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No, we are not in a deep freeze

The record snowfalls in the mid-Atlantic region has led a few uninformed or dishonest pundits to claim that it somehow disproves global warming. Joe Romm, a climate-change expert and former Energy Department official, summarizes the actual science that applies.

We are not in a deep freeze.  Quite the reverse.

Let’s see.  The 2000s were easily the hottest decade on record (as NASA and  NOAA and the World Meteorological Organization report).  And 2009 was one of the hottest years on record — tied for second hottest in NASA’s dataset.  And we are now in the warmest winter globally, as I noted in my Monday post, “Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record — and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science.”

Heck, even over the tiny fraction of the planet’s surface that is the continental United States, NOAA just reported that January was “0.3 degrees above the long-term average” — notwithstanding the media coverage (and hype by the anti-science ideologues) that might have left you with the serious misimpression last month was unusually cold.

An article on the subject in the Feb. 11 New York Times points out that:The Nor'easter of February, 11, 2010 in a infrared satellite image

Speculating on the meaning of severe weather events is not new. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a deadly heat wave in Europe in the summer of 2003 incited similar arguments about what such extremes might — or might not — say about the planet’s climate.

But climate scientists say that no single episode of severe weather can be blamed for global climate trends while noting evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes on the Weather Underground blog, said that the recent snows do not, by themselves, demonstrate anything about the long-term trajectory of the planet. Climate is, by definition, a measure of decades and centuries, not months or years.

But Dr. Masters also said that government and academic studies had consistently predicted an increasing frequency of just these kinds of record-setting storms because warmer air carries more moisture.

“Of course,” he wrote on his blog Wednesday as new snows produced white-out conditions in much of the Eastern half of the country, “both climate-change contrarians and climate-change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change.

“However,” he continued, “one can ‘load the dice’ in favor of events that used to be rare — or unheard of — if the climate is changing to a new state.”

Read the whole article at Climateprogress.org.

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