In Search of Global Warming

by William Yeatman on August 24, 1998

in Science

Climatologists are critical of Vice President Al Gore’s tendency to attribute the latest isolated weather event to global warming. Gore has found evidence of global warming in a variety of weather phenomena — from January’s ice storms in the Northeast, to the June wildfires in Florida, to warmer than normal temperatures in July.

“There is a problem with making a lot of hay out of one individual event,” warns Gerald North, head of Texas A&M University’s meteorology department. “The climate is the average of all those events happening all over the world,” he adds.

Other scientists are similarly cautious.

  • “There are probably multiple causes, and we don’t know for sure what warming may be human induced or what may be natural fluctuations,” says Robert Quayle, head of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

  • Although the first seven months of this year were the warmest worldwide in a quarter-century, Patrick Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia, reports that temperatures have already begun to return to normal and could come in below normal for the year as a whole.

  • John Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, says the globe has warmed since the 19th century — but, he adds, “that was probably the coldest century of the last 10.”

  • “Overall, there is no evidence that extreme weather events, or climate variability, has increased, in a global sense, through the 20th century,” a 1995 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found.

As scientists’ climate models improve, they predict less global warming. In 1990, the median predicted warming by 2100 was 3.2 degrees Celsius. By 1995 that estimate had dropped to 2 degrees Celsius — with a low estimate of 1 degree, including factors that may cool the climate (see figure

Source: Anna Bray Duff, “More Global-Warming Hot Air,” Investor’s Business Daily, August 25, 1998.

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