Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Bluesky Facebook LinkedIn Mastodon MeWe

Twitter YouTube RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


Does cold weather disprove global warming?

What the science says...

Select a level... Basic Intermediate

A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.

Climate Myth...

It's freaking cold!

"Austria is today seeing its earliest snowfall in history with 30 to 40 centimetres already predicted in the mountains. Such dramatic falls in temperatures provide superficial evidence for those who doubt that the world is threatened by climate change." (Mail Online)

At a glance

Late November-early December 2010 saw a memorable, bitterly cold snap in the UK that many residents will still remember. According to the UK Met Office on the night of November 27-28:

"Last night saw November minimum temperature records fall across the country. Most notably both Wales and Northern Ireland recorded the coldest November night since records began. In Wales, temperatures fell to -18 °C at Llysdinam, near Llandrindod Wells, Powys. Northern Ireland recorded -9.5 °C at Lough Fea. Scotland recorded a minimum temperature of -15.3 °C at Loch Glascarnoch, whilst England recorded -13.5 °C at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire."

Brr! But it pays to have a bit of a look around. Did you know that during the very same night, parts of Western Greenland hit plus 13 Celsius? That's more than 30 degrees Celsius warmer than Wales!

The reason for that remarkable difference in temperature was the weather. An elongated and slow-moving area of high pressure was situated in the North Atlantic, extending up into the Arctic. As a consequence, because air flows around high pressure systems in a clockwise direction, on the high's left flank warm air was being dragged up into normally chilly Western Greenland. But down its right flank there came cold Arctic air, surging southwards towards Europe, hence those unusually low temperatures.

It's easy to confuse current weather events with long-term climate trends. It's a bit like being at the beach, trying to figure out if the tide is rising or falling just by watching two or three individual waves roll in and out. The slow change of the tide is masked by the constant churning of the waves. Watch for 20-30 minutes and you should get a much better idea.

In a similar way, the normal ups and downs of local weather can often mask slow changes in global climate. To find climate trends you need to look at how weather is changing over a longer time span. Looking at high and low temperature data from recent decades shows that new record highs occur nearly twice as often as new record lows. New records for cold weather will continue to be set (although that -18C for Wales in November 2010 will take some beating), but global warming's gradual influence will make them increasingly rare.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "At a glance" section. Read a more technical version below or dig deeper via the tabs above!

Further details

Since the mid 1970s, global temperatures have been warming at around 0.2°C per decade. However, weather imposes its own dramatic ups and downs over the long term trend. Hence the contrasting example given above where temperatures on a late November 2010 night were 30C apart in Western Greenland and Wales - and not in the geographical order one would naturally expect!

Record cold temperatures can thus occur even as global average temperatures continue to rise. Nevertheless, who hasn't heard someone on a cold day mutter, "what happened to global warming?!" Americans in particular will recall the snowball-waving stunt by former senator and conspiracy theorist James Inhofe on the floor of the U.S. Senate in February 2015. This is the childish level of debate that we often have to put up with.

But it's human nature to remember unusual events such as record heat waves and freezing cold spells. Mentally calculating long term statistical trends doesn't come quite as easy as recalling that cold morning a few winters ago or that sweltering heat wave last summer. However, we can learn something about climate trends from those record hot and cold days.

A record daily high or low temperature means that the temperature was warmer or colder on that particular day than on the same date throughout a weather station's history. In a world with no overall temperature trend, as time passes, the number of record high and low temperatures would tend to diminish. This is because as the years roll on and records accumulate, it becomes increasingly difficult to break a record. But we live in a warming world. An abstract presented at a conference a few years ago (Hausfather et al. 2021) examined record high and low U.S. temperatures since 1910. Figure 1 shows the number of record high temperatures (red bars) and record low temperatures (blue bars). If temperatures weren't warming, we would expect the number of record highs and lows to be roughly equal. Instead, the highs and lows diverge over time with gradually more record highs than lows.

Changes in the occurrence of record-setting daily maximum (TMax) and minimum (TMin) temperatures per decade in the US.

