No, the Cold Doesn't Mean No Global Warming

Scientists say there's a difference between weather and climate.

ByBILL BLAKEMORE
January 7, 2010, 3:33 PM

Jan. 8, 2010 — -- No, the cold snap in some parts of the northern hemisphere (New York, Florida, Beijing, Northern India, Europe) does not mean that manmade global warming is not happening, or even that it's happening just a little less.

This is, of course, an old story...and more and more 5th graders are bringing it home from their science classes to get their parents up to date on the latest climate science.

Bottom line -- fast and simple? Three points:

Take a look at a piece, "Weather Is Not Climate," that my ABC News colleague Clayton Sandell and I filed on the same question three years ago.

In it, we spoke to Mark Serreze, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"The fact that we had a couple of cool months doesn't say anything at all about long-term trends," said Serreze. "It's just a clear example of natural variability on the climate system. The long-term averages are decidedly toward a warming planet.

"We have a gradual warming of Earth's system, but that is interspersed with a strong natural variability in the system," he said. "This is just the way the system works."

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agreed.

"Weather is chaotic. It has an infinite amount of variability, and that's just the nature of weather," he said. "Weather dominates on a day-to-day basis, and there will be warmer periods and cooler periods. But it's the overall pattern that gives you the climate."

There is also a new piece by Malcolm Ritter, a science writer at The Associated Press. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Weather vs. Climate

Or take a look at a blog post by Eoin O'Carroll at the Christian Science Monitor.

In it, he writes, "It's not actually that cold.

"Yes, it takes chutzpah to say this amid reports of seniors in Britain burning books to stay warm, but it's true. It was actually colder in London this week last year....

"It's the same story all over the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, it's colder than what we're used to in January, but we're not breaking very many new temperature records."

Weather is short-term and local -- say, the next five or 10 days in the Tri-State Area.

Climate is long-term and regional (or bigger) -- say, the average over the next 20 years in the American Northeast.

If you look at this graph of the past 130 years from the National Climate Data Center, you will see that from year to year there have been sharp spikes and valleys.

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