When media talk about climate change, a lot of confusion can arise, and that can negatively impact what needs to be done about climate warming.
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Until this past growing season, sclerotinia or white mould was third behind soybean cyst nematode and sudden death syndrome as…
When I write and talk about this topic, I call it climate warming, not climate change. The term “global warming” is fine, but I feel it has been so overused that it has a negative connotation.
Some people will say it is simply semantics, and no matter how you say it, it all means the same thing. I don’t agree.
As with a number of topics lately, there tends to be polarization within society. Either you agree or believe the topic or you adamantly disagree with it. Very few people are in between. It almost seems like people take pleasure in going against something simply to be different or to stir the pot — but I digress.
Let’s discuss the whole idea of climate warming, what it means, and why media often overstate or misuse the terminology associated with this topic, sometimes inadvertently driving polarization.
One must first understand the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day happenings within the atmosphere. It can fluctuate greatly depending on where you are and the time of the year.
One day you’re out walking or biking with short sleeves in early November, and a couple of days later, you’re digging out from a snowstorm. That is weather. There will be warm weather, cold weather, stormy weather, nice weather. Sometimes we will break weather records for warm, cold, rain or snow. That is going to happen; there is a huge amount of variation in weather.
Climate is the averaging of day-to-day weather over a much longer time. These longer periods range from months to years to decades and even several centuries. The advantage of looking at climate data is that averaging helps smooth or remove large swings or changes in day-to-day weather.
OK, now let’s tie this in with the term “climate warming”’ or “global warming.” I like the term climate warming because it refers to the long-term trends in weather. The media are often too quick to label a weather event as global warming. Oh, they might sneak a line in somewhere that correctly points out that the event had a greater likelihood of happening because of climate warming, but this is often missed in the headline or the summary that readers often take from the article.
An example is having a warm fall. Often the media will write about it, and sometimes a connection is made to climate warming as a likely cause. Maybe, but maybe not. A nice warm fall is just weather.
Here’s an example. Where I live in Manitoba, fall weather several years ago was nice and warm, but not as warm as the fall of 1963. In that year, the first fall frost in my area, near Winnipeg, didn’t occur until Oct. 29.
Combine that with a last spring frost on May 22, and you end up with 160 frost-free days in southern Manitoba, which typically just gets 110 or so. Now that was a warm fall and extremely long frost-free year. But that, too, is just weather.
To properly tie weather events to climate warming, you need to talk about the climate — the longer-term trends in weather. Are we seeing more falls with warmer temperatures over time? Are overnight lows on average warmer now than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago?
We are always going to see occasional record high and low temperatures. The question is, are we seeing more record highs than record lows? For the media to simply jump on one hot spell with record highs and say, “see, this is climate warming,” doesn’t always help.
By the way, all answers to the above questions are yes. Overnight lows are trending warmer and the number of record highs are well outpacing record lows.
As for fall temperatures, I’m not sure and would have to dig into it. Winter temperatures are definitely trending warmer.
Just remember: There is climate or long-term warming, not necessarily day-to-day weather, and it is global, which can be tough to remember when you are just trying to survive in your own part of the world.
– Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park, Man.