Maybe not, but it’s part of a pattern of more frequent climate extremes
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A recent heat wave in Alaska has triggered yet another pointless debate about whether the record-breaking temperatures at some weather stations is a sign of global warming.
One of the best examples of how many journalists are missing the point came in the usually sharp-edged Alaska Dispatch in a story titled Why Alaska’s heat wave is a bad example of global warming.
After reciting a list of temperature statistics, downplaying wildfires and making critiques of other blog posts, the author ends with this assertion: “Moderation, it would seem, is the key to accurately representing data and making an informed decision on climate change.”
It’s not even remotely clear what is meant by moderation, but the reference to data is even more puzzling, considering that every credible temperature record from the past 50 years shows an inexorable rise in global temperatures — that’s why it’s called GLOBAL warming, regardless of what year-to-year, or decade-to-decade cycles may have been observed in Alaska.
What’s missing is some context. Yes, Alaska may be a big place, but in the end, it’s only a small part of the world. And the world, it’s clear, is seeing more frequent weather extremes.
Alaska’s record-breaking June heat came of the heels of an exceptionally cool spring, reflecting a pattern very similar to Colorado’s recent weather. The Rocky Mountain state also saw extended winter-like conditions, with heavy mountain snowfall continuing into May, then a sudden shift to record highs, with the earliest-ever 100-degree reading in Denver, followed shortly by the state’s most destructive wildfire on record.
Just in the past few weeks, parts of Europe saw historic high water, and, while it may be on the opposite side of the planet, a good climate reporter shouldn’t forget about Australia’s record-breaking heat wave just a few months ago.
Taken in isolation, none of these things is a global warming smoking gun, but seen in the context of global changes, they are part of a pattern, probably linked to documented changes in the velocity of the circumpolar vortex and the amplitude of passing high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs.
There’s plenty of solid research out there starting to show how greenhouse gas emissions are changing Earth’s climate. Ignoring that science just to make a point (or avoid making a point) probably isn’t the best way to report on climate change.