You Cannot Have It Both Ways

It's not that snow used to be nice, and now it's not. Snow is beautiful, and hazardous, and has always been both things. Photo by Harris Qazi.

I spent 25 years of my life worried about global warming. And one of the best proofs that the scientists and the media both had to keep me convinced was warmer winters, with less snow. Al Gore talked about it. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote about it. Dozens of scientists published papers showing that winters were getting warmer, with less snow.

Well, in the midst of this kind of certainty about warmer winters, with less snow, some scientists, among them a Russian named Habibullo Abdussamatov, dared to question the idea that warmer winters, with less snow, were caused by carbon dioxide in the first place and also questioned whether Earth would continue to warm during the next few decades.

Abdussamatov and the rest of the skeptical scientists were widely ridiculed, even condemned. Corrupt, sub-human, blind, people called them. And worse.

They were none of these things.

Then, a funny thing started happening a couple of autumns ago. First, significant early-season snow events began to materialize during fall. Second, winters in the Northern Hemisphere started to show characteristics of the winters that Al Gore and RFK Jr. said they missed so much.

But now, in our era of terror of weather, the return to colder winters, with more snow, has been twisted by the same people who missed the colder winters, with more snow, of their youth. These new cold winters, with more snow, were not evidence of natural climate cycles, they said. The snow was, in fact, caused by global warming. This is what they said. And I have to believe that it is what they meant.

But it cannot continue. The science claiming that the unfolding transition to colder winters, with more snow, is proof of global warming is bad science. And turning an entire generation of people into nature-fearers is a grave sin.

The ocean-atmosphere system did not use to sit in benevolent stasis. Sea level did not use to remain ever stable. Droughts are not a product of modernity, and they are not increasing in number. And early-season snowstorms like the one unfolding in the Northeast were never proof of global warming. Not when they happened in the past, and not now.

To Mr. Gore, and his still passionate supporters, I say this: You cannot have it both ways. You cannot count the absence of snow as proof of your theories and the presence of snow as the proof of your theories.

We’re smarter than that. And you’re going have to do better, if you wish to win this debate.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
This entry was posted in Arctic, Cap-and-trade, Climate change, crying wolf, global cooling, global warming, hurricanes, media, weather, winter. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to You Cannot Have It Both Ways

  1. John V. says:

    Your thesis is apples-to-oranges.

    The fundamental truth is that even if the world warms, the fundamental driver of mid-latitude weather (especially in the United States) will be baroclinic instability. We’ll still get mid-latitude cyclones. We’ll still get massive snow storms and blizzards. We’ll still get East Coast winter storms and Nor’easters.

    From basic, 0th order approximations, one would expect that in a warmer world, you would see less-snow winters, if only because in a warmer world there would be fewer average days below freezing at a given point on the globe. But when we’re talking about weather which is fundamentally driven by non-linear instabilities in synoptic-scale flow, let alone understanding how those instabilities are enhanced/inhibited on the mesoscale, then this approximation isn’t valid. One wouldn’t expect the 0th order approximation to hold with every wiggle in the weather line.

    Are Gore and others wrong for latching on to every weather event and trying to interpret it in the context of global warming. ABSOLUTELY. But understand why they do so – it’s because skeptics like you (and Ira Glickstein, whose WUWT post led me here) are so quick to jump on every weather event as *disproving* global warming. I live in Boston, and *no one* has brought up “global warming” with this Nor’easter; it’s universally described as a freak, random storm. They happen; nearly 20 years ago to the day, a major one also happened (the “Halloween Storm” or, for we Clooney fans, “The Perfect Storm”).

    I’m willing to excuse Gore and other reactionaries for failing to adequately communicate the intricacies of climate change and its impacts on weather – because the theory is complicated and anything but simple to distill for lay consumption, let alone high-level academic jargon-babble – because every time it snows, I see the same deluge of fake-skeptics with their “inches of global warming” pictures and blog posts. Things are much more complicated than “warmer => less/more snow”, and by attacking global warming every time it snows, you prove yourself no better than Gore and his cronies.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      John (I’d use your last name, but you haven’t given it): Have you ever, say about 5 years ago, told someone that the less snowy winters in New England were an example of the phenomenon of manmade global warming? Because if you didn’t say anything of the kind, to anyone, then you are a rare soul on your side of the debate.

      • John V. says:

        There is no rule which says I have to give my last name; I’m not sure why you’d even mention it, other than to obfuscate from the points I attempted to articulate. A thought I’ll add is corroborated by your immediate change of subject.

