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Cold Weather Predicts Skepticism Towards Global Warming

Robert Kaufmann


Here’s something you’ve probably heard before, “If global warming is real, why is it so cold outside?”  

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, made a similar case against global warming last year when he threw a snowball across the senate floor.


Inhofe isn’t the only person for whom cold weather increases skepticism about climate science. According to new research, if the weather where you live is colder than normal, you’re more likely to be skeptical about the scientific consensus on climate change. Peter Howe, one of the study’s co-authors explained:   


“We’re looking at daily records at the local level. So, in your recent experience, if there have been more record hot days than record cold days, than from what our study says, you know, more people in that place are likely to believe that global warming is happening than in a place where there have been more low temperature records than high temperature records.”


Perhaps it’s hard to imagine a warming planet when it’s so cold outside your front door. But the juxtaposition is not at odds with what scientists tell us about our changing, global climate. While it may be colder in some places, there are many more places where it is warmer, as is the planet as a whole.


“This past year, 2016, it looks like it’s going to be the hottest year on record. 2015, before that,  was the hottest year on record. But because the climate system is variable, you know, we’re likely to see extremes both high and low at the local level. Even though it might be record cold in a place, on one particular day, if you put that into the long term trend that place is still likely to be warming,” said Howe.


The Study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is available behind a paywall here.