A Service of The Greening Earth Society   


January 7, 2002 Vol. 3, No. 1

During the year-end holidays, AFP (the French version of Associated Press) widely circulated a news story that claims cold outbreaks like those gripping Europe and eastern North America are to be expected because of global warming, thereby demonstrating anew how far greenhouse effect hype is removed from greenhouse effect science. Warming does not cause cooling, unless the First Law of Thermodynamics has been repealed.

The First Law states that energy is conserved. What this means in terms of earth’s surface and lower atmosphere is that the more energy that is put in (or prevented from escaping), the warmer it becomes. By increasing earth’s greenhouse effect, less radiation (heat) escapes into space. As a result, the surface and lower atmosphere heat up. How much they heat up is the $6.4 billion question (that’s what U.S. taxpayers have spent on science attempting to answer the question). Extreme computer simulations suggest earth’s surface will warm nearly 11°F in the next hundred years. Estimates based on observed reality suggest the rise will be something a bit less than 3°F.

One thing all climate scientists agree on – whether denizens of the United Nations science establishment or Cato Institute – is that the frequency of extremely low temperatures will be reduced in a warmer world. That’s because, as scientists, we all agree that the First Law of Thermodynamics is a Law, not a theory or hypothesis.

In its coverage, AFP doesn’t name one scientist who says otherwise. Instead they resort to that time-honored canard of sloppy journalism, "some climatologists." Observations show that the greatest amount of warming that occurred during the last fifty years has taken place in the coldest locations and during the coldest seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically, during Siberian winter and that of northwestern North America (sees Figure 1). Such air masses are the ones responsible for the extreme cold outbreaks that periodically ravage the lower 48 states and Europe. Contrary to AFP’s assertion, greenhouse physics predicts the warming of these frigid air masses to be precisely the type of temperature change that should result from the atmosphere’s increasing carbon dioxide concentration.

Inquiring readers want to know: if enhanced carbon dioxide concentrations aren’t to blame, what is? Weather’s natural variability springs to mind. Winter is a season marked by great variations in temperature. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the eastern or western part of North America or of Eurasia (or points in between), there is practically always someplace else colder and/or snowier than usual. We can also count upon there being some other place that is warmer and/or less snowy. Such variability is a result of the increased temperature difference between the pole and the equator during winter on a rotating planet. If anything, an enhanced greenhouse should act to reduce the pole-to-equator temperature gradient, reduce temperature variability, and decrease the intensity and frequency of the coldest events.

Whether it is extremely cold for a day, or a week, or even a month where you live (or someplace else, for that matter), you are wise to blame it on Mother Nature and to leave global warming out of the equation.


Figure 1. Temperature increases (°C per decade) during the past fifty years (1946–1995) are most predominant in Siberia and northwestern North America during the cold season (top graphic). During the warm season (bottom graphic) there are no strong temperature trends. (Source: Michaels P.J., et al., 2000, Climate Research, 14: 1–6)

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Greening Earth Society Virtual Climate Alerts are published periodically in response to news coverage of climate-change advocacy that seeks to portray weather events and hypothetical climate scenarios generated by computer-based climate models as "climate reality." Virtual Climate Alert is coordinated by New Hope Environmental Services of Charlottesville, Virginia.



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