NewsBusters -- too stupid to understand temperature

A while back, I expressed some entirely warranted exasperation that conservatives like the bias sleuths at NewsBusters continually use isolated weather events, like snowstorms in winter, as evidence that global warming is bunk. At the time, I surmised that the problem was that certain conservatives are “too abysmally thick to grasp even the basic idea of latitude.”

Turns out I was being too generous.

NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein went after the New York Times this morning for reporting of the record snowfalls on the east coast:

But Dr. Masters also said that government and academic studies had consistently predicted an increasing frequency of just these kinds of record-setting storms, because warmer air carries more moisture.

Finkelstein was incredulous at the bit about warmer air carrying more moisture:

So more snow fell from Philly to DC because the temperatures were warmer than normal during the blizzards? That got me wondering: just what were the temperatures in DC on the snow days, and how do they compare to the norm? And guess what?


Bottom line: the temperature was colder than average on every one of the snow days. On average the snow days were about eight degrees colder than normal.

To spin these facts as proof that the blizzards are evidence of global warming because “warm air holds more moisture” is bunk.

This is so dumb it's actually frightening, so I'll try to explain it in a way that even a NewsBuster can understand.

Assume for the moment that there are basically two types of air -- warmer air, and colder air. Warmer air tends to have higher moisture content, as the New York Times reported. When a mass of warmer, wetter air meets a mass of colder, drier air, the warmer air is typically pushed up over the cold air, where it condenses, forming precipitation (that's a fancy science word for rain, snow, sleet, etc.). Once that precipitation gets heavy enough, it falls, and if the colder air beneath it -- the air that determines the temperature at the surface -- is below freezing, it falls as snow. It's basic meteorology, and it's all right here for your perusal.

The scientist cited in the Times did not say that more snow fell “because the temperatures were warmer than normal during the blizzards.” He said that the warmer air that condensed to form the precipitation contained more moisture than normal -- hence, more snow. This was obvious to anyone who had paid attention in fourth-grade science.

But, of course, Finkelstein's inept turn as weatherman was enthusiastically endorsed by Rush Limbaugh and Finkelstein's colleague Noel Sheppard, whose serial climate change idiocy is becoming tiresome.

If conservatives want us to believe they know better than the climatologists, they should start by at least getting temperature down pat.