Too Much, Too Little, Or Just Right: To Conservative Media, Any Amount Of Snow Debunks Climate Change

Some conservative media figures have touted the intensity of the recent blizzard that hit the northeast, some have claimed that it is no different than snow storms from the past, and others have deemed the blizzard much less severe than originally forecast. But the one thing they all agree on is that the blizzard somehow disproves the firmly established science of global warming.

Conservative Media: Less Snow Disproves Global Warming 

Pointing to Bigger Storm 130 Years Ago, Fox's Gutfield Attacked “Idiots” Linking Blizzard To Climate Change. On the January 27 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld argued that “a storm 130 years ago was much worse than [the] storm now,” in order to attack the “idiots” who link extreme weather events like the blizzard to climate change:

GUTFIELD: The worst storm ever in the Northeast was in 1888, they had something like 58 inches in Saratoga Springs. So if this blizzard, this current blizzard in fact proves climate change, the logical conclusion, the logical conclusion is that climate change is awesome because a storm 130 years ago was much worse than a storm now. That is a logical conclusion that flies in the face of all these idiots who have absolutely no evidence linking extreme weather to climate change. 

Ingraham Attacked “Climate Models” By Falsely Conflating Meteorologists And Climate Scientists. On the January 27 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show, Laura Ingraham falsely conflated meteorologists and climate scientists, claiming the weather forecasters who overestimated the extent of the blizzard “are the same people... who assure us that their climate models on climate change are unassailable” :

INGRAHAM: You could bike to work today. There was no traffic. Getting to Fox was a joke, it was so easy. And I'm thinking, these are the same people, by the way, who assure us that their climate models on climate change are unassailable, they are correct, we have man-made climate change, it's changing the planet, it's global warming, the storms are because of our carbon output...because their models are correct. I've never seen New York City shut down as it was yesterday.

[...]

All these fancy meteorologists were wrong, and yours truly -- sorry, don't want to pat myself on the back, but -- was correct. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 1/27/15]

Fox's Bolling: “Meteorologists Blew It. So Did The Climate Change Alarmists.” On the January 27 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling echoed the false notion that climate scientists make short-term weather predictions and cited overblown weather forecasts to disparage climate science, calling it “hugely hypocritical” that climate scientists “know for a fact that global warming, climate change is a fact... yet they can't figure out where this storm is going to go” :

BOLLING:  But after all the catastrophic warnings, all the doomsday forecasts, the blizzard of 2015 hardly barely blew through the Big Apple after all. Many parts of the Northeast had been hit hard, but the fact is meteorologists blew it. And so did the climate change alarmists -- climate alarmists, who were already blaming global warming before the storm even hit.

[...]

Don't you find it funny that [climate scientists] know for a fact that global warming, climate change is a fact without any dispute. There's no question in their minds. Yet they can't figure out where this storm is going to go. I found it hugely, hugely hypocritical. [Fox News, The Five, 1/27/15]

WSJ's Bret Stephens Dismissed Climate Change Predictions Because “We Can't Predict The Next 24 Hours Of Weather.” The Wall Street Journal's editorial page deputy director Bret Stephens tweeted on January 26: “Snowmageddon? Whatever. We can't predict the next 24 hours of weather. And we're supposed to believe we can predict climate 100 years out?”

tweet

[Twitter, 1/26/15]

Bastardi Disputed Climate Link To Blizzard Because 1978 Storm “Dwarfs What's On The East Coast Right Now.” On the January 27 edition of Hannity, weather forecaster Joe Bastardi criticized former Congressman Dennis Kucinich for tying the blizzard to global warming, cherry-picking a strong blizzard that he said occurred in Ohio in 1978:

BASTARDI: You wanna know something? I use climatology as a foundation for the weather, that's why I'm good at what I do. Let me ask you a question, sir. You come from Ohio. What happened January 26, 1978 in your state? ... Do you remember what the pressure of that storm was? Do you know how that storm right there dwarfs what's on the East Coast right now? ... You don't know what you're talking about. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/27/15]

Conservative Media: More Snow Disproves Global Warming

Limbaugh: “We've Got More Winter Storms Happening In This Country ... And Yet They Continue To Hit Everybody With Global Warming.” On the January 27 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush Limbaugh declared that liberals “have no irony whatsoever” when they link global warming to winter storms, and claimed that "[t]he years are not getting warmer":

LIMBAUGH: Almost every major storm in recent years, be it a hurricane or a thunderstorm or a winter storm, they're all oversold. They're all overpredicted. And they're overpredicted from the standpoint of crisis.

[...]

People who are liberals are now at the National Weather Service, and they can't separate their liberalism from the job. And so they're nannies and they think most people are incompetent, not able to take care of themselves... Liberals also love crisis. They love crisis and chaos. Crisis and chaos, they afford liberals yet another opportunity to exert control over people, over the sheep.

[...]

