Monday, March 8, 2010

A Blizzard of Global-Warming Hype

by Patrick J. Michaels
It had to happen. In the midst of the record snowfall in the East, some mainstream media outlet had to try to link this season's unusual weather events to global warming.

Time was the first news organization to take the plunge. It published such an article on February 10 — and that very day, Washington, D.C., broke its 1899 seasonal snow record of 54.5 inches with its third official blizzard of the winter. Today, the New York Times joined the party.
Like 2010, winter 1899 was characterized by multiple heavy snowstorms, especially in February. Sometimes the jet stream locks into a position where it is capable of creating such a string. As has been painfully obvious, this is one of those years.
Before 1942, D.C.'s official snow totals were taken downtown. The record since the measurement started being recorded at Reagan National Airport, set in 1996, has been eclipsed by ten inches this year.
The big January 1996 storm put down 17.1 inches at Reagan. The January 22, 1996, Newsweek cover featured a man disappearing in a whiteout with the headline "Blizzards, Floods, and Hurricanes: Blame Global Warming." The cover story, written by the voluble science populist Sharon Begley, claimed that global warming allows more moisture into the air so that snowstorms can become bigger. Her go-to scientist was NASA's James Hansen — who more recently became famous for calling coal drags to your local power plant "death trains" and advocating war-crime trials for the executives who daily force you to put gasoline in your car. (So clearly we should expect no hyperbole from that camp.)
This winter, D.C. has placed two storms in the top ten: The 18.0 inches that fell on February 5–6 ranks number four, and the 16.4 on December 18–19 is number eight. Time's Bryan Walsh, who has a difficult time with the concept that improbable events are not impossible, thought this sufficiently bizarre to root online for any source that could be used to blame it on dreaded greenhouse gases. (Walsh found it in a semi-obscure 2003 study in the Journal of Climate, though he did not actually link to it in his article.)

And so the argument was trotted out again that mid-Atlantic storms can hold more moisture in a warmer world, and therefore can produce more snow. Anyone who would claim this surely does not understand the climatology of snow in Washington, D.C. Read more.

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