Left Outside

Bugger: A brief introduction to climate contradictions

At some point in the late 1950s someone coined the term “Global Warming” when referring to Climate Change, and it has gained tractions since. Global Warming is catchy and easy to visualise, but it is infuriatingly easy for morons – and it is apt to call them morons – to use  any cold snap to pooh pooh the scientific consensus on global warming climate change.

I’ve already pointed out the nonsense of Douglas Carswell. Kindly, AngryMob directs me to the ignorant effluence spouting from Richard Littlejohn:

Ah, say the ‘experts’, there’s a difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. They are forced to resort to semantics to sustain their insistence that the science is settled, even though they are all sitting there shivering like brass monkeys. They’d still cling to their belief in man-made warming if Hell froze over.

The idea that the difference between climate and weather is semantic would be laughable if it weren’t so depressing (Incidentally, if you want a “how to model climate in three easy steps” then please do look at Unity’s post here).

In response AngryMob treats us to the usual combination of ennui and anger that fills all those that have Littlejohn’s column for as long as he has:

So there you have it: the only difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ according to Littlejohn is semantic. I wish everything in life was as simple as Littlejohn makes out, but sadly things are a little more complex than that and the cold weather outside today says nothing about climate change or the climate in general.

However, rather than take issue with Littlejohn I thought I would try something a little more intellectually stimulating and draw attention to something else.

When AngryMob says “the cold weather outside today says nothing about climate change or the climate in general” he is wrong. Now I know this is out of shear sheer frustration with Littlejohn, rather than his considered opinon, but it gives me a little chance to discuss the weather.

And as an Englishman, who wouldn’t leap at that chance?

The below graphic and paragraph are taken from Fish Out of Water on The Daily Kos (H/T Brad DeLong):

Daily Kos: Freak Current Takes Gulf Stream to Greenland: An unprecedented extreme in the northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation has driven a strong direct connecting current between the Gulf Stream and the West Greenland current. The unprecedented negativity of the “Arctic Oscillation” and the strong connection of the Gulf Stream with the Greenland current are exceptional events. More exceptional weather events are predicted with anthropogenic climate change, but this could be a natural variation of weather and currents.

Daily Kos: Freak Current Takes Gulf Stream to Greenland

Now all of that doesn’t really make much sense to anyone. The above graphic especially won’t make much sense unless you know how the Gulf Stream is meant to act. For that reason I have included the below graphic.

As you can see, something has gone quite drastically wrong with the North Atlantic.

In recent weeks the low pressure area which normally sits over Iceland has been replaced with a high pressure area. [1]

This means that the warm air we normally get from the Atlantic can’t get here to warm us, and has instead been replaced with altogether more cold air from the Arctic. This causes us to be bitterly cold; -22.3C cold.

But what is interesting is that this atmospheric disturbance has been sat there long enough to begin to shift the Gulf Stream.

This is a big deal as a lot of the reason that London (latitude 51°32′ N) has such a different climate to Moscow (latitude 55°45′ N), is that the Gulf Stream brings us so much warmth.

We really don’t want to fuck with it. The terror on our roads has illustrated exactly how well we cope with weather which is actually adverse rather than just inconvenient.

The high pressure area sitting over Iceland has caused both the change in the Gulf Stream and the change in our normally mild winters. This sort of exceptional weather event is predicted to happen ever more frequently as our climate changes.

So climate change and a general increase in global temperature, leading to a more chaotic weather system, will probably lead to these cold winters happening more and more often. So there you have it, the whole world gets warmer and Britain is destined for cold, frost and rain.

Is it just me or does this seem bloody typical?

[1] The high blood pressure caused by Iceland seems to be entirely coincidental.

+++

Orenjepan has some ruminations on this over at Not Yet Out of the Woods.

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Filed under: Science, The Media

20 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Uponnothing says:

    I was going to argue that the cold weather is a result of climate change (more frequent extreme weather events) but I wanted to avoid controversy!

    • leftoutside says:

      I thought as much, and I had a bugger of a time wording it so it didn’t sound accusatory.

      I’ve a mate of mine who builds scale models of shorelines whos pretty shit hot on this, so I had a quick word and threw this together.