You'll note that nary a storm goes by, isn't predicted, that isn't also related to manmade global warming. You've got people out there saying this major ice and snow storm has been brought about by global warming. And they apparently have no irony whatsoever that they're blaming blaming global warming on massive winter storms. We've got more winter storms happening in this country. The years are not getting warmer. And yet they continue to hit everybody with global warming. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/27/15]

“Snow-Trolling” Is A Persistent Meme Among Conservative Media. Conservative media latched on to cold winter weather in early 2014 to cast doubt on the reality of manmade global warming, a yearly phenomenon that is often referred to as “snow-trolling.” Media Matters compiled several instances from that period of media pundits citing a variety of cherry-picked weather events, including low temperatures in Antarctica, record lows in the United States, and snow in Cairo, to dismiss global warming. Fox's Stuart Varney even suggested, “We're looking at global cooling, forget this global warming” :

Conservative Media: The Same Amount Of Snow Disproves Global Warming

Hannity On Climate Change “Hysteria” : “This Storm Is Like Every Storm I Remember As A Kid.” On the January 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity posited that the recent blizzard was like every storm he remembered from his childhood in Long Island. He then asked Joe Bastardi if the recent storm was “related” to global warming or just “hysteria” :

HANNITY: I grew up on Long Island. This storm is like every storm I remember as a kid. Is this related to any type of climate change, global warming, global cooling, or is this hysteria?

BASTARDI: Absolutely not, it's part of a package. In fact, how long before this storm occurred was I e-mailing you about it, okay, privately ... The fact of the matter is, this was a predictable system overall. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/27/15]

Your World With Neil Cavuto Rejects Blizzard's Ties To Global Warming, Claiming Average Snowfall Has Not Changed. On the January 27 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto and the Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels denounced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's statement that the recent blizzard was connected to a “changing climate.” Cavuto asked: “So when I was a kid, and we had these kind of storms, what was that then? I don't know.” Michaels then “rejected” Gov. Cuomo's statement, stating, “We have a history of New York snowfall from Central Park. It goes back to 1870. And guess what? It shows not one change upwards or downwards. Hypothesis rejected, Governor.” (According to FiveThirtyEight.com, “Of the top 10 snowfalls on record at Central Park dating to 1869, five have occurred since 2003.” )

The Reality: Climate Change Science Is Firmly Established -- And The Recent Blizzard Is Consistent With It

Scientists As Certain That Human Activities Are Driving Global Warming As They Are That Cigarettes Can Kill. The United Nations' climate science consensus report concluded with at least 95 percent certainty that human activities are driving the majority of current global warming. The Associated Press reported that this degree of certainty “is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades' worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.” [Associated Press, 9/24/13]

Climate Nexus: Northeast Blizzard Became Stronger Due To Climate Change: Citing reports from the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Nexus noted that “this blizzard exhibits the fingerprints of climate change in several distinct ways.” From Climate Nexus:  

Snowstorms are an expected feature of winter weather in the Northeast, but this blizzard exhibits the fingerprints of climate change in several distinct ways. Above average sea surface temperatures adds energy to the system, creating a stronger contrast with the cold front. That temperature gradient powers the storm, so a stronger gradient means a stronger storm. Then there's the fact that warmer air holds more moisture, resulting in more precipitation. [ClimateNexus.org, 1/26/15]

Washington Post: “Extreme Snowfall May Actually Be Enhanced By Global Warming.”  In an article titled “Global warming could make blizzards worse,”  The Washington Post summarized what scientific reports have to say about how climate change impacts snowstorms in the Northeast:

[A] warming ocean could potentially intensify winter nor'easters.

“The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that nor'easters like this one may grow stronger [with] human-caused climate change, as they are driven by the contrast between cold Arctic air masses and ever-warming ocean surface temperatures,” says Penn State climatologist Michael Mann.

[...]

There's also some suggestive evidence of an actual trend in extreme winter storms. Overall, notes the U.S. National Climate Assessment, the northern hemisphere has seen a trend toward more frequent and intense winter storms since 1950. So has the United States. According to a 2013 consensus report published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “The number of severe regional snowstorms that occurred since 1960 was more than twice the number that occurred during the preceding 60 years” in the United States. [The Washington Post, 1/26/15]  

National Center For Atmospheric Research Scientist: Climate Change Played Key Role In Creating Conditions For Blizzard. Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained to ThinkProgress that although “winter” was the “number 1 cause” of the recent blizzard, warmer ocean temperatures as a result of global warming also played a significant role. Trenberth explained that warmer sea surface temperatures have increased the amount of water vapor in the air by 10 percent. He concluded that “about half” of this phenomenon can be attributed to climate change:

The number 1 cause of this is that it is winter. In winter it is cold over the continent. But it is warm over the oceans and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. At present sea surface temperatures are more the 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change. [ThinkProgress, 1/26/15]

Blizzard Forecasts For New York City Proved Inaccurate; But That Doesn't Affect Climate Science. New York City experienced less snowfall than weather forecasters predicted, but this does not affect the legitimacy of climate models or the scientific consensus on global warming. The New Republic's Rebecca Leber explained how despite conservatives' “jump[ing] at the opportunity to compare weather forecasts to climate change models,” climate science and weather forecasting are different because they use different models, examine different data, and operate on different time scales:

Weather is not climate. The weather is immediate conditions -- rain, snow, sunshine, etc. -- while the climate is long-term trends. A blizzard or a cold snap doesn't disprove climate change. It doesn't cancel the fact that ten of the hottest years on record have occured [sic] since 2000, with 2014 as the the warmest yet.

Weather forecasts are also not the same as climate projections, because weather predictions are short-term by nature. And despite improved forecasting over the last few decades, weather forecasts are only as accurate as meteorologists' initial data, like atmospheric conditions, ocean surface temperatures, and how well real-world physics is represented in their models. Imperfect knowledge of those conditions makes weather predictions highly variable.

Climate models, on the other hand, can't predict the weather on a specific day, but they do show trends and averages. They deal with different data, including conditions of the deep ocean, vegetation, and the sun, and how greenhouse gasses impact the system. [New Republic, 1/27/15]