Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer front page headline is that the past winter was the warmest on record ever since data was kept beginning 141 years ago, being a whopping eight degrees higher than average. This past week the daytime highs have been in the mid-70s, when the normal temperatures should be in the mid-40s. Yesterday it was over 80 degrees. People are wandering around in shorts and t-shirts, unthinkable for March.
The news of a record warm winter will not be a surprise to local residents. The constant topic of conversation over the entire winter has been how mild the weather was, with little snow, no blizzards, and no sustained cold spells, the kinds of things that make up our usual winter experience.
This mild winter did produce one mildly amusing outcome. Usually around the coldest period of a typical Cleveland winter, as predictable as the sunrise, Kevin O’Brien (a local editorial page columnist) and his fellow global warming deniers would be yukking it up with letters to the editor about how frigid temperatures and snow on the ground in February ‘prove’ that warnings about global warming are a massive hoax perpetrated by the scientific community. This year’s unusually warm winter seemed to have silenced them, for which we can be grateful
But just as a cold winter does not disprove global warming trends, a single warm winter does not confirm it either. We should keep in mind that what is relevant are global and long term trends, such as changes in temperature averages over the Earth over long time periods, and the frequencies of anomalous weather patterns.
Once we realize that single events like a blizzard or a warm day in winter have almost no effect on those averages, then perhaps we can put an end to the kinds of silly arguments that serve no purpose other than to confuse the scientifically naïve about such an important issue.