Meteorologist Joe Bastardi had a decidedly unscientific term for the effort to link Thursday’s frigid winter storm to human-caused climate change: “witchcraft.”
“This is flat out insanity and deception now,” Mr. Bastardi said Thursday in a tweet. “To tell the public that events that have occurred countless times before with no climate change attribution, is now just that, is not science, [it’s] witchcraft.”
The winter blast unleashed snow, high winds and freezing temperatures on the eastern seaboard this week as it moved from the Southeast to New England, resulting in snowflakes as far south as northern Florida and a record cold snap in Boston.
The fierce storm also triggered a rash of climate-change sightings as activists moved to deflect wisecracks about “global cooling” by arguing that the bitter cold was actually consistent with a warming planet.
The advocacy group 350.org warned Thursday that “2018 has just begun, and we’re already seeing stronger storms affected by climate change,” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared, “Extreme weather is here, and it’s real.”
“Bone-chilling temperatures and powerful winter storms in the eastern US do not disprove climate change,” said the Climate Reality Project, founded by former Vice President Al Gore. “Indeed, according to Dr. @MichaelEMann, they are exactly what we should expert from climate change.”
Mr. Mann, a Penn State climate scientist and a leader of the climate “consensus,” said the storm was “very much consistent with our expectations of weather dynamics to human-caused climate change” because warmer oceans “also mean more moisture in the atmosphere, even more energy to strengthen the storm, and the potential for larger snowfalls.”
“Indeed, climate model simulations indicate that we can expect more intense nor’easters as human-caused climate change continues to warm the oceans,” Mr. Mann said Thursday in a post.
Other scientists weren’t so sure.
“This is simply a classic nor’easter. Such storms are common along the East Coast in winter,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
The storm has been called a “bomb cyclone,” a label that refers to the phenomenon of bombogenesis, which occurs when a nontropical low pressure area drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, causing it to intensify rapidly.
Are such storms unusual? Not really.
“They happen every year,” said Roy Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville principal research scientist, on his Global Warming blog.
“Nor’easters do this sometimes,” Mr. Serreze said in an email. “This is certainly a strong nor’easter, but they have always been part of the picture and always will be. Maybe a warmer ocean is fostering more moisture in the air to help fuel such storms? Perhaps. But on the face of it, this is just a strong storm, and there is no need to invoke climate change.”
He added: “I experienced stronger ones when I was growing up in a small town in coastal Maine.”