Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Warm winter days in Rochester, NY and the danger of knowledge gaps

 

As I write it’s seven in the morning on February 1, 2012 and fifty degrees outside. Yesterday, it was well into the fifties and sunshine. It’s not an anomaly; it’s been warm most of January, warm in the sense that insects were buzzing about at times. How many other plants and animals have been fooled into thinking spring has come I cannot say. But we can say we haven’t got much snow:

“So far this season, we've had a little more than 25 inches of snow, which is more than 31 inches below normal.” (February 1, 2012) No indications of more snow in winter that isn't | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com

Of course, here in the US it’s unfashionable to even entertain the notion that there is a link between unusual weather and the predictions of Climate Change—which by the way do predict that we will get more precipitation in the winter and spring with the likelihood that it will be rain. We will also get droughts towards the end of summer and early fall. And while the majority of climate scientists will venture that unusual weather is what Climate Change suggests, many must push back.

The media especially must include that linking quirky weather with Climate Change must be accompanied by many who don’t think this to be true. This inability for the media to ‘get’ Climate Change has gone on for twenty years now since Climate Change first hit public consciousness. It’s called objective journalism, where all news stories about Climate Change must have a balance somewhere in the middle of pandering to the fossil fuel industry and science. Those who are willing to stand up and say that extreme events and Climate Change are related are said to have taken the ‘plunge.’

Texas Heat and Drought Caused by Global Warming, NASA's Hansen Says | InsideClimate News Temperature data shows the Texas heat wave wouldn't have occurred without warming, Hansen claims. Others aren't ready to draw such a definitive conclusion. For three months last summer, temperatures in Texas soared higher than at any time in recorded history, and the state is still coping with the most expensive drought in its history. But can the 2011 Texas heat wave be attributed to global warming? Most scientists are careful not to link specific weather events to climate change trends, but NASA's James Hansen and two colleagues from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University have taken that plunge. They've gathered data they say shows that the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma heat wave—as well as a deadly Moscow heat in 2010—were "a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming." (January 31, 2012) | InsideClimate News

Still it must all be very unsettling to many to see the grass getting greener and the snowplows a rare sight in January, even for those who don’t understand and don’t want to understand how our climate is changing. It’s got to be weird for folks to be doing stuff in the winter that they would usually be doing in the winter:

Ice Fishermen Undeterred By Warmth “January's final day marked the fourth time of the month where high temperature exceeded 50 degrees according to the 13WHAM Weather Authority.” (February 1, 2012) - 13WHAM.com

It isn’t that a lot of folks don’t enjoy the warm weather, we do. It’s that feeling down deep in one’s gut that we’ve mucked with a system far out of our control. Most of the Climate Change studies coming out now include ‘knowledge gaps’ where it is acknowledged that much of the information that we need to know about how our environment works even without Climate Changes stressing it is missing. For example: What is the actual health of our major rivers (like the Genesee River that runs through Rochester, NY) without Climate Change coming?

With Climate Change there are a lot of unknown knowns and there are a lot of unknown unknowns. And, while many might think that because we don’t know something is good, i.e., that ignorance is bliss, it’s never been true in our evolution. The danger of a lion stalking an early human did not disappear because the lion darted behind a bush—suddenly it became much more dangerous because of the knowledge gap.

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