Saturday morning was annual spotter training for National Weather Service Skywarn
; they recommend refreshing one's training every two or three years, but I like to go every year anyway, and it's a program I recommend getting involved in because everyone has some sort of severe weather wherever they are, and because it's a great way to volunteer in your community.
I took the opportunity to talk to the meteorologist who came up from our local center after the session was over, noting that our severe weather season used to be limited to April to July, and now we have tornado watches and warnings as early as February and as late as November -- the killer F4 that hit Van Wert in 2002 was a November storm, for example, and as recently as thirty years ago, a storm that late in the year was unthinkable except in the wildest flights of meterological fancy. Now it's the new normal.
And I asked, quite simply, if this could be the result of global climate change*
His answer was rather more hesitant than one might expect for a simple scientific query, not just the "well, there are multiple factors". It was more like he was trying to avoid stomping on someone's opinion, not confirm or deny a fairly straightforward question -- or that this was a fight he was tired of having with people who only wanted to hear something that supported their preconceived notions.
As we talked further and it became obvious that I wasn't pursuing a political motive, he sounded more like a scientist discussing a subject of current research rather than a scientist trying to avoid a pointless confrontation.
But this is what we've come to: because of unnecessary controversy, because of a media which thinks it has to provide a counterpoint to a news story even when no credible counterpoint exists, because of the politicization of science, there is a breakdown in communications between researchers and the wider public. Not because the science is hard to explain or understand, but because so much bullshit is blown around by people who have a non- (or even anti-) scientific agenda.
This, if nothing else, is a good reason to participate in the upcoming March for Science
on Earth Day.
* Calling it 'global warming' is sloppy. The trend is warmer over the longer term, but what's actually going on is a breakdown in the natural weather cycles leading to, yes, hotter summers but also colder winters. The number of times I have had to talk myself out of slapping someone who, during a cold snap, said something like "Well, so much for global warming" is a large, but still technically finite, integer.