carbon dioxide

Extreme Weather in Perspective

carbon dioxideWhen you see a headline like, “Report Misses Link Between California Drought and Human-Caused Climate Change,” you know that it’s time we put extreme weather in perspective. Evidence aside, what we see with this wording is a classic example of confirmation bias and belief bias at work.

Defining Extreme Weather

When you hear the term, “extreme weather,” you’ll likely think about the events that are noticeably different from the norm. Think of tornadoes, hurricanes, massive rainfall, and yes, droughts.

But notice the term, weather. Weather is what you call up on your smartphone app to know if it’ll rain today. Climate, on the other hand, are the trends. None of those events we think of as extreme fall into the latter category.

Severe Weather and Climate Change

I’ll turn to the experts in the field for clarification about weather and climate. Myles R. Allen, a researcher at Oxford, puts extreme weather in perspective for us.

“If we don’t have evidence, I don’t think we should hint darkly all the time that human influence must be to blame somehow.”

This point is important simply because the science is still evolving. The headline I mentioned earlier refers to the report, “Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought,” released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The writer took exception to the fact that the report attributed the drought to a high-pressure system that interfered with the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.

The Body of Evidence

The report never denied the existence of global warming or the ensuing climate change. Rather, its focus was one event. Part of the problem exists because the types of extreme weather mentioned earlier are so varied. And while the science community has a substantial amount of evidence, the story still unfolds.

Remember how the media tried to attribute Sandy to climate change? The fact is that a major hurricane hasn’t hit the United States since 2005. So much for that theory.

It certainly wouldn’t be out-of-line to suggest that global warming helped create the perfect storm for the California drought to occur—pun intended. But to suggest that all weather is under the control of climate change is too simplistic. After all, as climate scientist, Tamsin Edwards, reminds us,

Climate science is not sound bite science.”

I take exception too to a headline that dismisses a finding that the writer doesn’t agree with because it doesn’t fit the rhetoric. Oh, and the report will be submitted to the “Journal of Climate,” for peer review. The journal is published by the American Meteorological Society. Chris DR

photo credit: Ozyman via photopin cc

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