Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why Big Blizzards in Winter Don’t Disprove Global Warming - by Joe Romm

Another epic blizzard threatens 50 million people on the East Coast, with a bulls-eye on Washington DC.  And leading climatologists again explain how human-induced climate change, especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures, are super-charging the amount of moisture in the atmosphere the storm will dump on us.

First, though, I think the name, Winter Storm Jonas, doesn’t do justice to this blizzard, especially since the Jonas brothers are a pretty harmless pop rock band.  I’m suggesting the name, Superstorm (Edward) Snowed-In:  Because it will turn DC upside down, bring the government to a standstill, and then flee the country.

Seriously, though, please take this superstorm seriously.  As meteorologist Paul Douglas notes, “The Washington D.C. office of the National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Watch for the first time since 1986.”  Besides upwards of two feet of snow and high winds over a 36-hour period, coastal regions can also expect some record storm surges.

I asked two of the country’s top climatologists, Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, to comment on the role climate change has on this latest superstorm, which is forecast to break records.

Mann, Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, explained:  “There is peer-reviewed science that now suggests that climate change will lead to more of these intense, blizzard-producing nor’easters, for precisely the reason we’re seeing this massive storm — unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures (temperatures are in the 70s off the coast of Virginia).”

When you mix extra moisture with “a cold Arctic outbreak (something we’ll continue to get even as global warming proceeds),” as Mann points out, “you get huge amounts of energy and moisture, and monster snowfalls, like we’re about to see here.”

Mann’s bottom line:
While critics like to claim that these massive winter storms are evidence against climate change, they are actually favored by climate change.
Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agrees:  “At present sea surface temperatures are more the 3F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the NE coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 to 15% higher as a result.  Up to half of this can be attributed to climate change.”

So Superstorm Snowed-In is able to sweep in vastly more water vapor thanks to human-caused warming.

Read more at Why Big Blizzards in Winter Don’t Disprove Global Warming

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