No, Global Warming Isn't Suddenly a Myth Because It's Really Cold Out

Don't confuse short-term weather with longer-term climate.

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Lately, that means superimposed over the unmistakable decades-long warming trend described by the Panel on Climate Change. Even if it is a global event, a cold season or cold year alone does not give us a cooling climate. Similarly, the evidence for a warming climate is not based upon a single warm season or year. Take Arctic sea ice, for example. As can be seen clearly in data available from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, in recent summers sea ice has covered about half to two-thirds the area of the Arctic Ocean as it did in summers of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The downward trend is astonishing when one views the data over decades. Last year saw the 6th smallest ice extent ever recorded – better news than the record low reached in 2012, but by no means the “global cooling” touted by climate skeptics.

[Check out editorial cartoons on the tea party.]

Of course, the same faulty conflation of short-term weather and longer-term climate sometimes goes in the opposite direction, applied to hot weather. One very bad year for Arctic sea ice will not necessarily be followed by another equally bad year. A hot summer in one part of the country is not, by itself, evidence for climate change – although hotter and more frequent heat waves are an expected consequence of global warming and the probability of hot summers is going up, up, up.

The bottom line is that the problem of climate change has not gone away, despite the fact that some of us can’t remember what our yards look like without snow or our spouses look like without long underwear. Given that we may be wired to worry more about climate change when we’re warm than when we’re cold, maybe it was a blessing that Trump’s misinformed tweets made me so angry and hot under the collar.

  • See U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad and Nook.
  • Read: At Davos, push for clean energy as climate weapon.
  • See editorial cartoons about Barack Obama.