The shorts and tee shirt weather that’s been gripping the eastern U.S. during recent weeks is not, of course, “proof” of global warming any more than the “polar vortex” of a couple years back disproved it. Weather is weather and climate is climate.
That said, there’s little doubt that global climate change is closely linked to the intensity of the current outbreak and the El Nino that’s helped spawn it (and, sadly, the frequency with which we will experience such events in the future).
This is from a recent story on Bloomberg Business that explored the recent tropical outbreak in New York City:
“A strong El Nino is under way across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and that upsets things in a way ‘that is much less favorable for outbreaks of cold Canadian or Arctic air,’ said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, a pattern called the Arctic Oscillation is favoring warmth in the northern U.S….
That said, climate change also plays a role in setting the larger stage, Trenberth said.
There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere compared with what existed in preindustrial times has elevated the chances of a mild December in Central Park, said Henson. And that demonstrates why carbon and emissions play such a big role in discussions like the one that just ended in Paris.
‘So, in a nutshell, this month’s eastern warmth strikes me as the kind of dramatic event that one might expect in a strong El Nino, with record-warm temperatures at least a small bit higher as a result of the overall warming of our climate,’ Henson said.”
The story goes on to reiterate what we all already knew — namely, that all of this is devilishly complex and very hard to predict in the short term. But it also highlights the fact that the average high temperature in Central Park in mid-December has gone up a degree in just 10 years. Here in North Carolina in recent days, heat records have been shattered by several degrees. In other words, just as with so many other areas in life, few things are certain, but it’s absurd to ignore data and probabilities — especially when the very health of the planet and viability of the human species are at stake.
Right now, the data and statistics culled and compiled by thousands of our best scientists indicate strongly that events like the current record-breaking warm weather (and all the problems that tend to come with it) will become more and more likely in the years ahead. That any person who gives a hoot about his or her children and grandchildren could be aware of this truth and not believe that urgent societal action is essential to tackle the problem ASAP (are you listening, Governor McCrory?) is something that remains remarkably difficult to fathom.