Winter Storm Stella hasn’t even struck the northeastern U.S., but that hasn’t stopped at least one media pundit from linking the storm to man-made global warming.
Stella is expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow to New York City and Boston through Tuesday. Washington, D.C., and Baltimore are expected to get between 8 and 10 inches of snow, no doubt sending the region into “Mad Max”-style anarchy.
By any measure, Stella looks like a big storm, but the only certainty about the storm is it, like pretty much every other extreme weather event, will be linked to global warming.
Climatologist and environmental writer Eric Holthaus couldn’t help himself. He had to link the storm to man-made global warming in a Daily Beast article. Holthaus wrote that “[t]wo studies published last year argue that climate change may be making the ingredients for big East Coast snowstorms more likely.”
He’s convinced “the evidence is starting to mount: Including this storm, eight of the 10 biggest snowstorms in New York City have occurred since 1996.”
Holthaus didn’t stop with one article on the subject. He wrote a second post for the blog Grist, arguing: “We’re not just getting freak weather anymore. We’re getting freak seasons.”
Holthaus, again, trumpeted the same two studies “that provided evidence that basic weather patterns over the East Coast are getting more extreme, too, as Arctic sea ice melts and modifies the behavior of the jet stream.”
“At times, the weather pattern can get stuck in a manner that provides extra cold air from the north and extra moisture from off the ocean — which is what is happening more often now,” Holthaus wrote.
There’s been a big effort in recent years to link pretty much every extreme weather event to global warming. Scientists focus on how much more likely a big weather event was made by global warming by comparing historical data and various climate models.
But not every scientists accepts this. Climatologist Roy Spencer warned against linking Stella to global warming.
“The Nor’easter and cold temperatures will be blamed on the same climate change that caused the unusual warmth over the eastern U.S. over the past couple months,” Spencer wrote on his blog.
“Global warming theory is in fact so malleable that it predicts anything. More cold, less cold. More snow, less snow,” he wrote. “What a powerful theory.”
“Winters in the U.S. are notoriously variable,” Spencer wrote. “Typically, if it’s warm in the East, it’s cold in the West. This is exactly what has happened this winter, except for this brief reversal before winter’s end.”
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