Thursday, January 9, 2014

Expert: Despite Deep Freeze, World is Still Warming


Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania and other parts of the nation are breaking out of a deep freeze unlike any in decades.

But a climate expert at Ohio State University says the world is still warming.

Lonnie Thompson, who has studied the effects of climate on glaciers around the globe, says public opinion on climate change tends to shift in response to cold weather patterns.

"We have a tendency to say, 'Well, if it's cold here, the world must be getting colder,'” he explains. “Well, this is not true. We live on a huge planet. It's a complex system, and that natural variability that's always been with us continues, even though the longer-term trend is toward warming."

Thompson points out conditions we've seen in recent days and climate figures are averages based on the weather.

And, while the world does go through ice ages and warming periods, he explains it's the longer-term rate of change that is prompting alarm about the earth's warming pattern.

Thompson says each of the past three decades has been hotter than the one before – and those three decades were hotter than at any time in the previous 1,400 years.

In his travels, Thompson has studied glaciers, tree rings, corals and other bio-records to find the natural indicators of climate change. He says scientific data tells the same story.

"If you look at the instrumental records, eight of the nine warmest years in that 132-year record have occurred since 2000,” he says. “So, the world hasn't stopped warming – it just happens to be cold right now."

Thompson adds that the current frigid temperatures, as well as other so-called extreme weather events, could be connected to climate change.

And some scientists think it's through a chain reaction starting with the warming of the Arctic.

"A number of papers have been published suggesting that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has caused larger undulations in our jet stream, which allows these Arctic air masses to penetrate further to the south, and also warm air to move further to the north," Thompson explains.

When considering the changing climate, he says it's important to look at what's happening on a global scale.

While it may have been below zero in Pennsylvania on Monday, it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit in Anchorage, Alaska.

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