Sunday, December 30, 2007

Higher Temps, Weirder Weather: Welcome to Your New Climate

As the Associated Press reports, 2007 gave us our best taste yet of what climatologists say is coming as our planet warms:
When the calendar turned to 2007, the heat went on and the weather just got weirder. January was the warmest first month on record worldwide — 1.53 degrees above normal. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe's average temperature has been so far above the norm for any month of the year. [...]

It wasn't just the temperature. There were other oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring the tabloid headline: "This ain't Kansas!"

In the Middle East, an equally rare cyclone spun up in June, hitting Oman and Iran. Major U.S. lakes shrank; Atlanta had to worry about its drinking water supply. South Africa got its first significant snowfall in 25 years. And on Reunion Island, 400 miles east of Africa, nearly 155 inches of rain fell in three days — a world record for the most rain in 72 hours.
A separate story paints a detailed and bleak picture of California's climate future.

All this reinforces several key points that seem to get overlooked in the climate change:
  1. Global warming is not an abstract future possibility. It's been already been happening for years. We've just chosen to pretend it's not happening or is not our fault.
  2. Global warming is not just about melting glaciers and threatened polar bears. Changes are affecting all of us. If you're talking with friends about the climate crisis, cite the impacts in your own backyard.
  3. Global warming does not mean it will never be cold anywhere again. Just because it was cold where you live yesterday doesn't mean the planet isn't warming, and just because OshKosh broke a record for most December snow doesn't mean the planet isn't warming (in fact, warmer air can hold more water vapor so if temperatures rise but remain below freezing, you can get higher snowfall).
For more tips on refuting global warming denial, read Grist's How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.
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