Figure 1: Changes in the occurrence of record-setting daily maximum (TMax) and minimum (TMin) temperatures per decade in the US based on Berkeley Earth US gridded daily homogenized data using 340 equal area gridcells. (Hausfather et al. 2021, AGU Fall meeting)

To examine this further, the ratios of record highs versus record lows were calculated for each year. During the 1960s, there were more record lows than highs. However, when the global warming period began in the 1970s, the ratio of highs to lows began to increase. Over the last decade in their dataset, daily record high temperatures occurred many times more often than record lows.

Looking ahead, Fischer et al. (2021) found that record-shattering extreme heat events were likely to be encountered more often in the coming decades. They note, however, that such drastic record-breakers would be “nearly impossible” in the absence of global warming. In an interview with Carbon Brief, the lead author stated that extremes in a changing climate are like an athlete on steroids – who suddenly breaks previous records in a step-change manner. The following year saw a UK heatwave that did precisely that, with temperature records going down like ninepins and the first 40C daytime maximum recorded from there.

So, while we can still expect cold days and even record cold days, in a warming world there's a much greater chance of daily record highs instead of lows. This tendency towards hotter days is expected to increase as global warming continues through the 21st Century.

Cartoon summary

Cranky Uncle cold weather cartoon

This Cranky Uncle cartoon depicts the "Anecdote" fallacy for which the climate myth "It’s cold!" is a prime example. It uses personal experience or isolated examples instead of sound arguments or compelling evidence. It pairs up nicely with the "It's dark ... the sun doesn't exist" cartoon using the same fallacious reasoning. Please see the accompanying blog post for more information about the cartoon collection.

Last updated on 3 September 2023 by John Mason. View Archives

Printable Version  |  Offline PDF Version  |  Link to this page

Argument Feedback

Please use this form to let us know about suggested updates to this rebuttal.

Further viewing

Climate Denial Crock of the Week - "It's cold. So there's no Climate Change" (January 2009)

ClimateAdam (aka Dr. Adam Levy) has his own way to explaine why this claim is nonsensical:

Further reading

NASA explore this subject in more depth in What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?

Myth Deconstruction

Related resource: Myth Deconstruction as animated GIF

MD Cold

Please check the related blog post for background information about this graphics resource.

Denial101x videos

Here are related lecture-videos from Denial101x - Making Sense of Climate Science Denial


Prev  1  2  3  Next

Comments 26 to 50 out of 65:

