There's nothing like a good bout of winter weather, preferably with icy chill and buckets of snow, to bring the global warming deniers out of the woodwork. Granted, some folks don't experience much in the way of bracing cold, even in January. But they, like the rest of us, are likely no less immune to the snickering. The suggestion that cold winters and increasing snowfall in some regions somehow negates global warming and the warnings of climate scientists that the globe's temperature is increasing at alarming rates has been with us for a while. Here's why it doesn't hold water.
There's a difference between weather and climate. Weather tells you what the temperature and conditions are in recent days, weeks and months. Climate tells you the atmosphere's average temperature over the long-term. Writes NASA on their website: "When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in the long-term averages of daily weather. Today, children always hear stories from their parents and grandparents about how snow was always piled up to their waists as they trudged off to school. Children today in most areas of the country haven't experienced those kinds of dreadful snow-packed winters, except for the Northeastern U.S. in January 2005. The change in recent winter snows indicate that the climate has changed since their parents were young."
It's possible, in other words, for us to live long enough to experience the impacts of climate change ourselves. Lots of folks have expressed sadness at the fact that it's rarely cold enough to skate outdoors in winter any more, even in Canada. Professional skiers and snowboarders have lamented the very noticeable loss of snow on favorite slopes worldwide. E wrote about many of these climate change effects (impacting everyone from dogsledders to maple syrup producers) in its feature ("Losing Winter") in 2008. Still, many may, right now, be experiencing a particularly cold or snowy winter, or enjoying extra powder at the ski slopes. It would be great if that were an...