      Check out the “right honourable” Douglas Carswell MP linked to above making similar argument to that pub bore Littlejohn if you haven’t already. Embarrassing.

  2. PhantomIRL says:

    “Climate change” was coined when it became clear that “global warming” was outed.
    [LO - not a good choice of phrase really. Is global warming gay? I assume you mean to imply that global warming has been shown to be not happening, this is a crock of shit unfortunately, here might be a good place to start]
    The fact is that there was an ice age ( or two ) in the past. [So?] The real question is whether man’s activities have contributed to the current changes or not. There are so many things that could be influencing factors and some that are not generally included in open debate that to settle on blaming human activities as major contributors may be selling us all short. [Its interesting that there are so many things which may be influencing it, yet you don't mention any. Its also interesting that lots of people I know that are involved admit that its a very complicated subject, but that they are building a more and more complete model]
    Here’s the thing. What if climate change of extinction level were occurring and there was nothing, NOTHING, that we could do about it. No discussions, no protesting. Nothing. [That would be bad, but that's not what most of the evidence points to]
    Humanity, with all it’s technology. Powerless. [Yes bad, and?]
    Have we not come to expect that we can control nature when in fact we cannot? [We might have done, and maybe we cannot. But then when you look at CFCs, the Hoover Dam, Geothermal power, nuclear weapons and so on and so forth you realise we can effect the world, its almost one of the things that define us as a species and AGW might just be one of those things]
    Funny. If luck is on our side, we may yet get to evolve to gain the capacity to escape from a changing, hostile environment. But we need to work together and prioritize. Not waste time on blame.And in the meantime take measures to minimise any possible effects our behaviour “may” be having in order to buy us that rare commodity. Time. [Yes, technological change is probably what's going to save us, if anything because it sure looks like the political process isn't going to work]

    [I hope you don't mind me responding in this form, it just cuts down on lots of needless quoting and refuting - my apologies if I come across as combative it seems as though you're only hear to cast generic doubt on the science of climate change, while philosophising on the limitations of man's knowledge and ability to affect the world. Its hard to tell if you ]

  3. david morris says:

    High pressure over Iceland ?

    Hmm

    Maybe Our Great Leader can have a word with the Noggin the Nogs & persuade them to deflate the HP in exchange for “free” membership of the EU ?

    No ?

    Just askin’

  4. Andrew Adams says:

    The real question is whether man’s activities have contributed to the current changes or not. There are so many things that could be influencing factors and some that are not generally included in open debate that to settle on blaming human activities as major contributors may be selling us all short.

    But the underlying science predicts that human CO2 emissions will cause warming and describes the mechanism by which they will do so. It’s not a post hoc argument plucked out of the air because we can’t find any other cause for GW.

  5. Oranjepan says:

    Pressure, temperature, atmospheric composition and the vaiety of flows are all climatological factors rather than direct causes, so any accurate calculation has to be a combination of all taken together.

    Particular localised events may be ascribable to specific variations, but I find it absolutely impossible to comprehend the ignorance of anyone who fails to account for the global nature of the current weather events with such a dunderheaded presumption that all these factors aren’t interconnected.

    It is also highly irresponsible for tories to imply by arguing against ‘settled science’ that science is incapable of telling us anything.

    I’m glad you picked up on the pictures too, but while I agree with your conclusion that increases in greenhouse gases will increase climate volatility rather than flat changes, it’s for slightly different reasons.

  6. [...] Bugger: A brief introduction to climate contradictions At some point in the late 1950s someone coined the term “Global Warming” when referring to Climate Change, [...] [...]

  7. garic says:

    Apart from annoying climate scientists, he also manages to annoy linguists (you actually fall into the same trap yourself)!

    Semantics is, quite simply, the study of meaning, and the climate scientists are, quite reasonably, pointing out that, for people who know about this kind of thing, the words ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ mean different things; they refer to different phenomena. In other words: this quite clearly is to a great extent a matter of semantics, but to talk about ‘resorting to semantics’ is a bit like rejecting evolution on the grounds that it’s ‘only a theory’.