  1. JMurphy @25 asks of Tom Loeber How do you trust even your own conclusions ? I was wondering why Tom trusts the advice of David H. Freeman. How do we know that Mr. Freeman is not one of "the experts that keep failing us ?" Then my head started to hurt...
  2. #22: "not just years or tens of years or even thousands of years, we should also consider hundreds of thousands of years" Nice. You went from worrying about daily lows at LAX to glacial cycles, which have nothing to do with the current situation. Isn't that called obfuscation, a tried and true denier tactic? "at times experts have been quite mistaken in a major way" Sure. But do you drive over bridges? They fall. Fly in airplanes? They crash. The work of experts is all around us; we can't live buried in the suspicion that they are all in cahoots and out to get us. I spend far too much time reading papers and looking at publicly available data; I am glad to read an expert analysis to help me digest it all. The point is, I am willing to incorporate into my evaluation the analysis of someone who knows more than I do. "Always realize we can only hold onto an opinion." Well, as the saying goes, you're entitled to your opinion. But you aren't entitled to your own facts.
    Response: It's time to take this discussion to a more relevant thread. Anybody who wants to continue, please use the Search field to find posts about "consensus" and pick the one of those you think is most relevant.
  3. Yeah. I think banning me from that other thread led to a cross post here by another other than me wanting to continue our discussion. Me thinks the moderators screwed up and essentially messed up two of their own offerings. Try to take it easy there mods. The heavy handedness is not what makes the best theories.
    Response: There is no mechanism for banning any user from a particular thread. What you're seeing is more than likely a bug relating to the site (either HTML or PHP related).
  4. Re: Tom Loeber Take this to heart: the only reason you have comments deleted is because you don't adhere to the comments policy. Period. Don't ascribe to malice on others what is more appropriately due to non-compliance on your part. You control your posts being moderated. No one else. If you don't want to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, then perhaps (in the final evaluation) you are banning yourself. The Yooper
  5. Tom Loeber - The post you are referring to here was from me. I was following the request of the moderators to move the discussion to a more appropriate thread. You were asked repeatedly to move the discussion yourself; the deletion of off-topic posts (off topic in the ice age thread) has been a standard of this site since it began. It's worth reviewing the Comments Policy. That wasn't a cross post at all - it was a redirection to the appropriate thread. If we don't try to keep on focus in our discussions, it makes it impossible for anyone else to (a) see relevant postings and to (b) contribute to an ongoing exchange. If we toss useful information onto a thread where nobody will ever think to look for it, we're wasting our time!
  6. This is not the appropriate thread. I was not posting that cold weather disproves global warming at all. It was not your post that alerted me as to where the conversation was happening, it was JMurphy's who started it out with my name. This place is too dysfunctional to facilitate understanding especially as the moderators appear to have a heavy hand with any one who does not adhere to their theories.
  7. Tom Loeber - you were asked on that thread "Do you have any evidence for any of those claims of "wide spread record cold" ". You responded with multiple lists of individual locations that had experienced cold spells, not with anything indicating wide spread effects. As individual weather events are not climate (as was covered by several people responding to you), this thread on "Does cold weather disprove global warming" is entirely appropriate for that discussion. Your response to the question of evidence for "wide spread record cold" did not demonstrate what you wished - I'm just left wondering why that wasn't apparent from the multiple posts responding or the numerous moderator remarks directed to you. If you didn't note my response on extrema or the redirect, I can only presume you weren't reading the posts in the thread or the moderator notes to you.
  8. 2/3 of Peru under state of emergency for cold not widespread enough for you? Multiple SA countries experiencing record cold not widespread enough for you? There was more too but it only takes one to counter your claim. KR, I am not saying that individual weather events are climate. All I was saying is there is evidence that the weather could snap to cold conditions with little or no warning. As far as I can tell the Hamaker hypothesis holds more credibility than the Milankovitch theory which is what I was and am still addressing. This is not the proper thread for that but as long as the moderators disagree and they cater to the idea that might makes right, perhaps the major fallacy of epistemic relativism along with "what you don't know can't hurt you" and "ignoranc is bliss" and "killing the messenger invalidates the message" they will continue to practice dysfunction. As far as that last goes, the mods somehow got the posts I made to the other thread to show up days after they had been posted, more pointed critique of the paper Mr. Bostrom linked to discounting noctilucents as a possible sign of climate change. I was presenting a possibility that the noctilucents are the missing piece of Hamaker's hypothesis that suggests global warming leads to a rapid climate change eventually with little