Two posts ago I ended with the rhetorical question: “How long would it take before someone uses this thunderstorm to connect it with extreme weather/global warming/climate disruption?”. In the mainstream media that I normally follow there was none that seemed to try this. Not a peep. I was surprised. Just a couple years ago the media brought two full pages after two storms (see previous post).
Now we had a cold winter, followed by a cold spring, then a heatwave, after this half a dozen thunderstorms (from which two large ones) and finally the hottest day of the century with temperatures over 35 °C. One would expect cries that this is evidence of global warming, climate change or at least climate disruption. Where I usually look I found nothing. Rien du tout. Nada. Zip. Noppes.
At first I found this hard to explain. Well, time to throw in some wild theory: fear sells, but one can not sell fear of something that people are enjoying.
This is how I think it works. After a warm, dry and sunny spring, the summer of 2011 was extremely wet and dark (low number of sunshine days). People didn’t liked it much. They were fed up by that kind of summers. Then came two big thunderstorms and climatologists jostled each other to declare this the new normal. If this doesn’t get the message across: people didn’t like that summer, they didn’t like the thunderstorms and feared for the future if this was the climate that we will get.
Fast forward to today. This year we endured a cold winter and a cold spring. People were longing for the sun, for “better” weather. When it started to warm people were relieved, they enjoyed this weather. Even when there was a “heatwave”. The word that initially had a bad taste, now seemed to be a good thing. Fear tactics would not work here. If you would ask, many people would sign for such summers.
People were relieved when the storm came and began cooling down a bit after the warm weather. Plus, these storms were mostly when people were not really outside. The first one (small) one was at night, when not many were aware of it. The second (large) one was on a Saturday morning when people tend to sleep a bit longer. The storm was intense, but done in a jiffy and the rest of the day it was somewhat cooler, but really nice weather. The third (also large) thunderstorm was Sunday late in the evening. Also here, people enjoyed the cooling effect of it. Scare tactics wouldn’t work here.
I can imagine that when those hot days continues, people eventually get fed of it and then stories linking those to global warming could seep in again.
Then I looked a bit closer and in the end I found after all some stories mentioning global warming/greenhouse gases and this warmer weather. But it was not what I expected. Some things got my attention (links go to sites in Dutch).
I didn’t find any mention of global warming on the hottest days in the heatwave. I did find a lot of prevention methods for the sun: drink a lot, don’t stay in the sun for a long time, take care of the elderly and the young,… That’s fair. Although the sun is nice, it can kill the weak, we saw that in the heatwave of 2003 in France.
There seemed to be a disconnect between reporting of meteorologists and climatologists.
- Meteorologists: told the warming was due to the movement of the jet stream and explicitly said that the heatwave (and subsequently storms) had nothing to do with global warming or the greenhouse effect. It mentioned global warming (of course), but just in passing and rather balanced. Another meteorologist.
- Climatologists: we will have more heatwaves (and subsequently storms) in the future.
I don’t know if this was a coincidence, but the reporting in the press of The Netherlands was realistic, even skeptic and in the Belgium press more alarmist. The only one direct attribution of global warming with the heatwave that I could find was deliciously vague (see previous link): “Our last heatwave was three year ago. And because of global warming we will have more of them in the next years, say the climatologists”.
Another story of global warming report it elsewhere (in Alaska, Greenland, Siberia), not here at home.
And the public. Well, most of them seemed to enjoy it. Heck, a radio station even threw a “heatwave”-party! Who knows, maybe people were dreaming of the day when global warming would give us a Mediterranean style climate, that we were told just a couple years ago.