Here we go again: Snow and climate

An abandoned city bus in Chicago, by Paul Kehrer via Creative Commons

It’s finally happened. We run out of quippy names for huge, epic snowstorms.

So far, SnOMGazillageddon2 has brought more than 20 inches of snow to Chicago, making it the city’s third largest snowstorm on record. More than a foot of snow has fallen as far west as Oklahoma and as far east as New York. (Here in St. Paul, we’re high and dry on the Arctic side of the front, left to enjoy the pre-existing mountains of snow that have been piling up since November).

It’s also Groundhog Day, which means we’ll have six more weeks of people on Twitter claiming that the continued existence of winter, along with Al Gore possibly gaining weight, disproves climate science. Here’s a prime example:

One could possibly forgive the confusion if we weren’t having to re-explain this over and over again every few weeks. But since climate science has been successfully made over into as divisive a public issue as gun control or abortion, many media outlets will simply avoid the subject altogether, or cling to the narrative that the whole thing is a toss-up. For instance, in a story today, the Associated Press took the standard “he said-she said” approach to avoid offending anyone:

Many scientists say carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution contribute to global warming, and the attempt to reduce them is a major priority for President Barack Obama as well as environmentalists. Critics argue the evidence is thin and new rules would drive up costs for businesses and consumers and cause job losses.

The website Sodahead.com (which, to be honest, I’d never heard of until today) decided to settle things with a poll:

The poll is asinine on two levels – besides the obvious problem of deciding scientific fact by consensus, it misframes the question. Global warming doesn’t “cause” snowstorms. But increased temperatures and moisture in the atmosphere make intense snowstorms, like the one that hit this week, more likely.

MSNBC, however, took the rare step of having an actual climate scientist – Brenda Ekwurzel – come on the air to explain it:

The fact is, these huge snowstorms are completely consistent with what climate scientists have been predicting for years. While the science itself is immensely complicated, Ekwurzel shows that it’s not especially difficult to explain the basics.

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