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Recently I read an article by a Theoretical Physicist titled, “Polar Vortex, Climate Change, Red Herring?” and he seems like a pretty smart guy. But his title had me cringing. Not only is he right, he highlights the difficulty of framing our message to an audience with little understanding of the topic.

One change I intend to make is a return to using the term “Global Warming” in lieu of “Climate Change.” Climate is the long-term trend of the weather for a region. Climate Change is a predicted symptom of Anthropogenic (human caused) Global Warming. The crazy Fox News flat-earthers deniers should not be the ones setting the terms we use to communicate this important reality. When Fox chooses to show themselves the fool every time it snows by claiming it disproves Global Warming simply because it’s cold outside, who am I to get in their way? I prefer to stand back and mock. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is real, measured, proven and accepted science.

What are not known are AGW’s end effects on our climates. Some of the more common predictions are the melting of the arctic icecap, areas of drought, areas of heavy rain, hurricanes on the east coast tracking further north, fewer tornados and a weakening of our jet stream.

Plumber vs. Theoretical Physicist

Wow, it was unusually cold last week. In a small fraction of the globe. For a couple of days. And what does that cold snap, that big wiggle in the Polar Vortex that carries high-atmospheric winds around the North Pole, imply about “climate change”,  also known as “global warming”, also known as “global weirding”?

The answer is very simple. Nothing.

If you heard anyone suggest otherwise — whether they said that the extreme cold implies that there is no global warming going on, or they said that the extreme cold implies that global warming is happening — you should seriously question anything that person says when it comes to climate change. […]

So let’s not waste our time fishing for red herrings.  Yes, it is possible that an overall small increase in the temperature of the globe will make wild weather more common. But it will be decades before we have enough data to tell whether, in fact, the rare events of which we have so few examples really are more or less common than they used to be.  And no one event, in isolation, should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as “climate change”.

Matt Strassler (confirmed smart guy)

We know what he says is true; no weather event on its own can prove to be “caused” by Global Warming. He goes on to point out that we have always had unusual and extreme weather events, which we also know is true. For science to claim Global Warming has changed the climate in a way to cause a trend of extreme weather, we would need many decades of data. He’s got me on the ropes.

I would argue that it is not so unreasonable to point to recent extreme weather events as evidence that climate change is happening. We should be careful not to frame them as proof, but as emerging trends or predicted outcomes.

The basic definition of a recession according to economists is “two down consecutive quarters of Gross Domestic Product.”  But if you are a plumbing contractor in Silicon Valley which is at the leading edge of the high-tech industry driving much of the current economy, you may notice emerging trends. Well before the crash of Wall Street or the word recession was ever used the trends were becoming obvious. Even though we had plenty of “work on the books,” when the request for bids suddenly stopped it looked like another downturn was coming. In construction we often see ups and downs due to varying influences, but this was different, it was very sudden and absolute.

After a few months of no opportunities to bid any new projects we decided to cut our weekly draws and over the next few months we had to layoff our crew as existing projects were completed. Even though economists did not have the needed amount of data to prove that we were in an actual recession, any plumber could tell the evidence pointed towards a deep recession.

In science it is important to test your predictions by running concurrent experiments with and without the variable, either numerous times or with a large sample. Unfortunately we only have one planet Earth and don’t have the luxury of running this dangerous experiment more than once. Would it be unreasonable to consider the predictions made by climate scientists and look for emerging trends? Some of their predictions are becoming reality, such as the melting of the arctic icecaps and the rising oceans. Both are predicted outcomes that are proving to be true. Although you can’t say specific weather events are caused by AGW, events like the drought seen in the west, the third year of extreme heat waves in Australia and yes, even the Polar Vortex were all predicted effects of AGW.

Jennifer Francis and other climatologists predicted events like the Polar Vortex, which may seem counter to the whole “warming” idea, but it is pretty simply explained. The jet stream is a river of fast moving air high in the atmosphere. The speed of the jet stream is created by the temperature differential between the upper atmosphere near the equator and the upper atmosphere at the pole. A warmer atmosphere will be higher above the Earth’s surface than a cooler atmosphere; it is that downward slope towards the pole that gives the jet stream its speed while the Earth spinning gives it direction. Similar to a river flowing down a steep hill, as it slows in the flatlands of the deltas the river begins to meander.  The jet stream helps to keep weather systems moving much like a car quickly driving through leaves draws them along. But if the car moves slower, the leaves just sit there or the weather systems tend to linger. The atmosphere above the pole is warming faster than the atmosphere nearer the equator, decreasing the slope and slowing the jet stream.

Most of the cold polar air gets trapped north of the jet stream, but as the jet stream meanders or wobbles it sometimes brings pockets of cold air further south, which is not unexpected and has happened many times in the past. Think of a spinning top that wobbles on its axis but is always drawn back to its center.  What is predicted by some climatologists is that the warming arctic will slow the jet stream and like a spinning top slowing, the jet stream will have larger and more erratic wobbles more often. We may be seeing the beginning of a trend, but this would need to continue for many years before science can make a declaration.

So even though what was written in the Theoretical Physicist’s article is true and he is not an AGW denier, even bashing the AGW deniers in the comment threads, he is a scientist who is true to the scientific method. As an activist I need to be careful of the words I choose. Many of the current extreme weather events fit the predicted outcomes of AGW and add clues of a possible emerging trend that should be a concern to all. I will not wait thirty years or more for the scientists to compile their data to confirm our climates started changing in the 80’s causing more extreme weather events. The predictions call for rising oceans forcing the relocation of millions around the world and more extreme weather patterns that will make agriculture and our existence more difficult. Action is needed now by all the governments and all the people of the world …the time has come.

Deborah Levoy; Musical artist, activist and mom.

Deborah is also a 350 Silicon Valley member and new kossack. She will guest host KTK in the next couple weeks to share her activism story.

Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate.

Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

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