Is global warming causing global cooling?

Published 9:52 am Thursday, March 3, 2011

It snowed again last week. A lot. Boy, am I sick of winter.

This is because winter seems to get darker, colder and longer as I get older. My winter colds seem to last longer and make me feel worse.

I got a cold over Christmas and variations of it — sore throat, hacking — are just now beginning to subside. I feel like somebody worked me over with a baseball bat.

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Just as I thought this winter would never end, Mother Nature pulled a prank on me. She gave us a warm February day a little more than a week ago. The sun burst through the clouds — the snow melted in Washington. It was 60 degrees!

I jumped in my car and enjoyed a heavenly drive to Pittsburgh, where it was just as gorgeous. The next day was so was sunny and warm there.

I was hoping the coldness and darkness of this lousy season had finally passed.

Then, alas, Pittsburgh got belted with a bunch of snow.

I was sitting in a coffee shop that day — the first day I wasn’t hacking constantly from the winter cold that wouldn’t go away.

I was so productive, I worked nonstop until 7 p.m. When I looked out the window, there it was.

Snow was coming down fast and thick. Cars were stuck all over the road. A bus had spun sideways and blocked traffic. It took me 30 minutes to drive one mile.

And so I read with interest a recent article in Scientific American, “Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed about Climate Change?”

Scientists discussed this question at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

One scientist asked a panel of journalists why the media cover climate change as a controversy or debate, when, in fact, there’s a consensus among many scientific organizations that human activity is causing it.

In other words, the media are ginning up what should be a closed case and, therefore, are confusing the public.

Though I hope the scientists can forgive us for being confused.

We were told by some scientists only a few years ago that, as the Earth warmed, snow was going to be a thing of the past in many regions.

Then we were told that after 100 years of gradual warming, the Earth has cooled recently — but make no mistake, the Earth is getting warmer.

Now some are telling us — I read this in Scientific American — that the brutal cold and heavy snow of the past few winters are, in fact, caused by global warming.

Global warming is causing global cooling?

Now, I’m something of an agnostic where global warming is concerned. Pumping all kinds of particulates into the atmosphere can’t be good, and very well could be having some effect.

But we average Joes have come not to trust the exaggerated predictions of journalists, politicians and some scientists.

We’re suspicious of the folks who are making millions scaring the bejeezus out of us.

We don’t trust the politicians and government bureaucrats who are trying to shove new controls down our throats.

And we’re puzzled by this: If computer models can’t tell us if it will snow tomorrow with any degree of certainty, how can they predict weather patterns 20 years off?

We’re game for cold, hard science and we are game for the truth, but I hope you understand why speculation and exaggeration have made folks wary about the subject of climate change.

Such are the thoughts of the ignorant and ill-informed as we go outside in the brutal cold to shovel our sidewalks yet again.

Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Tom at