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What Happened to Global Warming?

An experienced climatologist explains how extreme winter weather may or may not be related to climate change.

| Feb. 29, 2008

  • winter weather car wreck
    Extreme winter weather doesn’t signal a reversal in global warming trends.
  • Extreme winter weather
    Global warming is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re shoveling a foot of snow off the driveway, but extreme cold is just another part of the trend.

  • winter weather car wreck
  • Extreme winter weather

Brrr, it’s cold outside! Frigid temperatures and record snowfall in many areas may leave some people wondering what happened to global warming. Given the whiter-than-normal winter, is the Earth really still heating up? 

For insight, we turned to Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate science expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has studied climate change for 17 years. Her research has stretched from the arid U.S. Southwest to icebreaker ship expeditions to the North Pole. She stays abreast of the latest science to help inform the public and policymakers. 

Q: Could colder temperatures and more snow be signs that global warming is not happening?

A: No singular weather event or even a colder year represents a change in global warming. Weather is the temperature or precipitation over a couple of days. Climate refers to the average temperature or weather patterns over a decade or more. Global warming occurs over a long period of time, therefore gradual shifts to a warmer climate represents global warming. One event, such as increased snowfall or a heat wave, will not significantly change the climate pattern from the last decade. You have to look at what has happened over time, not in the past month or two, to determine if there is general trend of warming.

Q: Could some extreme weather events signify a shift in climate patterns?

A: Yes, actually. Because the Earth is heating up, the air is warmer and more humid and evaporation occurs faster, leading to an intensification of precipitation. This means that during the winter months, in many parts of the United States, we’re more likely to experience intense snowfall and in the summer months intense rainfall. If you look at these events over a long period of time though, the total annual volume of rain may not change as significantly as it may appear. There are just more occurrences of heavy rain events. The increase in intense rain can lead to flooding and longer dry periods in between.

8/27/2017 7:00:45 PM

The more the world scoffs at and rejects the gospel of Jesus, in its decline, there will be a proportional increase of perilous times manifested in various ways upon the earth. Antifa, Al Gore,& the liberal press & politicians will never have a clue as to the root cause (not CO2).

11/29/2010 12:51:16 AM

An educated public is esential to democracy;

John Swanson_2
4/11/2010 2:28:33 AM

They just never quit do they, Global warming, it all leads to the same story, less humans on the earth, did these people who continue to believe global warming is a problem and CO2 is a deadly gas ever go to school? Do they realize every living being emits CO2, the plants thrive on it, it is not a poison. They just keep pushing their agenda, and Mother Earth News just keeps playing the game, MEN could you please just stick to what made you famous in the 70's and 80's with your magazine and drop the political agenda, I guess that explains why MEN subscription rates have gone way down, if you would stick to gardening, building stuff, etc. and leave the political agenda out of your magazine I know your subscribers would go up, fire whoever is in charge of setting the agenda of your magazine, it's killing it, I use to subscribe until it went political. Leave the global warming garbage to AL Gore and his crew of scientists that manipulate the figures and leave real science out of it, let sleeping dogs lie.

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