blame it on the weather …or climate?

I just heard an interview on WCAI’s show The Takeaway with Richard Seager of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, New York.  He was asked the common, pointed question: “well, can you blame the recent weather on global warming?” First of all, does this journalist need a reminder that global warming is a completely different phenomenon than climate change? Have we not progressed far enough to understand the difference in this fundamental terminology? I am frustrated but not really surprised at the number of times I’ve heard this in the news media. What I’d really like to hear is ‘climate change’ not global warming!

Climate change is still a debatable term amongst climate scientists and one that deserves further clarification.  This past spring I took a seminar that discussed publications and new research topics in the field of climate change.  One of the first tasks we tackled in our discussion(s) was to define both weather and climate.  Then we went into more depth to analyze the differences between the two terms.  From a science viewpoint, it is much more complex than we realize.  However, to keep things simple from hereon out, I will try to define and utilize these terms relative to human time scale.

For now, let’s consider the topic of climate shifts, change or fluctuations and not global warming please. It’s so ‘1980’s and I’d like to believe we have moved past this problem.  The hole in the ozone layer, global warming and greenhouse gases may still be a problem on a shorter time scale, but changes in global climate patterns are extremely significant and not restricted to polar regions.

For more information about what’s happening (from Seager’s perspective) in Europe here’s some reading.

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About hawright

marine ecologist

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