Report: Harsh winter a sign of climate change

This winter's extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.

It comes at a time when, despite a wealth of scientific evidence, the American public is increasingly skeptical that climate change is happening at all. That disconnect is particularly important this year as the Obama administration and its allies in Congress seek to enact legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and revamp the nation's energy supply.

"It's very hard for any of us to grasp how this larger warming trend is happening when we're still having wintry weather," said National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the new report's lead writer.

The study charts how climate change is linked to more heavy precipitation, including intense snowstorms like the one that blanketed the D.C. area last month. The Great Lakes region is also experiencing more snow, the report says, because during warmer winters, "the lakes are less likely to freeze over or are freezing later [and] surface water evaporation is recharging the atmosphere with moisture."

Richard Somerville, who was a lead writer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, said the public needs to grasp that it is important to reduce carbon dioxide quickly because it stays in the atmosphere for centuries.

"That's where the scientific urgency comes from, not a particular weather event," Somerville said. "There's a scientific case for rapidly reducing emissions."

(Via WaPo)

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