Why the Snowpocalypse 2.0 (3.0?) Doesn’t Negate Climate Change

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Utah is cold. We regularly get feet and feet of snow, and winter days often don’t get above freezing. I’m from here, so I’m used to it. Give me a fluffy scarf, my Sorel boots, and a latte and I am ready for whatever the day throws at me. I’m used to the cold, but this month I’ve been thanking my lucky stars that I don’t live on the East Coast.

Parts of the East and Midwest are below 0° Fahrenheit. Some places are at -40° with windchill, which is so cold that it’s the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit. A mountain in New Hampshire is colder than Mars, which is honestly ridiculous. It’s 35° in Salt Lake City as I type this, which feels perfectly balmy while reading about the rest of the country. I maybe kind of might understand why people will look at this and say “Obviosuly this means that global warming isn’t real.” If all you see is snow and ice, it’s easy to say that your personal experience doesn’t fit with what you’re being told. If you have a disbelief in science to start, it’s easy to totally dismiss it.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. As bae Stephen Colbert sagely tweeted in 2014, “Global warming isn’t real because I was cold today! Also great news: World hunger is over because I just ate.”

See, there’s a difference between weather and climate. Weather is what is happening right meow. Climate is weather on a much larger scale, averaged over years. Utah’s climate is semi-arid, which doesn’t change. The weather, on the other hand, is notorious for swinging more than 50 degrees on any given day.

According to both NASA and NOAA, 2016 was the hottest year on record. We don’t have the data yet, but 2017 almost certainly topped that. 2015 was the hottest before that, and 2014 before that. Looking at the raw data, it’s unambiguous that the planet is warming. Even if you only look at the last month of temperatures, North America was almost the only place on the planet that was unusually cold. Almost everywhere else, especially around the poles, was unusually warm.

Global average deviation from normal December 28 temperatures
I have an article coming out next week that goes over all the science that came out in 2017 that proves that climate change is real and becoming worse. Believe me when I say that I wish this weren’t true. It would be so much easier to think that nothing is wrong and we don’t have to worry about anything. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. We can stick our heads in the sand and not do anything or we can fess up and say we need to change something. Gosh do I hope we can do the latter, but I’m honestly not that optimistic.

About The Author

Just a girl who has a lot of feelings about planetary science

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