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Daily Kos :: Why Cold Weather Does Not Disprove Global Warming

Why Cold Weather Does Not Disprove Global Warmingby alexforgue Jan 05, 2014 7:00am PST

One of the things that I hate most about snow storms and ice-cold weather besides shoveling snow or scraping ice off my windshield is that conservatives use it as a talking-point to disprove climate change.

Most people who watch Fox News will think that cold weather disproves global warming because they think “oh hey, it’s not warm outside so therefore the globe can’t be getting warmer.” This logic however is flawed.

Now, I can’t blame people because most people don’t have any background or education in any type of atmospheric science, and they get tricked into thinking that their flawed logic is correct.

Now, the atmosphere and global climate systems are very complex subjects to learn and understand, but as a college student majoring in physics with a minor in meteorology (atmospheric physics), let me explain some science that will hopefully change the way people view cold weather and global warming.

First, we must distinguish the difference between weather and climate:

Climate is the average weather conditions over a long-period of time in a more generalize area.
Weather is the current state of the atmosphere in the short-period of time in a more specified area.

Just because we have winter, it does not mean that global warming doesn’t exists. Winter is a season, and seasons are related to the Earth’s position relative to the sun. Seasons exists because the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees, and as the Earth revolves around the sun, the angle of sunlight changes in certain areas. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, we wouldn’t have any seasons.

Since the angle is less direct and the
heat is being spread over a greater area, the ground isn’t going to be as warm, and the sun isn’t going to stay up as long which means that there is less heat coming in than there is in the summer. (Yeah for physics!)
Now, let’s talk about winter weather. So we know why it gets cold in general, but there are other factors that affect the weather. The weather that we are about to experience with temperatures below zero will be caused by an air mass chilled by the artic that has made its way down to the United States and Canada; this happens sometimes, and therefore does not disprove global warming.

Fun fact: the warming of the stratosphere of the arctic results in a high pressure system which can weaken the polar Jetstream while the midlatitude Jetstream strengthens which causes air to move from the arctic to the mid-latitudes. Long story short, air moves from high pressure to low pressure. If you want to get a higher understanding of how that works, you can read thisarticle here . Yes, global warming can caused stronger winter storms. Storms are fueled by heat, and more heat will result in more energy that needs to be distributed by the storm. But let’s talk about global warming in general.

Global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. However, one of the things that I feel that climate change activists have done wrong is that they have labeled the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gasses as a bad thing, but rather in a natural state we need the greenhouse effect to live on this planet, it’s too much greenhouse gases that is the problem. This is known as the “enhanced greenhouse effect.”

Greenhouse effect = Good
Enhanced Greenhouse effect = Bad.
The greenhouse effect (to keep it simple) works like this: The sun emits visible light (radiation) which reaches the ground and heats the ground; the ground, once heated, begins to release this heat back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation. Now without the atmosphere and greenhouse gasses, the heat would immediately come in and go out, but greenhouse gasses slows the process by trapping the heat and reemitting it back to the ground thus the energy coming in is faster than the energy coming out.

However, if we have too much of this, the globe will get very hot very quick. A very simple argument that is never used by climate change activists is the comparison of Earth’s atmosphere to the atmosphere of Venus. First you must understand that Venus and Earth are almost the same size and have the same amount of CO2. The difference is that most of Earth’s CO2 is stuck in rocks while most the CO2 of Venus is in its atmosphere.

Earth’s atmosphere contains .004% of CO2 while the atmosphere of Venus is made up of 96.5% of C02. The average temperature of Earth is 15 degrees centigrade (or 59 degrees Fahrenheit.) While the average temperature of Venus is 467 degrees centigrade (or 872 degrees Fahrenheit)

You see, as you increase greenhouse gasses like CO2, the temperature increases. (See graph below)

Given that direct correlation of the amount of CO2 and temperature, conservatives who deny climate change somehow can’t look at Venus and think “hey maybe we shouldn’t take the rocks filled with CO2 in the ground and burn them so the CO2 gets in Earth’s atmosphere.”
For some reasons, some people can’t understand why polluting CO2 into the atmosphere is bad idea even looking at a planet right next to us that has an atmosphere with 96.5% CO2 makeup with a 872 degree Fahrenheit temperature.

This isn’t a complex idea, its simple physics and math. The more CO2 and greenhouse gasses there are in the atmosphere, the warmer the temperature.

Lastly if all else fails, and the person you are debating still isn’t phased by facts, you can always pull a Zack Kopplin and say “Well, you’re not a scientist.”

“I find it funny that people who know nothing about the atmosphere try to tell me that climate change isn’t real” – My former weather and climate professor. Follow @alexforgue
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