Britain’s ice age cometh…not

The British media are having a field day with the weather at the moment, especially after that satellite image showing this small island blanketed in freezing white stuff and suffering apparently Antarctic (summer) temperatures last night.

Of course, with all the hacks trapped at home, they’ve little way of getting to press conferences and jollies to report on any “real” news, so it’s no surprise. Needless to say weather crews everywhere are being haranged about their failure to predict this doom-laden situation, their failure to explain how we can have global warming and yet be frozen solid, and how come the Gulf Stream isn’t keeping us warm.

Well, that Gulf Stream idea, is apparently a myth. Richard Seager of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University claimed several years ago to prove that Western Europe and Britain in particular would not be plunged into an ice age even if the Gulf Stream ground to a halt. But, that hasn’t stopped Boing Boing waxing lyrical about how the current #uksnow is all about how the Gulf Stream has taken a detour across Greenland and left the UK grasping for extra blankets and worrying about its gas supplies (if only we’d hung on to North Sea oil and gas, eh?).

The weather guy did show how the cold snap is more widespread across the Norther hemisphere than the Brits imagine and the Gulf Stream certainly has no immediate effect on China, so maybe Seager is right.

As to the idea that a widespread cold snap is evidence that the climate change debate is dead in the water after Copenhagen is tempered by the fact that temperatures elsewhere are, right now, higher than they ought to be for the time of year. And, despite claims that meteorologists are commonly climate skeptics, one does have to remind oneself that weather does not equal climate.

A need for extra blankets and gritters on the road in the British mid-winter does not mean that the ice age is coming and that we can forget about cutting carbon emissions. When the summer issues of the tabloids of screaming, “Phew….what a scorcher!!!” come the July heatwave, those currently chilly British hacks will no doubt be complaining about the lack of air conditioning.