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Snowstorms and Global Warming

February 11, 2010 2 comments

Note: Originally posted on Facebook on 2/11/2010

I was watching CNN today when a politician was being interviewed. I don’t recall his name, but he was a republican and was being interviewed about his stance on global warming, or Climate Change, as is the new buzz word. He pointed to the record snowfalls and low temperatures seen in the US this winter and made the comment “How can anyone think we have global warming when Washington DC gets two 16″ + snowfalls within two weeks of each other?”

Now, I do not consider myself strongly aligned with either political party. I am registered Republican, but voted for Obama. In fact, I am not really even picking on this one politician, since I have heard it from many and from media and frankly good friends as well. As such, I try to filter out the partisan things that happen in politics and try to find the underlying message or meaning… In this case, I have to say that “I don’t have a clue what I am talking about” is what was being said loud and clear, and it is sad that people with such a shallow knowledge of science and math are representing us in Congress and *gasp* making decisions about scientific matters…

So, to address his statement above, let’s quickly address his errors: 1) Small sample size, 2) Ignoring historical data and 3) relying on “conventional” or “party” wisdom

Sample Size — Somehow, the CNN guest today felt that 1 month of anecdotal data, cherry-picked to make his point, somehow made his statement true… This is akin to saying, that baseball player went 4 for 5 in today’s game, so he’ll hit .800 for the year, or I flipped a coin 3 times and got 3 heads so it will never land tails! When dealing with random or semi-random events such as weather, batting averages or coin flips, a large sample, say 100 years of data, 600 at-bats or 1000 coin flips, will tell you much more about the actual inherent trend or true-ability, than a small sample size will, because it has more time to “even itself out” or “regress to the mean”, in statistic-ease.

Additionally, he only focused on the US. I don’t know the answer to this, but I have to wonder if January – February 2010 has been abnormally cold for the entire globe or is it more of a localized thing?

Historical Data — I will point you to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web site.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/index.html

There is a lot to read there, but just a couple of extracted facts… Average global temperatures are higher now that anytime in recorded history and on a decade by decade basis, have steadily risen since the 1820’s and has escalated more so since about 1975.

Party Wisdom — I’ll just say I hate politics… But what I really can’t stand is when republican or democrat takes a stand against something, purely because the opposing party is for it. I saw a different interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy who said that he had been told by a current US Senator that his main opposition to Climate Change bills in congress was because they originated in “liberal-left-thinking”

C’mon guys… let’s start using our own brains up there instead of playing these kinds of games!

/soapbox off