Words on Weather & Climate


Weather is not climate



Everybody please repeat after me: weather is not climate, weather is not climate. It seems all the rage now days to blame every extreme weather event on what is called climate change (if it is a cold event) or global warming (if it is a warm event). But you simply cannot blame any one weather event, or even a short series of events, on climate change.

Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist


The big news this summer was the heat wave in Moscow and the flooding in Pakistan. What actually caused these events to happen? Very simply, the weather systems got stuck, or blocked from their normal west to east movement for a while. Here is the meteorological explanation:

“The immediate cause of the problem is the behavior of the jet stream, a band of high-level wind that travels east around the world and influences much of the weather below it. Part of the jet stream’s meandering is tied to regular shifts of air towards and away from the pole, called Rossby waves. The Rossby waves set up wiggles in the jet stream, wiggles, which left to themselves, would move westward. Since the jet stream is flowing eastward, though, the net effect of the Rossby waves varies. When the waves are short, they go with the jet’s flow and the resultant wiggling heads downstream to the east. When they are long they go against the flow, and the jet’s wiggling is transmitted upstream to the west. In between, there is a regime in which the waves move neither west nor east, and the weather stays put.”

When weather patterns get stuck, extremes of temperature and precipitation always occur. It is not, as an article in last Sunday’s Grand Rapids Press stated “a sign of troubling climate change already under way.”

Even NOAA, one of the world’s biggest promoters of global warming said on August 13: “…greenhouse gas forcing fails to explain the 2010 heat wave over western Russia. The natural process of atmospheric blocking, and the climate impacts induced by such blocking, are the principal cause for this heat wave.”

Also, “The extreme surface warmth over western Russia during July and early August is mostly a product of the strong and persistent blocking high. The indications are that the current blocking event is intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region.” It was a NATURAL occurrence, not a result of increasing carbon dioxide.

The rush to blame every weather pattern on climate change is ridiculous. Many people have no sense of the history of severe weather events. They proclaim that everything happening now is the worst ever.

I urge you to look up some of the web sites I’ve listed below in order to understand we have had many greater disasters in the past than what we see happening recently.

• The world’s worst natural disasters going back 900 years


• Top ten world’s worst natural disasters http://www.dailycognition.com/index.php/2009/01/29/top-ten-worst-natural disasters.html

• The world’s the deadliest natural disasters recorded http://www.armageddononline.org/the-worst-disasters.html

• Famines since 440 BChttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki List_of_famines

• Epic disasters http://www.epicdisasters.com/

• Ten worst floods in history http://library.thinkquest.org/C003603/english/flooding/tenworst.shtml

• Ten worst hurricanes in history http://library.thinkquest.org/C003603/english/hurricanes/tenworst.shtml

I love the comment made by the late Michael Crichton: “Is this the end of the world? No, this is the world. And I think it’s time we knew it.”

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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