        To answer your question, no, 5 years ago I hadn’t ever contemplated global warming, let alone its impact on snowy winters in New England.

        Now that we have a dialog established, I would love to hear you address my previous points. What is the purpose of engaging in never-ending blog/media bashing of global warming every time it snows? Do you seriously think that jabbing at global warming every time it snows persuades people that the science behind global warming is poor?

        Truth be told, I *don’t* know if global warming is real or not. But as a technically-educated skeptic -with specialty in atmospheric science, actually, although I’m by no means a meteorologist – I *do* know that simplistic arguments like “LOL, they think that global warming leads to more snow – what idiots! How can it be more snow in a warmer world?” are totally bunk.

        I’m on no side of the debate. This is supposed to be science, and we’re all supposed to be on the **SAME** side of the debate, searching for some fundamental truth about the physical world. I think we’d have a much better chance of ascertaining that truth if instead of constantly belittling your opponents, you engaged in constructive debate. Don’t mock something that seems counter-intuitive; say, “Hold up. I don’t understand how it might be *snowier* in a warmer world… could you walk through that argument one more time?”

        But of course, you have a book to sell. So I totally understand *why* you engage in the rhetoric in which you do.

      • Harold Ambler says:

        You have made your point that a storm putting one inch of snow in Central Park in October for the first time is not indicative of a transition away from global warming. You have also stated that you’re “on no side of this debate.” We disagree about both of these subjects, and I will leave it at that.

  2. Joe Bastardi says:


  3. Douglas DC says:

    Now the Warm is cold the Cold warm. How do you indeed justify any of the colder weather.
    Without consulting what is looking more like Chicken-innard type Forecasting. I just got through
    with the history of the Telescope on video, The Modern warmists are looking more and more
    like the Medieval thinkers of the era when the Ptolemaic Universe was “consensus”
    “Snow will be a rare event?”

  4. Mr. Picky-picky here (Grammatical Div.). Note that I am writing to clear my mind, not to belittle you.
    I notice that you have two degrees in English and considerable journalistic experience, Harold, but when you wrote: “The ocean-atmosphere system did not used to sit in benevolent stasis.” and “Sea level did not used to remain ever stable.”, should you not have written “did not USE to…..”? My reasoning is that every other example of the “did not + verb” form uses the infinitive form of the verb (minus “to”), as “did not go”, “did not see”, etc., not “did not saw”, “did not went”, etc. By the same thinking, should it not be “did not use (to)…..”?
    I am quite interested to know if there is a rule for this. (“Did not went” and the like is a very common error in English by non-native speakers who are still learning the language.)

    Best regards.


  5. Scoad Padana says:

    As a Vermonter who has spent 65 winters in a place that gets pretty cold and stays that way much of the year. Who spent 20 yrs. of his youth sking at least 100 days a year as a professional instructor and coach out in the weather every day, in soaking rain, gorgeous sun, or -80 wind chill/. Who has been inextricably connected to the climate by way of having grown for profit and pleasure all manner of trees, plants, flowers, vegtables, fruits, water plants, and fungus all my life, in this hard scrabble climate and for the last 20 or so years in Costa Rica, as well, both in the Talamanca Range and along the Pacfic, with as much time off surfing the weather produced undulations of that sweet and ferocious Ocean as I’ve been able to manage.away from work. As someone in continuous contact with mother climate for a respectable sample. I’d recomend that the old Vt saying ” Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 mins and it’ll change”..
    Folks like to talk about similarities, patterns, cycles, but difference is every bit as persistant as repetition. I had hoped for a little “Global Warming” to lenghten out the growing season here in these rocky hills, but I’ve sadly given up. In the dry forest of the Central American Pacific coast the former cracked earth, parched trees, and dry quebradas of the 90’s have given way to much more temperate comortable days and much more lush vegatation in the dogs days of the March, April “Summer”, contrary to the dire, destruction of the environment arguments calling for “dryer and hotter” in unending succession.
    Instruments, databases and all manner of tools and education can produce a harvest of useful results from which we may postulate and pontificate, but let’s not get too uppity. I suppose the man who “invented the internet” should expect nothing less than devout belief in the doom he says we have supposedly set out for ourselves. Still……., I’d expect we’d be wise to remain agnostic and not follow the pipers just yet.

