Freaky Winter Wonderland

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We still can't get over the weather. Flips flops and cut-offs in January. Winter golf in Chicago. Temperatures ten and fifteen degrees above previous record highs, thirty and forty degrees above usual.

In Colorado, they're using artillery to manage avalanche threat after huge blizzards. In Washington, the cherry blossoms are sneaking out. In Minnesota, they're water-skiing on the Mississippi and canceling ice-fishing.

Federal meteorologists say "no cause for alarm." It's a weather pattern, not a high-speed climate change. But right behind the warm front is a rising fear of global warming. Now Democrats run Congress. Will they act?

This hour On Point: freaky weather, fear of global warming, and the Democrats' playbook on climate change.

Quotes from the Show:

"The jet stream is way far north for this time of year. It's basically been in central Canada a lot of the time, extending to far Northern Europe. And when a storm system has dug in to the western, southwest United States, it's gotten cut off from the jet stream and basically been calmed and sat there for a couple of days." Robert Henson

"You have El Nino in the Pacific which is an extension of warm water across the entire equatorial Pacific, and that tends to warm the whole globe by a few tenths of a degree. And more directly in the United States, it tends to cause warming in the upper Midwest and nearby areas ... The East Coast is probably more related to the North Atlantic consolation which is a pressure seesaw that takes place between the area around the Azores and around Iceland. That tends to be funneling the jet stream when it's in a positive mode which it's been in a lot of this winter." Robert Henson

"You have these underlying pressures, and that includes global warming, the Enzo (El Nino) event that's happening now in the Pacific ... , and then you've got the normal variations of the weather, the wiggles of the jet streams, storm systems coming through, front coming through, which happen every year. But when you've got these small pushes that by now are both pushing in the positive direction, then you're gonna get some of these record warmth as opposed to just one warm week during the winter." Gavin Schmidt

"The trend from global warming is in the order of .2 degrees every decade. Now that sounds like a really small number but in a global meaning, it's actually quite significant. But when you're talking about changes or differences from the average of 10 or 12 degrees, that's ... too bigger than anything you can directly pin to global warming." Gavin Schmidt


Robert Henson, meteorologist and science writer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, author of "The Rough Guide to Weather"

Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Congressman Tom Udall (D) New Mexico

Congressman Jay Inslee (D) Washington

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) Oregon

Juliet Eilperin, national environmental reporter for The Washington Post

This program aired on January 9, 2007.


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