    What Richard Littlejohn appears to use ‘semantics’ to mean is something like ‘a small matter of linguistic pedantry’. He’s entitled to use words to mean whatever he wants them to. But, just as he fails to understand how scientists of climate use the words climate and weather differently from him, he fails to realise that, to scientists of language at least, a matter of semantics is no reason to dismiss anything at all.

  8. Antonia says:

    Nitpicking before someone uses a typo to call your data quality in question.
    You may want to amend the following.

    ‘Now I know this is out of shear frustration with Littlejohn’

    When meaning ‘unmitigated’ its spelt ‘sheer’

    ‘Shear’, (except in weather or scientific/engineering stress) always related to a cutting action.

  9. Dave G says:

    PhantomIRL says:
    January 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    ““Climate change” was coined when it became clear that “global warming” was outed.”

    That must be why the very first global climate body, the IPCC, had the words “Climate Change” in it’s name! The myths just keep getting rotated, don’t they?

    • Oranjepan says:

      Dave, that doesn’t make sense – if the theory of climate change came after that of global warming, how could the institution set up to deal with it take the later name for the idea?

      • leftoutside says:

        The semantic nitpicking between global warming and climate change is a total distraction.

        Globally the climate has definitely and unequivocally warmed since the industrial revolution.

        But regional variations mean that some areas will cool while others warm, therefore for the sake of accuracy and to avoid boring obscurants like PhantomIRL Climate Change has become the prefered term.

        They’re not different theories. They both refer to a large body of work of projections and reconstructions.

        • Oranjepan says:

          Not at all, back in the 70s the threat was all about global cooling based upon pretty much the same evidence stretching back to when records began.

          Like I’ve said before it’s not a linear thing and there are mitigating factors from fractional warming (like increased algae blooms), but that doesn’t solve the political problem of motivating action and making sure it is the right action and sufficient for the job.

          I accept the current trend is for warming, but that doesn’t tell enough of the story. How bad may it be? What will be the repurcussions? What action is needed? Will these be practical and effective?

          We have to answer all these questions – it’s just not good enough to think we can say it is or it isn’t happening, and it’s perverse for anyone to think we shouldn’t be taking these factors into consideration when, for example, planning decisions are made to build on flood plains or what might be those of the future.

          I agree we’re not disagreeing, but I think it’s wrong to supress debate across the activist/policy divide, otherwise the detailed response may not be wholly appropriate.

      • Dave G says:

        My point, though shrouded in irony, was that it has always been called both climate change and global warming. There has been no change of name, as both names are still routinely used.

        • Oranjepan says:

          And that’s where you’re plain wrong.

          Global warming has interchanged with global cooling according to the different interpretations of climate change of the moment.

          People can argue all they want about precisely how the climate is changing, but it is a fact that it is constantly changing. And this requires constant focus on the issue.

          Only once the overarching theory has been depoliticised will either side be prevented from using it for political gain to the detriment of society and then be able to have a calmer and more productive debate.

          Personally I think grand event politics like the Copenhagen conference are gestures which are doomed to fail – I want to see a standing forum under the auspices of the UN.

  10. Dave G says:

    “Oranjepan says:
    March 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Not at all, back in the 70s the threat was all about global cooling based upon pretty much the same evidence stretching back to when records began.”

    Hardly any scientific papers were talking about global cooling in the 70s. Most were talking about warming. The cooling threat was mostly from the media – I seem to recall Newsweek doing an article about it.

  11. Dave G says:

    “Oranjepan says:
    March 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    And that’s where you’re plain wrong.

    Global warming has interchanged with global cooling according to the different interpretations of climate change of the moment.”

    I can’t recall any time during the last few decades when both phrases were not in common usage.

    Do you know where this “climate change” instead of “global warming” nonsense all started? It started with a guy called Frank Luntz, who was a Republican spin merchant for George W Bush. He wrote, in 2002:

    ““’Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming.’ … While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge””

    Source: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/04/09/why-those-sneaky-enviros-changed-from-quot-global-warming-quot-to-quot-climate-change-quot.aspx (Sorry for the length of the url, I don’t know how to do links here).

  12. Oranjepan says:

    No, it didn’t.

    Both phrases have been around since the processes involved were first identified.

    And that line isn’t incorrect. But it does only go to describe how the words convey political intent.

    I suggest how you read it will be subject to your own political biases.

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