warning trend, to ice age conditions. The mods went back after getting those posts to show and deleted them unless that too was a bug. I posted other recent research that found solar insolation is not to blame but actually earth's albedo and carbon dioxide concentrations are complicit with ice age starts, right in keeping with the Hamaker hypothesis. This selective recall of yours does not help. I mean, give me a break, you are inferring I'm quite the total idiot and it might just be fine and dandy with the mods for ad hominem to predominate against a person who does not kiss ass. I am very much into being open and honest and many do not have a world model that incorporates the utility of that. As far as I can tell this message board is dysfunctional, the mods are exhibiting dysfunctional behavior and many of the participants keep on arguing apples to oranges to suggest the place caters to the dysfunctional. Well, as a Homo sap on planet earth the lack of wherewithal of my fellow human beings is my failing too so I too am dysfunctional as I do not exist in a vacuum. I have even been know to make mistakes and I have tried to correct them here and in the other thread. The "lets all gang up on the one who seeks to be logical" scenario I seem to be witnessing here is, again, a consequence of this idea that majority opinion determines truth. If anyone is truly interested in pursuing a better understanding of what is going on and what we should be trying to prepare for and avoid, those who disagree with the adopted stance, as long as they are not totally wacko, should be given lots of room, see past my frailties as a human being and see that quite possibly, the long term predictions for extreme cold and harsh winters ahead are not just a bunch of baloney. Maybe some of those are based on sound information that we shouldn't just ignore due to their not fitting in with the theory that lets the fossil fuel profiting companies off the hook. Did you see that Project Censored item that the US pentagon is the top polluter on the planet? The description of what the "Policy" is here seems to be a list of what the mods think is okay for them to do and for anyone else who plays into supporting their perspective. Like many laws they are used against those who attempt to speak truth to power while letting the powerful get away with breaking them continuously and often. So it goes.
    Response: The Comments policy defines what is and is not acceptable on this site. Avoid irrelevant personal attacks, stay on topic, and don't stray into politics and you'll be fine.
  9. Tom #33: Widespread cold records during the (tied) hottest year, globally on record is consistent with the ideas presented in the Nature paper Early-warning signals for critical transitions. Technically we would describe this as a signal showing increased variance of a complex system.
  10. Hey, Tom, I thought Hamaker said that the tropics would receive most of the warming, causing an intensification of the tropic-to-polar water cycle, increasing polar glaciers and ice caps. The reverse is happening. The Arctic is warming more rapidly than any other part of the planet. Maybe someone needs to write a Hamaker article.
  11. Sorry Tom. We are guests in someone's living or dining room. I take my shoes off if those are the rules when I visit some people. If I don't like what's been served for the meal I simply shift the unpalatable to the side of the plate - I don't tell the cook he's incompetent. I don't tell the other guests their enjoyment is all wrong. I use the bathroom in the hall, I don't wander through the host's bedroom to use their ensuite unless I'm invited to do so. The fact that a site like this is an 'open house' invitation doesn't alter the fact that there are always some rules about acceptable behaviour.
  12. 2/3 of Peru under state of emergency for cold not widespread enough for you?
    No. 0.17% (1,285,216 / 510,072,000 * 2/3) of the globe does not refute the other 99.83%.
  13. Re: Tom Loeber (33) I'm simply at a loss for words (and that almost never happens)... Twice now (here and here) I've offered up advice on how to be a positive contributor here so that we all can benefit from the knowledge you bring to this table. Other than that, I've tried to stay out of the discussion, to see the merits of your position from your point of view, free from being a direct part of the action. But time and again, you veer off into dissembling, blaming and impugning the integrity of the moderators here. Tell me, do you work at being difficult or does it just come naturally? Because, honestly, I can't tell the difference. Many of us are intimately aware of dysfunctionality. Either we've grown up with it, lived it or witnessed it close at hand. I'm certainly not perfect and I really try to make allowances for the imperfections of others. But frankly, I resent your implication that by being a commenter and frequenter of this place that I'm a party to this quasi-conspiracy against you. Grow up. Become a resource for us here. Or just ramble on. The Yooper
