Another government climate agency is being proposed to monitor the climate and its changes around the U.S. and the world. The details are scant right now but it will apparently operate under NOAA which also oversees the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service as well as 4 other related services. From what I have read, the name will be the National Climate Service (NCS). This sounds like a good idea to me unless it involves the creation of numerous new jobs. Creating a new federal bureaucracy in the midst of the “Great Recession” does not seem like a good idea. In my view, personnel for the NCS should be moved from other weather and climate agencies. We already have hundreds, more likely thousands of researchers and government professionals focusing on climate within NOAA, UCAR, NCAR, NASA, NCDC, all branches of the military, etc… I don’t see the need to hire hundreds more.
One thing about the announcement written by the AP that bothered me is the terminology. Once again we see the words “climate change” instead of “global warming” or the more appropriate “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW). While it is true that “global warming” is a subset of all “climate change”, the use of the latter seems inadequate. The climate changes. The climate always changes. The climate changed in the past. The climate will change in the future. Using the broad term does not adequately convey what is the root cause nor what negative impacts can be expected in the future. Besides, for nearly 2 decades the media and most research institutions have hammered the term “global warming” endlessly. It is only in the last couple of years that the term “climate change” has crept into the headlines. If carbon dioxide is increasing and more carbon dioxide will warm the planet, then just call it “global warming” as was the case from 1989 all the way through the mid 2000s.
As I have mentioned before, I think the change in terminology has come about because the earth has not warmed much if at all over the last decade (depending on what dataset you look at). Couple this with the fact that we are in our third winter in a row of “harsh” conditions in one of the world’s largest media centers (U.S. east coast). Summers have also been relatively cool. Not only that, the areal extent of arctic sea ice has expanded, not shrunk, during the last couple of years. A negative phase of the Atlantic and Pacific MDO might keep the cooler trend in place for another decade or two (according to some climatologists). I can imagine it would be a little uncomfortable to continue using “global warming” as a headline when you are walking out into the bitter cold and heavy snow winter after winter.
I have seen a push-and-pull between AGW theorists and skeptics over the last couple decades and lately the skeptics have been doing a lot of pushing. AGW theorists can only blame themselves. For years every hurricane, every drought, every flood, every disease outbreak, every tornado, every melting glacier, and particularly every heat wave was blamed on AGW (“global warming”). I do not exaggerate. It is no surprise that skeptics now use every snowstorm and record cold spell (and there have been plenty over the last couple years in the US) to skewer the other side. What is the saying? Turnabout is fair play. The AGW skeptics are of course met with condescension – the typical response being “you don’t understand the difference between weather and climate, one snowstorm does not mean global warming is done”. That is true, however the climate is defined by the average weather as well as the extremes and there is now a new “extreme” for snowfall (record seasonal snowfall) in the Nation’s Capital and many other east coast cities. When all-time records for cold and snow are being broken that does mean something, even if these are small data points in a global data-set. Also, while one cold snowy winter does not change the long term trend much, when you have two or three in a row then you have to at least start to consider that a new cycle (a short term cycle perhaps) is upon us. If the cooler trend continues for a few more years, I think we will see more focus on the MDO and solar cycles and their effects. If the coming summer is a scorcher, no doubt the AGW theorists will push back, but it would be better for science if they kept a level head.
Have a fine Wednesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
Posted under AGW, Climate Change
This post was written by jloew on February 10, 2010