Letter: Weather and climate

In his Jan. 29 letter to the editor. David Kempf comments that he is amazed that “‘global warming alarmists’ think they can predict what the climate will be many years from now and yet, meteorologists cannot tell us with any accuracy what the weather will be like in a month.”

He is not alone in his misunderstanding of the difference between climate science and weather forecasting. The NASA website clarifies the difference as “... a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time. When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather.”

In a Jan. 15 My Turn article, I wrote that “One prominent scientist, Cambridge University’s Peter Wadhams, is now projecting that summer sea ice in the Arctic may entirely disappear in the next four years.” In response Mr. Kempf contends that “photos from NASA show the Arctic ice grew 533,000 square miles from August 2012 to August 2013.”

He is not wrong but his statement lacks context. My quote references summer sea ice. Arctic and Antarctic ice grows and melts each year depending upon seasonal temperatures. For a full discussion on this subject go to http://nsidc.org/icelights/2013/12/02/is-declining-sea-ice-changing-the-atmosphere/ and read the page titled “Is declining sea ice changing the atmosphere?”

The fact is that we cannot make a judgment about global warming based simply on our observation of weather events in America. Global warming is just that — global. Its effects are felt around the world, not limited to the 2 percent we experience here on the continental United States.

That said, I suspect that there are a fair number of “alarmists” in freezing Atlanta and draught-ridden California at this time.


Shelburne Falls

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