  14. Tom Loeber - The topics of cloud feedback (including noctilucents) and of sudden regime changes in climate are both interesting, and it would be worthwhile to discuss those. I myself have suggested a thread on cloud feedback; unfortunately, I don't consider myself well enough informed on the topic to contribute that myself. Until we have a thread, though, I'm not going to ramble on regarding that topic on an unrelated thread. In regards to localized cold events, the data for the world shows 2010 tied for the hottest year on record. There will always be record highs and record lows occurring - that's the nature of variability. But the data indicates there are far more highs than lows (see this link, which I pointed you to before), showing that the mid-point, the climate, is moving up. Climate reversals: Perhaps there is some chance of a Younger Dryas type event, although that appears to have been a Northern Hemisphere occurrence, not a global one (perhaps a shutdown of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation?). But given that we don't know exactly why such events occurred, we don't have any evidence to suspect a climate reversal. What we do have is significant evidence and known risk factors for amplification of warming - methane release from permafrost and sea-floor clathrate accumulations, for example. Those would have global effects, not regional. Given what we know, those are significant risks down the line, not reversals.
  15. Tom Loeber wrote : "2/3 of Peru under state of emergency for cold not widespread enough for you?" Once again, you are caught up in the type of argument/belief where you see only part of the answer (the answer you WANT to see) and ignore everything else. With regard to Peru, you also have to bear in mind that it wasn't simply the cold weather that led to the state of emergency - it was also due to the effects of that cold on a poverty-stricken people who had previously suffered from everything from extreme downpours to extreme drought. The deaths were largely respiratory infections in children, sadly, but such deaths (and, therefore, such a state of emergency) would not have been so widespread in a wealthier country with a more effective health system. Tragic and extreme but not as doom-laden or prophetic as you seem to think - at least, not unless it becomes a regular occurrence in future. You obviously need to become more aware of something you yourself stated previously : "I think more important than depending on hear-say and the like,..." ...and become less keen to be led along too quickly by the rest of that sentence of yours : "...attempt to get a grasp of the data yourself and draw your own conclusions." Drawing your own conclusions has led you to your 'coming ice-age' belief. Why not step back, look at all the evidence (and in more detail at the stories you are using to 'back-up' your assertions), and see what the reality is as it stands at the moment - cold weather, even very cold weather, is still possible (perhaps more likely in certain areas) in a warming world which isn't heading towards an ice-age. Oh, and you would look more credible if you were to post less of your conspiracy-theory/censorship thoughts.
  16. Re: Tom Loeber I do want to step back and issue a general, heart-felt compliment to you, Tom. Your ideas about noctilucent clouds, tipping points and sudden ice ages is certainly one of the most unique and interesting ideas I've heard in a while. You should really try to present it in a more formal fashion here, with cited sources, etc. I think you'd find a much better, dialogue-based, discussion of what you bring to this table. I would look forward to reading such a presentation. The Yooper
  17. Coldest December in England's history
  18. What is the relevance in pointing to a record cold month on 0.03% of the globe when the globe has had a near record hot year in continuance of a multi-decade trend?
  19. @Tom Loeber: cherry-picked anecdotal evidence = epic fail.
  20. "large regions may experience a precipitous and disruptive shift into colder climates." President and Director Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 1/27/2003
    Response: Please read comment policy and the fourth point in particular. Thank you.
  21. @Tom: spamming these comments sections with irrelevant links isn't going to change reality. As this article explains, cold weather doesn't disprove global warming - but hey, I'm sure you can continue flooding this site with your worthless anecdotal evidence!
  22. Tom,and all record November high temperature here in New Zealand. Your point? "Global" warming means look at temperature of whole globe. If you believe that AGW predicts no more record lows in every region of the world then you are sadly mistaken. Are you going to spam us with all the record high temperatures as well or do you have tunnel vision?
  23. I believe we are experiencing global warming. Who said i didn't? I also believe climate is dynamic and expecting only slow global warming could be a disastrous mistake but, if it doesn't fit what you want to believe, then, by all means, do the junk yard dog dance.
  24. @Tom: what you believe is irrelevant. The fact that you are spamming worthless anecdotal evidence is the problem.
  25. Scaddenp, what was your last winter like? I understand there was some pretty unusual cold and snow. I see oscillations, winter to summer. I see extremes in both. I see it as a ship rocking on an ocean whose currents are being subjected to new factors, unprecedented factors the consequences of growing powerful thinking life within a finite space. Whether or not thinking life embraces free exchange of information to express intelligence may be a question as to whether or not that listing ship collapses out of what we can endure, Intelligence, fat chance, what with these linear presentations in control of folks with no or little testing of their responsibility and tolerance, seeing the little pieces that challenge status quo are given little space and much denigration, IMHO

Prev  1  2  3  Next

Post a Comment

Political, off-topic or ad hominem comments will be deleted. Comments Policy...

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

Link to this page

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2024 John Cook
Home | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us