Again, climate is not weather
To the editor:
Even though the great majority of the most qualified scientists in my field of atmospheric and earth science believe human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a dangerous global warming and climate change, President Trump recently joked that we could use a little global warming to mitigate the very cold weather that recently has impacted eastern North America. While the weather did turn quite cold here beginning on Christmas, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports 2017 ended up as the third-warmest year across the United States since records began in 1880. Although NOAA has not yet calculated the 2017 world average temperature, January through November last year was also the third-warmest such 11-month period on record in terms of global mean temperature.
In summing up last year’s weather, NOAA has stated: “2017 will be remembered as a year of extremes for the U.S., as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires and freezes claimed hundreds of lives and visited economic hardship on the nation.” While it may seem paradoxical that there could be periods of very cold weather during the overall global warming trend that has featured 15 of the warmest years on record since 1998, the weather patterns that support the observed atmospheric extremes will allow for occasional periods of well-below-normal temperatures. In fact, three consecutive years of record global warmth in 2014 through 2016 followed the last bitterly cold winter that impacted eastern North America and Upper Michigan in 2013-14.
Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are the remains of plants which lived millions to hundreds of millions of years ago. The burning of these fuels that has released their stored carbon back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide over the span of just a few hundred years is the driver behind the global warming trend and accompanying precipitation and climate extremes. In fact, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration reached 400 parts per million in 2013 for the first time in millions of years. Qualified scientists insist we need to act quickly to cut these carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions before the climate impacts become irreversible for at least hundreds of years. I urge your readers to contact our state and federal representatives and ask them to support renewable energy and more plant-based agriculture that will help to reduce our emissions.