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At a glance - Does cold weather disprove global warming?

Posted on 12 September 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "Does cold weather disprove global warming?". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

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

Click for Further details

In case you'd like to explore more of our recently updated rebuttals, here are the links to all of them:

Myths with link to rebuttal Short URLs
Ice age predicted in the 1970s
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
CRU emails suggest conspiracy
What evidence is there for the hockey stick
CO2 lags temperature
Climate's changed before
It's the sun
Temperature records are unreliable
The greenhouse effect and the 2nd law of thermodynamics
We're heading into an ice age
Positives and negatives of global warming
Global cooling - Is global warming still happening?
How reliable are climate models?
Can animals and plants adapt to global warming?
What's the link between cosmic rays and climate change?
Is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth accurate?
Are glaciers growing or retreating?
Ocean acidification: global warming's evil twin
The human fingerprint in global warming
Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming
How do we know more CO2 is causing warming?
Explaining how the water vapor greenhouse effect works
The tricks employed by the flawed OISM Petition Project to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change
Is extreme weather caused by global warming?
How substances in trace amounts can cause large effects
How much is sea level rising?
Is CO2 a pollutant?
Does cold weather disprove global warming?

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Regardless of what may be happening with the global average temperature, the simple fact is that millions of people, in particular those in the north-eastern and mid-western US have experienced record cold winters for years.  Harbors on the Great Lakes have frozen over and there have been numerous deaths from hypothermia.  The people in these regions have always relied on coal and natural gas to meet their energy needs. So-called "sustainable energy" is totally inadequate, and it would be dead wrong (pun intended!) to deprived these people of their needs through government actions to curtail fossil fuels.  Unfortunately, our current "president" is trying to do just that to the American people, and we are not taking kindly to it!

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Politics is not permitted by the Comments Policy. Links to show that those regions are indeed experiencing record cold winters would also help discussion.

  2. JacobsLadder @1 : 

    And that ain't half of it !  You didn't mention north of the Great Lakes.

    Each winter, nearly a million dead of cold in Ontario, but it's hushed up.

    Owing to their electricity coming 89%  from nuclear, hydro, and wind.

    [ 2022 figures of supplied electricity ]

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Did you mean to supply a figure for supplied electricity? I don't think your sarcasm encourages useful discussion and his point was about heating not electricity.

  3. My apologies, Moderator.     Figures from for 2022.

    Supplied electricity (not capacity) for Ontario Province ~

    Nuclear 78.8 TWh ; Hydro 38.0 TWh ; Wind 13.8 TWh

    Total equates to about 89% of produced electricity.

    Equivalent to 13 GW of continuous electricity yearlong.

    (  ~13 million small bar radiators of 1000 Watts each, used 24/7/365 )  


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  4. JacobsLadder... Just curious, is there some reason you believe that sustainable energy can't supply heating?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The sock puppet in question has recused itself from further participation here.

  5.  Just to address the point, consider another cold country with frozen seas about it - Sweden. According to this -

    "In the 1970s, three quarters of Swedish homes were heated with oil boilers. Today, electric-powered heat pumps have all but replaced oil in single-family homes (most multi-family homes rely on district heating). That has driven greenhouse gas emissions from oil heating of buildings down 95 per cent since 1990, according to the Swedish Energy Agency"

    The difference is Sweden's willingness to act. A carbon tax in 1990 and revised building codes certainly helping. The very common district heating schemes also use waste heat and wood waste as well as GSHP.

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