Jan. 6 -- The weather New Year is off to a rousing start. Low-temperature records have been shattered from Minnesota to Florida already, with incredible snowfall amounts near the Great Lakes and in northern New England. And a fresh blast from the arctic hinterlands will result in another round of intense (and record-breaking) cold for much of the nation in the coming days. All of this is coming on the heels of a cold, stormy December for many of us.
Surely, this means that all of this talk -- or at least some of it -- about global warming is hype.
No, it doesn't.
Ignore the proverbial nose on our collective face (a runny nose, perhaps, given the weather). This cold winter is no more proof that global warming is a farce than the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, with its 28 named storms (including hurricanes Katrina and Wilma), was proof that global warming is an immediate threat.
We live in a world that demands answers now, draws instant conclusions and bases global decisions on what we personally experience.
The climate doesn't work that way.
The worldwide climate is an average of all weather events that have occurred across the entire globe during the course of many decades, even centuries. As such, the climate is a reflection of all types of weather, including extreme weather, and the effect of individual extreme events on the overall climate is negligible.
Yes, the current weather becomes a part of the climate equation, so it's not irrelevant. But weather data from any individual storm, month, season, year and perhaps even multiple years is too small of a climate sampling upon which to reach any conclusions about global warming.
It wouldn't be accurate to reach the conclusion that a car's overall gas mileage is improving based on one brake-challenging 10-minute trip down the side of a steep mountain. Likewise, it's not accurate to base climate conclusions on the weather for one cold season, even a very cold winter, over a large portion of one continent.
By accounts accepted by most, the earth's climate is, indeed, getting warmer. Average global temperature has risen 1 to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s. Global temperatures for 2009, according to the most recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration release, were well above average.
The role that man might have had -- or might be having -- in this warming is a matter for scientific debate. The debate, however, should not be centered on a piece of datum as tiny as a harsh winter across much of North America.
And certainly, the debate is too important to base on whether it was cold at my house -- or yours -- this winter.