First off, we can definitively say that climate change is real. It’s just not a debate. There are no “climate change skeptics,” there are denialists and then there are those who recognize that climate change is happening. Got it? Are we all on the same page now? Great.
It goes without saying that it’s cold in many places of the United States. Here in Indianapolis, it’s 19 degrees (-7 C) right now, but come Monday night, it will be -10 degrees (-23 C). No thank you please, I want it to be springtime already. I hate colder weather because you never know how many layers to wear. If you wear too many, sure you can take some off, but now you have to deal with carrying it around. Too few and you’ll just be miserable.
But that doesn’t stop some people from denying the reality of climate change. I’ve written and meme’d (a couple times) about this before. It’s easy to say “it’s cold outside today, checkmate global warming!” But there are a few issues with that.
First, using the phrase “global warming” is not accurate. Yes, the Earth has been on a warming trend since industrialization, but climate change is a more precise term to use because it accounts for the variety of weather events that occur as a result of the warming of the Earth’s surface.
Second, saying it’s cold outside now is as intellectually honest as saying that since you ate breakfast today, world hunger is a hoax. The Food Aid Foundation reports that over 10% of the Earth’s population don’t have enough food to live a healthy, active life. And something as simple as vitamin A deficiency causes as many as half a million children to go blind each year, and half of those children also die.
Think of it this way: in your closet at home, you have a lot of different options, from different patterns and colors to choose from. That’s your climate. The specific outfit you choose to wear on any given day is your weather. Your weather can vary greatly from day to day, but it is bounded by the limits in your wardrobe. Unless you decide to go shirtless or celebrate no-pants-Friday (I’m not your dad, do what you want).
But then there are moments like this. Moments that are just so baffling that it escapes all attempts to describe or explain:
In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017
I just, what?
I was so perturbed that I posted not just once, but twice about it on aSE:
He’s just not even wrong. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it has been cold before. Yes, it will be cold again in the future. But it’s also been warm in the past, and will be warm again in the future. Nobody intelligent is denying that fact or making that assertion. Well, except Jim Inhofe (aka “Senator Snowball”) who brought a goddamn snowball into Congress to debunk climate change.
But even more concerning, this statement plays heavily towards Trump’s supporters, and to his own administration, which has many climate change deniers in it. We can absolutely draw a line from this form of climate change denial to an ethnocentric, nationalist ideology as well.
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It makes sense, I promise.
The map below, made by the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, shows the daily temperature anomalies for yesterday, December 28th, 2017. The blue areas show temperatures below normal, while the reds show temperatures that were above normal.
As you can plainly see, nearly everywhere else in the world was above normal, with many areas being 10 degrees above normal, and the global temperature yesterday was half a degree Celsius above normal (with the Arctic being 2.9 Celsius above normal). So in a way, it makes sense that Trump would pander to his base in this way. Reinforcing the idea that climate change is a conspiracy theory on the heels of his first major legislative victory might help cheer up his supporters. I also hypothesize that most of Trump’s supporters aren’t paying close attention to world affairs (besides China and North Korea, probably) and especially aren’t paying attention to worldwide scientific news/information.
What makes this all the more interesting, and further confirms the reality of climate change, is recent research that suggests that climate change itself is impacting the jet stream, which is contributing to more extreme weather events. It’s like a bad gift that just keeps on giving, as Andrew Freeman from Mashable explains:
On the east, or downwind, side of this ridge, the jet stream is plunging southward in what is known as a dip or trough in the upper air flow. This is allowing frigid air from a large gyre spinning around Hudson Bay, Canada, to steer cold air toward the U.S. This circulation pattern is distinct from the stratospheric polar vortex, which has actually been displaced across northern Asia.
This cold outbreak is going to be remembered for its severity, but mainly for its duration. The fact that no end is in sight for the Midwest and East Coast through Jan. 9 is noteworthy. Some model runs have shown that the most brutal cold wave won’t arrive in the U.S. until around Jan. 5, meaning the current cold is but a prelude to the big show.
The reason for the seasons
Then there’s axial tilt. Because the sun isn’t hitting the northern hemisphere as directly in the winter, we have shorter days and colder temperatures. What’s important to remember though is that the winter solstice (which was on December 21st) officially kicks off winter for the northern hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean it’s the coldest month of the year. The sun heats the ground. This is why, even in winter, you can get really, really warm while driving your car if the sun is shining on you. The sun isn’t heating the air, it’s heating the ground, which then heats the air. So that means there’s a little bit of a delay throughout the day as to what time is the warmest outside (kind of like “weather” during the season), then there’s an overall delay throughout the season as to when it’s the warmest/coldest (kind of like “climate” of the season).
Either way, it’s going to be cold and it’ll be cold for a while. Maybe looking at these adorable cats wearing festive sweaters on my other website, Skeptical Kitten, help cheer you up? Or perhaps the Funny Wildlife Photo Winners of 2017 will give you a giggle?
Either way, be safe out there!
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