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March in January! Or is it Mayday?

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  • Mike Neuman
    March in January! Or is it Mayday? It s nice out there, but global warming dampens the fun By Joel Achenbach The Washington Post Jan 7, 2007 WASHINGTON - Never
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8 10:07 AM
      March in January! Or is it Mayday?
      It's nice out there, but global warming dampens the fun
      By Joel Achenbach
      The Washington Post
      Jan 7, 2007

      WASHINGTON - Never has good weather felt so bad. Never have flowers
      inspired so much fear. Never has the warm caress of a sunbeam seemed
      so ominous. The weather is sublime, it's glorious, it's the end of
      the world.

      January is the new March. The daffodils are busting out everywhere.
      It's porch weather. Put on a T-shirt and shorts, fire up the grill,
      blast "Rastaman Vibration" into the back yard. Everyone out for
      volleyball! The normal high for this time of year is 43 degrees;
      yesterday's high at Reagan National was a record-breaking 73. And yet
      it's all a guilty pleasure. Weather is both a physical and a
      psychological phenomenon. Meteorology, meet eschatology. We've read
      the articles, we've seen the Gore movie, we've calculated our carbon
      footprint, and we're just not intellectually capable anymore of fully
      enjoying warm winter weather. Just ain't right. Ain't natural. Cherry
      blossoms during the NFL playoffs? Run for your lives.

      "Amazing, but it makes me think we might not be here too much longer,
      because of global warming," said Laura Ingoldsby, a grad student
      getting ready for a jog on the towpath at Fletcher's Boathouse.
      "I think it's a bit scary. It's too warm," said Ellie Motazedi of
      Bethesda as she paused during a bike ride.

      "Days like this, I worry about global warming, and we're not doing
      anything about it," said Coby Dolan, an attorney basking in the
      sunshine on the porch of the clubhouse at the Hains Point golf
      course. Let the record reflect that he did not appear to be suffering.

      At the U.S. National Arboretum, horticulturist Scott Aker has been
      keeping an eye on a Magnolia zenii: "The buds are ready to pop." They
      mow the meadows in winter when the ground freezes solid, but it's
      still soft out there. Last year's petunias are still going strong in
      Aker's yard -- and there's no serious winter in sight.

      Bulletin: A Washington Post editor nearly drove into a black bear
      Friday night in Prince William County. Official word from the
      authorities: "Oh yeah, it's so warm, they can't hibernate."
      Bulletin: British scientists say there is a 60 percent chance that
      2007 will be the warmest year on record.

      Bulletin: Ski resorts are struggling to open in the Alps.

      Bulletin: Palm trees are growing around a tiki bar in Antarctica.
      So maybe we made up the last one. Still, we don't need anyone to tell
      us that some computer model in some climatologist's office is showing
      that a doubling of atmospheric carbon will lead over the next century
      to approximately 3 degrees Celsius warming in the average surface
      temperature of the planet, etc. Because we've been outside. We can
      detect climate change epidermically.

      `Broadly based area' seeing change

      What if those climate models are wrong, because they're
      insufficiently dire? Everyone's suddenly shifting from models to
      observations. Look: Big ice shelf breaking off an Arctic island.
      Look: Greenland melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.
      Listen: Scary quotes from experts.

      "Is it really a broadly based area that's seeing particular change?
      The answer is yes," says Ted Scambos, a glaciologist with the
      National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. "From Europe, the
      East Coast, north to the Arctic and across to Siberia, there's a very
      large swath of the Northern Hemisphere for the months of September,
      October and November that [were] exceedingly warm . . . "

      So it's bad. Except for one thing. What you might call, at the
      moment, the Denver factor.

      Denver got four feet of snow in December. The third big storm blew in
      Friday. Snowdrifts of 10 feet! An automobile-snuffing avalanche in a
      mountain pass west of town! In Denver, January is still January.

      Because what we are experiencing and what Denver is experiencing are
      both part of a thing called weather, not climate. Climate change is
      real, but it's a background phenomenon, the cicada-song white noise
      on the horror-movie soundtrack, distinct from the thuds and screams
      and moans of specific weather events.

      "It's very dangerous to blame climate for weather," says Richard
      Alley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University. But he
      doesn't let climate change off the hook when discussing our warm
      winter.

      "No, we didn't cause it, but we made it more likely," he concludes.
      It's like rolling loaded dice in a craps game.

      But Dennis Feltgen, a National Weather Service meteorologist, says
      climate change isn't the culprit. It's El Niño. Warm water in the
      tropical Pacific, changed wind patterns, lots of balmy air blowing
      our way from the southern United States.

      "We're in an El Niño, which has absolutely nothing to do with global
      warming," Feltgen says. "It keeps a lot of the cold air locked up in
      Canada, and makes the West Coast of the United States stormy, which
      we've seen, and makes the southern one-third of the country wetter
      than normal."

      And for some, El Niño is dandy.

      "Keeps the hurricanes away and the cold winter away. I'm all for it,"
      said Colin Offner, golfing happily at Hains Point.

      Bulletin: Cooler weather is imminent. The weather will be almost
      normal, briefly, before all hell breaks loose again.
      URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16503117/
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