05 March 2009

Weather will still happen

It looks like this is a surprise to some folks, so I guess it bears repeating: Weather will still happen in the future. This is true regardless of whether the current scientific understanding about climate change is more or less correct or not. There's still going to be weather. By that, I mean that there will still be periods when your back yard will be markedly warmer or colder than usual, you get more (or less) snow than usual, and so on.

What's bringing it to mind is that with a recent cold spell around here (Washington DC area), I've heard many more comments about how "There can't be global warming because it's cold here." (Or that it was cold when a rally was held, etc.) Now, if the people saying such things were honest (even if not correct), when we get to about 20 F warmer than usual this weekend (which is the forecast, vs. having been 20 F cooler than usual), they'd turn around and say just as loudly that there is global warming after all.

But this is one of the easier flags on whether you're dealing with an honest source. They ignore data that goes against what they want to conclude. Conversely, it's a good self-check when you start reading material that annoys you -- is it annoying because it presents evidence just as good as, or better than, you have for the conclusion you prefer? In that vein, if you think I'm ignoring important evidence, do bring it up to me.

As you know from earlier notes, if you've seen them, it's a silly thing to draw conclusions about global climate from a few days of local temperatures. Or even a few years of even global temperatures. If you haven't been here before, take a look at


Philip H. said...

My wife, an original denizenof Green Bay, WI, can't stand the reaction of folks around here to any kind of weather extreme. She thinks they are all a bunch of intellectual wimps whenit come to dealign with weather. I think she's right.

And i have to say, as my very first statistics professor pointed out many years ago - you can always draw a straight line betweentwo points.

Robert Grumbine said...

dealign? dealing?

My mother, a native Chicagoan still living there, was more than a tad disgusted this winter with the media responses and quotes. Ok, they'd had their first sort-of cold winter in some years. But, to paraphrase "Get a grip! It's winter; it's Chicago; it gets cold. Deal with it!"

Since I was there when all their all-time records for sustained cold were set (1970s), I have little sympathy for whines about coldest day/week/month in 10 years.

Even easier than putting a line through 2 points is looking at only 1. Ultimately, that's all that the people pointing to today's cold weather are doing -- they don't really know what the temperature history is like.

EliRabett said...

It's going to be ~21 C + in DC Sunday. Obviously the friction caused by all those clocks springing forward is to blame.

inchirieri apartamente cluj said...

Global warming it is a disputed topic these days. I don't have an opinion yet. I have just listened to others so far.

The temperature as I have noticed has changed. I gets warmer, due to all the machinery and appliances that we are using. The truth is that this year, in Eastern Europe, the temperature has not grown so much. It has been a warm summer, but we had plenty of rain. Now is just the begining of September and you have to have a jacket now to go outside. Of course, you cannot made an opinion just after the temperature of one year.

news games said...

I am no scientist but I have a biologist friend who told me that these changes are partly the result of a natural cycle. I do not want to minimize the damege the we as people made, but I believe that climate change is a result of several factors not just one...

Robert Grumbine said...

inchieri and news games:

Of course there are natural cycles, and of course more than one thing happens in the climate system. Everyone studying climate knows that; I'm hardly the exception. That's why my original subject line -- weather will still happen.

But there's a difference between partly natural cycles and entirely natural cycles. The evidence favors partly, it does not favor entirely. Part of what we're seeing is due to human activity.