The Arctic is melting. But is it really the result of global warming? And if global warming is happening, how do we know humans have had anything to do with it? How can we be sure?
Here are ten of the questions most frequently posed by people who are skeptical about whether or not global warming is happening. Some of the answers may surprise you.
Myth #1: It’s cold outside, so that means global warming isn’t happening.
Fact: Individual weather events bear little relation to global warming.The temperature outside – or the weather in general – at any given moment has nothing to do with whether or not global warming is happening. Global warming is determined not by individual weather events, such as heat waves or cold snaps or hurricanes, but by the global mean surface temperature – an average of the temperatures recorded throughout the world over a long period of time. North America experienced a fairly normal winter in 2006-2007, and some parts had extremely cold weather this year – in fact, another Minnesota-based polar expedition, the Bancroft/Arneson Expedition, was cut short partly because of unexpectedly cold weather in Alaska. It is also important to place this in the context of an Arctic winter – even if the overall temperature is climbing, it’s still an Arctic winter, and there will still be cold snaps and blizzards.
Just as individual weather events do not “prove” or “disprove” global warming, neither do individual seasons. It is important to stress the fact that global warming is something that is measured by temperature patterns rather than separate events. It is true that the 2006-07 winter was, globally, the warmest winter on the temperature record. But of far greater significance is the fact that the ten warmest years ever recorded on the temperature record were the years 1997-2007.