Headline: 'Global Warming Not Always to Blame for Extreme Winters'

March 6th, 2008 7:50 PM

You know, it's one thing when some government employee sends you an e-mail message claiming that global warming will cause greater snowfall on the planet.

However, it's really something else altogether when a major American newspaper would actually publish an article with the headline:

Global Warming Not Always to Blame for Extreme Winters

No, this wasn't the National Enquirer, or The Star. This was the Christian Science Monitor, which is now on a growing list of press outlets clearly uncomfortable with the winter of 2008 (emphasis added throughout):

Whatever global-warming models may suggest about the futures of Earth's climate, one thing is certain: Global warming never promised to eliminate winter, especially for those living outside the tropics.

After listing examples of some of the crazy winter weather this year, the Monitor tried to assert some calm:

The extremes weren't all frigid. In Stockholm, Sweden's weather service posted an average temperature of 36 degrees F. this winter, which for weather-data purposes runs from December through February. That makes it the warmest winter since 1756. In January, Australia saw its temperatures rise 2.2 degrees F. above the 1961-2000 average, a record anomaly.

In the continental United States, things were a bit more sedate, despite the tornadoes that struck the Southeast in January and the snow that piled high in ski country. This winter ranked as the 54th coolest on record, though still 0.2 degrees F. above normal, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C. And it ranked as the 18th wettest winter, dropping an average of 2.7 inches of moisture on the country – just over half an inch above normal.

Unfortunately, the Monitor was playing it a bit loose with the facts here. This is what NCDC reported on Thursday (emphasis added):

The average temperature was 33.2°F (0.6°C), which was 0.2°F (0.1°C) above the 20th century mean.

Maybe more important, if the Monitor felt it necessary to share this preliminary data for winter 2008, why didn't it provide how this compared to some recent years?

For instance, "The winter temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 0.6°F (0.3°C) above the 20th century average of 33.0°F" in 2007.

This figure was "1.2°F (0.7°C) above the 1895-2005 mean" in winter 2006. And an astounding "2.8F (1.6C) above the 1895-2004 mean" in winter 2005.

Anybody see a trend -- like, our past three winters have dramatically cooled from almost three degrees above the 20th century mean to virtually right back to that mean? Isn't that newsworthy?

Apparently not. Nor did the Monitor choose to share some of the extraordinary snowfall numbers this season:

The map to the left depicts the snowpack levels in many Rocky Mountain basins on March 1, 2008, illustrating above-average snow cover in much of the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada in the western U.S. Some areas in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and southern Colorado had levels above 180% of normal at the beginning of March. At the end of February, new snowfall records for the season-to-date were set in both Telluride and Aspen, Colorado. Conversely, parts of Wyoming, Montana, Nevada and north-central Washington had levels below normal, as did much of eastern Alaska and southern New Mexico. Above-average snowfall this season is bringing relief to many areas of the Western U.S. that have been plagued by drought in recent years.

I guess reporting this would be too much like news as well.