WORDS on WEATHER & CLIMATE

A Weather CSI Team

by CRAIG JAMES

Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

Yes, there is now a CSI team that has been formed within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They do not investigate crime scenes; they investigate what they call climate scenes. The team is comprised of 26 employees from NOAA for the purpose of determining whether extreme weather events can be attributed to human-induced climate change or whether they are simply due to the inherent variability of weather patterns. NOAA states, “By distinguishing natural variability from human-induced climate change, they aim to improve decision-making and inform


adaptation strategies.”

As you may recall, there have been several record-breaking snowstorms over the past couple of years, especially from the mid-Atlantic region into New England. The CSI team assembled last year to analyze why the snowstorms happened. Many people, of course, specifically blamed these storms on human-induced global warming. In response to these claims, the CSI team “specifically wanted to know if human-induced global warming could have caused the snowstorms due to the fact that a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor.”

Their answer: “not likely.” They went on to state, “They found no evidence—no human ‘fingerprints’—to implicate our involvement in the snowstorms. If global warming was the culprit, the team would have expected to find a gradual increase in heavy snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic region as temperatures rose during the past century. But historical analysis revealed no such increase in snowfall. Nor did the CSI team find any indication of an upward trend in winter precipitation along the eastern seaboard.”

There is also another great piece of evidence to suggest storms in the eastern part of the country are no more frequent or worse than in the past. In 2004, two NOAA employees developed what is called the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). NESIS scores are a function of the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snow, and the number of people living in the path of the storm.

You can see from the chart how the biggest storms rate on this scale since 1956. In the summary graphic, the chart has been broken up into two separate time periods.

If human-induced global warming was having an effect upon these storms, you would expect to see an increase in at least the intensity of the storms from the first period to the second. That clearly isn’t the case. In fact, the impact scale actually went down slightly even though the number of people affected obviously increased during the second time period. Will someone please tell Al Gore

this information?

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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