Yes, global warming could mean more snow
February 14, 2010|By Clarence Page
Here's a recent headline that caused a few double takes in Washington, D.C.: "Global warming hearing postponed because of snow."
Yes, nothing gives an unearned boost to global warming skeptics like back-to-back snowstorms variously nicknamed "snow-pocalypse" and "snow-mageddon," among other less-charitable labels in the nation's capital.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, an outspoken skeptic of global warming and warm friend of his state's oil and gas industries, recently mocked Al Gore, climate activist and former vice president. Inhofe posted photos on his Facebook page of his family building an igloo near the Capitol with a sign that read "Al Gore's new home." Har, har.
But, contrary to popular belief, a robust snowfall does not mean global warming is a myth.
In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.
A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.
That's simple science even for me, a guy whose scientific education pretty much ended with the old "Watch Mr. Wizard" TV show and a subscription to Popular Mechanics.
Yet, confusion about that simple science is one of the reasons why experts and activists increasingly prefer the term "climate change" as less confusing and politically loaded than "global warming." Still, confusion and politics persist. Fox News host Sean Hannity cheerfully asserted that the storm "would seem to contradict Al Gore's hysterical global warming theories." His fellow Fox host Glenn Beck agreed, mocking the very idea that "warming" could lead to more snow.
Sure, it's laughable if you believe in the very unscientific theory of simple observational research, which means you base your views about global warming on your own weather.
Or, as Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert summarized the Fox News stars' view: "Whatever just happened is the only thing that's happening."