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.”
Climate skeptics were quick to mock activists for connecting the winter freeze to global warming, pointing out that Mr. Gore as recently as 2009 warned of vanishing snow and ice.
“The media is intent on featuring every flood, hurricane, drought, tornado, heatwave — and now cold snaps and snowstorms — as proof of ‘global warming,’” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change” (Regnery, 2018).
“Never mind that the media used to claim that the polar vortex was a sign of global cooling back in the 1970s,” Mr. Morano said in an email. “Never mind that climate activists warned repeatedly that snow would be a thing of the past due to ‘global warming.’”
President Trump riled climate activists when he said in a Dec. 28 tweet: “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”
The National Resources Defense Council was outraged, calling it “his latest lie” and insisting that “the weather may be frigid, but that doesn’t mean global temperatures aren’t still rising over time.”
Mr. Morano suggested environmentalists have overplayed their hand. “But now we are told more snow is due to global warming. Is this what climate science has turned into?” he asked.
The storm dropped more than a foot of snow in coastal towns from New Jersey to Maine, while causing flooding in Boston as storm drained overflowed and whiteout conditions in New York City.
The chief forecaster for WeatherBELL, Mr. Bastardi blasted the linkage with climate change as “witchcraft, NO PROOF AT ALL” and “climate ambulance chasing, nothing more.”
“[T]his has happened countless times before,” Mr. Bastardi said, “and it wasn’t global warming then and is not now.”