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Weather and Climate

Posted February. 13, 2010 08:54,   


Record snowfall in the northeastern region of the U.S. has triggered a political dispute. Record snowfall of 140 centimeters has disrupted the federal government’s operations for four straight days and grinded life in Washington and New York to a halt. Republicans have begun criticizing the Obama administration, which has joined global efforts to tackle climate change. Republican Senator Jim DeMint said through Twitter that the record snowfall shows the global warming scare is false. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also said global warming is a scientific bluff.

Seoul also suffered from record snowfall and a cold wave early in January, but weather in the U.S. is more unpredictable. In Florida, which is known for warm weather throughout the year, oranges were frozen due to below zero temperatures. California, whose annual precipitation is 150 millimeters, saw heavy downpours. The lowest temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius in Atlanta fell lower than that of Anchorage, Alaska (minus 1.6 degrees Celsius) at one time. The target of Republican criticism is former Vice President Al Gore, who has taken the lead in the fight against climate change.

When Korea was hit by record snowfall, some said the world faces global cooling instead of global warming. Climate experts, however, say weather is different from climate. Weather is a temporary and climatic phenomena occurring due to changes in atmospheric activity. By contrast, climate is a broad-based and long-term phenomenon that can result in changes in latitude and even seasons. People often say, “The weather is cold,” but nobody says, “The climate is cold,” illustrating that people intuitively distinguish weather from climate. This is why the U.S. Democratic Party says the Republican Party’s failure to differentiate weather from climate is not the party’s business.

Whenever extreme weather occurs, doubts are raised over global warming largely due to environmental extremists. They have stoked public fear and a sense of guilt by pointing to rising temperatures and sea levels and urging the raising of taxes. Studies have found that fear marketing brings immediate results, but its effects dissipate with time. A photo of lungs damaged by cancer has little effect on getting people to quit smoking. Excessive fear leads people to give up on themselves. So hopeful messages are needed instead of horrifying warnings over climate change.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)