can’t be linked to climate change, and even in periods of a year, linking even a collection of weather events to long term climate change is problematic. And yes, as “Beaker” points out, can be fodder for “crackpots”. Tim Flannery and Al Gore come to mind as people that use specific weather events to point out “climate change”.
Take for example Hurricane Katrina, long the poster child for climate change, yet several studies have shown that there is no trend linking global warming to increased hurricane activity. Thus naming specific storms as linked to climate change is just not supportable. Senator (and former presidential candidate) John Kerry recently said that a tornado outbreak in the USA was attributable to “global warming”, when in fact it is related to the La Nina pattern in the Pacific.
There seems to be no dearth of prominent people willing to connect weather events with climate change. But these are often politicians, celebrities, and book pushers. They stand to gain from attention, even if the words they say are not based in fact, so it is not surprising.
Along those lines, this is a bit more troubling. I’d like to share this graphic, which is titled on the published page: “Figure 1.1 Geographical distribution of notable climate anomalies and events occurring around the planet in 2007“.
I apologize for the quality of even the large image, as it was scanned from paper.
Here are some of the “climate anomaly” events listed on the graphic:
- Northeast U.S.A/Southeast Canada – Major winter storm (Feb) Around 300,000 people affected
- Hurricane Felix (Sep) Max winds 270 km/hr – Second major hurricane in the 2007 season
- Uganda (Jun) Heaviest rainfall in 35 years
- China – heaviest snowfall in 56 years (Mar)
And the source for this graphic listing those “climate anomalies”?
This “Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Volume 89, Number 7, July 2008, page S14”:
I find it odd that I get criticism when I talk about weather events and the oft repeated maxim “weather is not climate” yet here we have the premiere meteorological organization doing exactly the same thing – pointing out extreme weather events. Yet, they don’t even mention the word “weather” in the context of the graphic, preferring the more worrisome but less accurate label of “climate anomalies”.
At least I have the good sense to tag the sort of entires I make on this blog about record events, significant storms etc. as “weather”. Sadly AMS just wraps it up in a supplemental journal boldly titled as “State of the Climate in 2007 “. If I did such a thing, noting all the weather events I’d posted on during the year and titled it “State of the Climate in 2007” I’d be villified in comments for doing so:
“Anthony – what are you thinking? Weather is not climate!”
But in this case, it’s the AMS, so that makes it all OK I guess.
“Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get” – Robert Heinlein