If you're curious why this winter seems like one of the coldest, wettest and snowiest in recent memory, a just-released study from the National Wildlife Federation reveals that climate change is to blame. This report shows that this weather is a sign of how climate change can disrupt long-standing weather patterns. Previously warmer winters have produced more precipitation in the atmosphere, resulting in heavier snowfalls, freezing temperatures, and unusual amounts of rain.
National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt is the report's lead writer. She notes that an excessively snowy winter may result in confusion for global warming skeptics. As she told The Washington Post, "It's very hard for any of us to grasp how this larger warming trend is happening when we're still having wintry weather." But the extreme wintery downfall is in fact a direct result of global warming. Staudt points out that, because of previously warmer winters, "the lakes are less likely to freeze over or are freezing later [and] surface water evaporation is recharging the atmosphere with moisture." Combine all that moisture with cold conditions, and you have the makings of a harsh winter climate.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that 2009 tied as the second-warmest year on record. The scientific evidence that global warming is actually happening is overwhelming, and experts point out that the public needs to grasp the importance of reducing carbon dioxide. Despite these warnings, people are failing to get behind legislation to fight climate change. The Post reports that on a survey just completed by Yale and George Mason universities, 57 percent of people said global warming "is happening." This is compared to the 71 percent who believed in global warming in 2008.
Experts feel the recession is partly to blame for this disbelief. It appears the American public feels that now is not the time to fight climate change. Special interest industry groups and certain political figures fear that climate change initiatives are too costly and will, as The Post points out, “kick the economy while it’s down.”
Such thoughts are short-sighted, according to scientists. Richard Somerville, a leading climate change expert and author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, warns that the public needs to quickly grasp the importance of reducing carbon dioxide because it stays in the atmosphere for centuries. In the end, according to Somerville, “that’s where the scientific urgency comes from, not a particular weather event."
For further reading:
- Harsh winter a sign of disruptive climate change, scientists say
- Experts: Cold snap doesn’t disprove global warming
- Climate change arguments explained