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The Ultimate Guide to Shutting Down Climate Trolls

Next time someone tells you that snowy weather means global warming isn't real, you'll know exactly how to respond.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

The Southern U.S. has been  paralyzed by a historic ice storm, and the Northeast is  well on its way to another foot-plus of snow. If all that wasn’t bad enough, the climate trolls are coming out.

This time, top honors goes to the  Federalist, which can’t get over the irony of Senate Democrats scheduling a hearing on global warming right as a blizzard is expected to hit D.C. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that  global climate change is linked to extreme weather like this, but arguing that is an advanced move. Demonstrating that cold and snowy weather in no way disproves global warming? Anyone can do that.

Below, three tried-and-true retorts to climate deniers. You can try a fast and simple zinger, back it up with a blunt chart or, if you’re tired of explaining, let one of these smart videos do it for you. Why not try a healthy combination of all three? And, as a last resort, there’s always the  weather report for Australia.

The zingers

– SkepticalScience, a reliable font of detailed information, also breaks it down into this one-sentence explanation:

“A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.”

Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy is something of an evangelist for the cause. He recently tweeted:

In one sentence: "Warming things up means the atmosphere can hold more moisture." Science!

– Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer  sums up the current reality of climate change:

“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch. That’s the new world we live in.”

– And, courtesy of the NRDC, a simple analogy:

“The effect of global warming on our climate is not unlike the effect of steroids on an athlete’s performance: It supercharges storms; it causes abnormal conditions like drought and heat and ultimately, it causes damage.”

The charts

Here, data  from the NOAA and NASA clearly shows that global temperatures have been higher than average for the past 37 consecutive years:

This one,  courtesy of Skeptical Science, plots the annual numbers of record high maximum temperatures (the red dots) along with the record lows (the blue dots), averaged over the U.S. That black line — the one that doesn’t line up with what’s plotted — shows where the dots would theoretically lie should no global warming or cooling be taking place. You can see how, over time, we’ve ended up with more record highs than lows:

Heavy precipitation (Oppenheimer’s “occasional knockout punch”) is also becoming more common, as this next map from the  Global Change Research Research program shows:

US Precip Trends p32_Dec11

As to the less overall snow,  SkepticalScience has this nice breakdown of seasonal and annual snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere. It demonstrates how earlier and more extensive melting in the spring and summer more than makes up for the smaller increase in fall and winter precipitation. The total decline in snow extent between 1972 and 2010 was a full 1.3 million square kilometers:

This last one’s actually a comic, courtesy of the fantastic  XKCD, but it’s got a chart drawn in. And it once again makes the  important point that extreme cold is becoming less and less common:

 

The Videos

Chris Hayes, an ironic sparkle in his eyes, asks climate scientist Michael Mann how it’s possible for snow and global warming to be happening at the same time. His reply: “Well, we climate scientists actually have a technical term for this phenomenon. It’s called winter” (you can file that one away with the other zingers):