Stop me if you've heard this before: Another monster snowstorm batters the mid-Atlantic, snarls traffic, causes massive power outages, leaves thousands in the dark and makes everyone outside of outer space ready to commit mayhem on a hypothyroid rodent in Punxsutawney. Some will say global warming is a hoax.
Even as we shiver and shudder as we dig out from another heavy snow, Alaska baked with the warmest January weather since they started keeping records, 62 degrees. California's winter rains failed to make an appearance for the second straight year, and in Merry Olde England, - well, the last time it was this wet and windy there, George Washington, whose birthday we celebrate this weekend, was singing "God Save the King."
Two front-page stories in the Carroll County Times earlier this week made prominent mention of the weather. Last Tuesday, the Times highlighted a local company that makes components for the snow guns that helped cover the ski slopes in Sochi for the Winter Olympics. The next day, the headline read, "Is this the big one?" Turns out it was pretty big.
Last Sunday's New York Times ran a column, "The end of snow?" in which it was reported that earlier this month two Olympic test events in Sochi were canceled because the temperature reached into the 60s, leaving ski trails brown and bare. To get the outdoor venues ready, more than 16 million cubic feet of snow, more than half a cubic mile of the stuff, stored from last winter, was spread on the slopes. More than 400 snow guns worked full time to provide enough to maintain the courses.
A Waterloo University study reported that if present warming trends continue, by mid-century only 10 sites on the entire planet will be able to host Winter Olympics.
Reduced snowfall affects more than just the Olympics. Snowfall in the Rockies melts in the spring and summer, feeding water sources like the Colorado River. Smaller snow pack reduces the water supply to desert cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, especially during summer drought. The problem is not restricted to the Southwest. Increased atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, attributable to global warming, threaten glaciers in Montana, the Himalayan Mountains, the Andes and the Alps. Fresh water shortages also affect agriculture, driving food prices upward.
In the late 1990s climate scientists predicted that ice loss in the Arctic would lead to worse droughts in the West, especially California. The smaller ice cap would cause changes in the jet stream, bringing catastrophic drought there, while causing deluges in other regions. Record floods in Europe last summer support their theories.
The facts are in and they are indisputable. All 10 of the 10 hottest years on record occurred since 1998, and while we are having an unusually cold winter, the rest of the world is not; in addition to Sochi and Alaska, Australia experienced wildfires so hot they create their own weather. Every year since 1982 has been warmer than the historical average, and 20 of the past 30 years have been hotter than the preceding one.
NASA has some pretty smart, well-informed people working for it. Its website has this statement. "Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world's climate. However, there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities."
You can accept that or listen to fools like Donald Trump, whose obscenity-filled opinion on the matter cannot be repeated in polite society.
Later this year, the president is likely to issue an executive order requiring electric energy producers that use fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions. Republicans will object, because that's what they do. Given the need to act now, I hope the Republicans put their hatred of all things Obama aside long enough to do something constructive for a change - a needed change.