Cold Snap

cold-snapClick to enlarge. It snowed today in Houston, an admittedly rare event in this part of the world. In addition to icy water, such an episode releases a flurry of right wingers and people who got no better than Cs in science telling me how "this proves Al Gore wrong."

Setting aside the misdirected animosity, I really don't understand this kind of ignorance. Even if you really don't know the difference between weather and climate, how can you not recognize the gaping hole in your logic?

To wit: if one day of severely cold weather disproves global warming, why don't the hundreds of really hot days (like we get most of the year in Houston) re-prove it? Is it stupidity or hypocrisy?

For the record:

Weather measures the local environmental conditions, typically on the scale of hours or days. Climate measures the average conditions over larger scales of time, typically on the scale of decades or even centuries. The weather conditions of a any single day (or even a month) really don't matter much. And in fact, one would expect that there would be days significantly hotter or significantly colder than others. That's why we talk about average conditions: so that no outlier data skews the overall picture of what is happening.

And when we look at the average temperature of the earth over the long term (not a single snow day, folks), we see an alarming warming pattern. Even a rise of a few degrees can have significant (and potentially disastrous) ramifications on plant and animal populations, local weather patterns, and water levels in low-lying areas. We ignore it at our peril.