Did Global Warming Prevent a Record-Breaking D.C. Snowstorm?

Global Science Report is a weekly feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

We haven’t seen any media stories relating global warming to the Wednesday’s weather in D.C.

We are certain that this would not have been the case had more than 11.5 inches of snow accumulated at Reagan National Airport, as it would have set the District’s all-time daily March snowfall record. Exceeding 8.5 inches would have set the record daily March snowfall observed at DCA (an accumulation well within the forecast range) and would probably have generated some global warming comments (after all, they were already waiting in the wings).

Is it only us, or does it seem that postmortem analyses of weather events only include the “consistent with human-caused global warming” meme when the event caused harm and suffering?

If our pernicious industrial activity impacts “extreme” weather, doesn’t it impact the non-extreme as well?

Despite what the global warming alarmists would like you to believe, there are a lot more of the latter than the former!

So was Wednesday’s non-record-breaking non-extreme non-snowstorm in D.C. “consistent with global warming?”

The simple answer: sure!

The temperature was just a wee bit too high for the snow to stick. And human emissions of greenhouse gases have caused a wee bit of temperature rise. Voila! Consistency.

Of course, the picture is much more complicated than that, involving all sorts of complex atmospheric dynamics, surface temperature patterns, storm timing, cloud cover, moisture content, etc., any of which may have been affected by global warming. With so many conflicting and complementary processes involved, the net effect of any global warming influence would be virtually impossible to know or ascertain.

Such is the case with all weather events, extreme or otherwise.

That is why suggestions that global warming made any event worse are by and large scientifically unprovable and exist only to grab attention.

The same applies to suggestions that global warming makes weather events less worse, such as this post!

The best approach is to stick to the null hypothesis—that all events fall within their natural characteristics.

The null hypothesis is a tough one to overturn.