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04 February 2011

Why Argument from Authority is Invalid

On February 2nd, renowned physicist Michio Kaku (I have several of his books) appeared on the CBS morning show to discuss the relationship of the recent snowstorms to Global Warming.

Dr. Kaku's argument (basically) was that warmer air caused greater evaporation in the Gulf of Mexico, which increased the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere--thus leading to greater snowfalls. However, water has a very interesting property: it is an incredible heat sink. The ability of water to absorb heat energy is why it the coolant used not only by your own body, but by nuclear reactors; and why you will die of hypothermia much faster in cold water than in air of the same temperature.

It takes a significant amount of thermal energy to cause one molecule of water to break loose of surrounding molecules--to "evaporate" from liquid to gas. This heat must be given up to return to a liquid state, and even more energy must be lost to become a solid--the ice crystals we call snow.

So, if water is evaporating from the Gulf of Mexico and traveling here to become precipitation, it has to give up all of that energy to go from water vapor to snow. The new snow-heavy winters in Missouri should be significantly milder (with the introduction of all this thermal energy handily carried in from down south), than the long history of previous, nearly snow-less winters. Sorry, but I can easily remember winters in Missouri where the temperature rarely dipped below freezing, let alone -18 degrees F.

Furthermore, these sorts of heavy snows are not historically unknown; they are simply associated with a period of history which gets ignored by the Global Warming Crowd. The Pilgrims, who immigrated to North America during the end of the Little Ice Age over two hundred years ago, would easily recognize snowstorms like what we are currently experiencing. Washington's troops experienced frostbite and hypothermia fighting in the Maunder Minimum with snowfalls much more similar to what we are experiencing today, yet conditions in the Gulf were certainly not as warm as they are today--so the increased snowfall couldn't have been blamed on increased Pacific evaporation.

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