  6. Andrés says:

    Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov is featured (“The Sun Defines the Climate”) in my page “Climate Change (“Global Warming”?) – The cyclic nature of Earth’s climate”, at
    His main instrment, the SL-200 Solar Limbograph, is permanently mounted onboard the International Space Station.
    Thanks for mentioning him. In my page I feature many more like him.

  7. Tom Harley says:

    Excellent post. The last sentence of it, “We’re smarter than that. And you’re going have to do better, if you wish to win this debate.” may prove impossible for them whilst the latest science continues to show that Gore and co have it wrong.

  8. John V. says:

    Mr. Ambler previously replied,

    “You have made your point that a storm putting one inch of snow in Central Park in October for the first time is not indicative of a transition away from global warming. You have also stated that you’re “on no side of this debate.” We disagree about both of these subjects, and I will leave it at that.”

    Again, I would *love* to dive into the technical details here. But hand-waving and brushing me aside is not honest debate. Why bother publishing your views in public and inviting open commentary on them if you aren’t willing to have them contested? Are you so shaky about your understanding of climate science that you aren’t even willing to defend it against someone else?

    I suppose that if your strongest retort is that I’m on a different “side” than you (again, whatever *that* means, since you’re either interested in understanding climate or you’re not), then there is no discussion to be had here. That’s really a shame, because I think we could learn a lot from each other.

  9. Diana Kelly says:

    I am so pleased that I turned on my computer this morning – such interesting reading before I head outside to put away snow-covered lawn furniture ! I commend Mr McQueen on his comments – too often ‘we slaughter the English grammar. On a daily basis, we see and hear many examples of the written and spoken word – possibly this all stems back to the present education system ??????
    When I read these comments, I always think how enjoyable it would be to hear Mr McQueen in a live debate with some of these other ‘so-called weather ‘truth seekers and /or ‘alarmists in regard to weather changes.

  10. CTJen says:

    On NPR the other day, they were talking with a climate scientist who, with one breath said that Global Warming would cause the Earth to be warmer and drier, and then with another said Global Warming would cause the Earth to be warmer and wetter. If your claims are so vague that everything proves them and nothing disproves them, you’re not doing science. You’re doing something else.

  11. weathertree4u says:

    keep up the good work, love the article!

  12. Martinitony says:

    Yes they can have it both ways. Those of you who remember the Soviet Union and the United Nations of the 60s and 70s know that ideologues will always have it both ways. Up can be down and true can be false.
    Climate scientists have become useful tools and idiots for those who want more than to control the environment. They want to control every action of mankind. And that, people, is what global warming is really about.

  13. alnet says:

    Regular, clearly delineated summers, falls, winters and springs are not consistent with any Global Warming models. Where the hell have the regular seasons gone (the type of weather we used to have in the US and around the world in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s)? Where the hell have normal rainfall totals gone? It’s abundantly clear to any rational creature (especially those who have lived over 40, 50 years on this planet) that there has been an increase in extreme weather events (droughts, hurricanes -some in areas they were previously unheard of, like south america), a general mix-up of seasons and the general trend towards warmer weather (on average), over the last 2-3 decades. Texas had 90+ continuous days of 100 degree plus days this summer. More than any other year in history. Ohio had the most rain this year than in any other. Summer snow (and droughts) in Australia:


    • Harold Ambler says:

      I have been on this Earth 46 years, and I have not seen an increase in extreme weather events, and I have not seen the dissolution of beautifully framed seasons that you think you remember. I have, however, seen an increase in the presentation of extreme weather events in the media.

      This was not the hottest summer in history in Texas. I know it was hot, because I lived through it, working outdoors, performing heavy manual labor, and it was brutal. But it was not the hottest ever. There is a reason that cactus grows in Central Texas, by the way. And if you think the drought that is taking place now is extraordinary, think again. Megadroughts have dogged the southwest since before Europeans came there, rest assured. Our modern period of record is pitifully short, by the way. So, the entire concept of “warmest ever,” “wettest ever,” and so forth is based on a form of narcissism among those who are living today — that our being alive to witness something gives it special meaning. It does not. Every spot on this planet has seen its share of extreme weather — and climate — events. Get over it.

  14. John,

    You may be aware of a UK journo/scaremonger called George Monbiot. In 2005, he was writing that winters in the UK would very soon be snowless. Oh dear. Suddenly, we have been having snowy winters. In 2010, Monbiot wrote that these were down to global warming. Poor George is so stupid that he doesn’t realise he made himself a laughing stock.

    Oddly, he hasn’t written an AGW evangelising article in some months now. I think he’s trying to pretend he was never a believer.

Comments are closed.