April 9, 2014 at 8:52 am
A Times op-ed today appears under the headline "Global Warming Scare Tactics" and says, "claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can't be supported by the science."
Someone might want to alert the Times news department to that. A 2012 article about Hurricane Sandy reported:
in interviews on Tuesday, several climate scientists made some initial points. A likely contributor to the intensity of Sandy, they said, was that surface temperatures in the western Atlantic Ocean were remarkably high just ahead of the storm — in places, about five degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal for this time of year. In fact, part of the ocean was warmer than it would normally be in September, when accumulated summer heat tends to peak.
Kevin E. Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. ...added, human-induced global warming has been raising the overall temperature of the surface ocean, by about one degree Fahrenheit since the 1970s. So global warming very likely contributed a notable fraction of the energy on which the storm thrived — perhaps as much as 10 percent, he said.
Other scientists are looking at this year's historic loss of sea ice in the Arctic as a potential contributor to the track of Sandy, and possibly to the severity of the storm.
Summer sea ice in the Arctic has fallen by roughly half since the late 1970s, a change most climate scientists believe has been caused largely by human-induced warming. A large camp of experts, Dr. Trenberth among them, believe the weather effects have mostly been confined to the Arctic Ocean and surrounding land areas.
But some published research suggests the consequences extend much farther. The idea is that the loss of sea ice is altering the flow of the atmosphere enough to heighten the risk of severe weather in midlatitude regions like the United States.
In articles like this one, I have cited the work of Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University climate scientist who is a leading proponent of this view. My colleague on the opinion side of The Times, Andrew Revkin, posted an analysis from Dr. Francis this week in which she noted that an atmospheric blocking pattern over Greenland — possibly linked, in her view, to the loss of sea ice in the nearby Arctic Ocean — had helped force the storm to make a left turn into the United States mainland.
And a Times news article from earlier this year about the California drought reported:
a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions, including parts of the Mediterranean and in the Southwestern United States...What may be different about this drought is that, whatever the cause, the effects appear to have been made worse by climatic warming. And in making that case last week, scientists said, the administration was on solid ground.
The Times news articles were careful not to overstep and to report on disagreements between scientists and on limits of knowledge, but they also don't go nearly as far as the op-ed does in sweepingly dismissing links between climate change and extreme weather events.
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