Independence Institute's Amy Oliver echoed conservative talking point that cold temperatures belie reality of climate change

During the March 6 broadcast of her 1310 KFKA show, Amy Oliver echoed the often-repeated but baseless conservative argument that cold temperatures in a particular region undercut the fact that global temperatures are rising. Oliver, who also is director of operations for the Independence Institute, pointed to the colder-than-average February in Toronto and said, “Global warming zealots everywhere can still attribute that to global warming.”

Reading from a March 5 article in the Toronto Star on her March 6 1310 KFKA radio program, host and Independence Institute director of operations Amy Oliver repeated a conservative talking point by suggesting that cold weather in one particular geographic locale, over a specified period of time, tends to contradict the reality that global temperatures are rising. In fact, as Colorado Media Matters has noted (here, here, here, here, and here), pointing to any sporadic regional weather event as “evidence” that disproves global warming is both simplistic and misleading.

Citing the Star, Oliver stated, “February was the coldest in 28 years.” Oliver noted that the inordinately cold February followed “an unusually mild January” and then suggested that February's low temperatures somehow brought into question the plausibility of global warming. According to Oliver:

The coldest February in 28 years, fifth coldest since 1937 -- that in Toronto. Guess what? I -- global warming zealots everywhere can still attribute that to global warming. It is freezing in Toronto because of global warming. Go figure that.

The Star article did not mention long-term climate change, or the possibility that short-term weather patterns are indicative of long-term trends. But extensive documentation shows that drawing conclusions on the basis of temperatures in a limited area over periods of time that are infinitesimal on the historical scale contradicts the nature of how scientists observe climate change: by identifying the annual temperatures -- both global and national -- over significant periods of time.

As an April 14, 2006, USA Today article noted, “Global warming is shorthand for 'climate change,' and the term is correct if you realize that it's referring to the average temperature of the Earth over the years; not to the temperatures at particular times and places.” The article further noted that, with regard to human-induced climate change, “more than warming is involved” and “it [climate change] can even include some parts of the Earth growing colder.”

Furthermore, in a January 19 interview on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder discussed “odd weather” -- such as the December blizzards in Colorado and warm temperatures in the east -- and stated that, as a partial consequence of global warming, “you can get more snow”:

IRA FLATOW [host]: You guys hardly ever get snow in Boulder anyhow. I mean, Denver gets really dumped on, doesn't it?

TRENBERTH: Well, we get over a hundred inches a year, but it doesn't hang around much, and usually it peaks in November, and also in March and April are our really snowy times of year. And, of course, there's a saying: It's too cold to snow. And that's normally the case in December and January. But this time we have really been dumped on. At my place we got over 60 inches of snow in December. And one of the indications, then, is that in order to get that amount of snow, it's got to be warmer than normal so that the atmosphere can hold enough moisture.

FLATOW: Well, is that -- does that not speak for evidence of global warming, then?

TRENBERTH: That's one of the -- that's one of the ironical things that people don't understand, I find, about global warming, is that, ironically, you can get more snow as a consequence, in part, of global warming. And so that may be a little bit of a factor there. And of course at the same time, there was -- there was record-breaking heat on the East Coast. And so that was a key part of -- certainly a part of the winter that's been going on so far. And as you mentioned, it's -- there's been a dearth of snow in Europe and relatively mild conditions.

A 2006 report from the National Climatic Data Center also emphasized the importance of relying on global annual observations rather than short-term regional data in assessing the climate change issue, as Colorado Media Matters has noted. The report explained that "[f]ollowing the warmest year on record for the globe in 2005, the annual global temperature for 2006 is expected to be sixth warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880." That report also noted that “the 2006 annual average temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) will likely be 2°F (1.1°C) above the 20th Century mean, which would make 2006 the third warmest year on record.”

Similarly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) recently completed Fourth Assessment Report noted, “Average Arctic temperatures [have] increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years.” The report also noted that "[w]idespread changes in extreme temperatures have been observed over the last 50 years," with "[c]old days, cold nights and frost ... becom[ing] less frequent, while hot days, hot nights, and heat waves have become more frequent." The study also employed a “paleoclimatic perspective” on climate change, which analyzes climatic variation over an even more prolonged chronologic scale. As the report stated, “Paleoclimatic studies use changes in climatically sensitive indicators to infer past changes in global climate on time scales ranging from decades to millions of years.” From this perspective, the IPCC's first working group concluded that “the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years,” and that "[t]he last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period [was] about 125,000 years ago."

From the March 6 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:

OLIVER: I have couple of updates for you. Quickly, on the global warming topic -- this courtesy of the Toronto Star: “February was the coldest in 28 years.” That according to staff reporter Curtis Rush, who asked the question -- well actually, makes the statement, “If you thought February was particularly cold, you were right. Frigid conditions made” February -- “made it the coldest February in 28 years, according to Environment Canada's senior climatologist David Philips. Not since 1979 has February dished up such bone-rattling conditions.” It's also “the fifth coldest February since 1937 when weather records were first kept.” It did follow, however, an unusually mild January. The coldest February in 28 years, fifth coldest since 1937 -- that in Toronto. Guess what? I -- global warming zealots everywhere can still attribute that to global warming. It is freezing in Toronto because of global warming. Go figure that.

And on the same topic, a true problem in Bulgaria concerning global warming: Brothels. Brothels are taking a hit. According to brothel owners in Bulgaria, global warming is to blame for staff shortages. Bet that's one Al Gore didn't think of. Start talking about the global economy. By gosh, we've got to pay attention to the brothels in Bulgaria because they are being hit hard. They claim -- the brothel owners in Bulgaria are claiming that their best girls are working in ski resorts because of a lack of snow. It has forced tourists to seek alternative pleasures. So no snow in Bulgaria has truly come down hard on brothel owners. One woman who runs an escort agency in Sofia: “We have hired students but they are -- they are nothing like our elite girls.” Ah, another calamity in what is really just the global crisis of climate change of the warming of the Earth.