Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Snow in North Dakota in September?

One of the most common plot lines in novels and movies is where the guy sees his girl friend in a compromising situation with another man and is faced with a dilemma:  does she or does she not love him.  All the evidence looks the other way.  The rest of the movie or novel presents how he deals with this.  In fact, the more successful movie presents even more "evidence" that she's more interested in the other guy.  The audience, us, sees that all that evidence is thoroughly misleading, and we become more and more agonized as it appears that our guy is going to give up even though we know the evidence is misconstrued. What this narrative device emphasizes is how important it is to see through the evidence for the truth. If we don't, we lose the girl.

There's something far more important than getting the girl at stake in global warming.  Snow in North Dakota in September?  That looks bad for global warming.  Maybe we should be more worried about global cooling.  Well being worried about global cooling is really dumb when all the other evidence about warming is viewed, August is warmest on record, serious droughts in California threaten agriculture, etc., etc.   But some might decide that warming has leveled off, that it's not going to get worse.  We are in the same place as that guy with the girl.  Is snow in North Dakota in September really telling us that warming is over?  Or am I being tricked?

The guy accidentally spies his girl having lunch with a very handsome young man at a fancy restaurant without his knowing about any such arrangement.  So he thinks the worst. Boy and girl friends in budding relationships usually know what is happening in each other's life.  But here the guy doesn't know that her handsome brother has suddenly appeared without warning and suddenly arranged for lunch.  The guy doesn't know this and thinks the worst.  He thinks she has a new boy friend.

In the same way, people looking at the snow in North Dakota in September don't know what is really going on, and think the worst.  Snow in North Dakota in September?  What the hell are climate scientists thinking?

The thing is, global warming is a far more serious thing than a boy/girl fling, and it is far more important to look beneath the surface to see what is going on.  And it is actually very simple, just as simple as the handsome guy being her brother rather than a new boy friend.  Global warming is seriously messing with the jet stream and Arctic weather is being allowed to flow south, pushing air that normally sits over Alaska and Northern Canada into the United States.  It's called the Polar Vortex.  The point is, that it's relatively warmer air for the Arctic, but it ends up in a place, North Dakota, where it's colder than usual for September.

What is happening is that as the Arctic warms up, it's air is going to be spread over more parts of the Northern Hemisphere that isn't used to the Arctic air where it seems colder than usual even though actually warmer air from a global perspective.

The thing is that we have to get this right.  We can't afford to let emotion lead us.  There is too much at stake.