Snow, Global Warming and the Ethical Consumer

So this is another post about how being an ethical consumer is linked to the bigger world outside personal comfort zones. Everybody has been noticing that summers have been getting hotter and winters have been getting harsher the last couple of years. Across Europe and UK the heavy snowfall may make everything look like a gorgeous Christmas post-card but awry weather is the signal that something is severely amiss. So if everything is cold, why is it called 'global warming' you might ask?

The weather in north-west Europe is governed by many factors which means that cold winters and global warming, are perfectly possible in spite of the contradiction that they pose. These unusually harsh winters usually are the result of heating somewhere else, most likely in areas of the world that are already hot. The UK's weather is dominated by the jet stream, a strong wind that blows from west to east that brings a damp, mild weather off the Atlantic. In winter, the ocean is warmer than the land but when the jet-stream is blocked by high pressure as it is now, it dips southwards and lets chilled air in from the north. So when the mild and damp  Atlantic weather systems hits the block of cold air, snow falls.

Elsewhere during the summer, the awry weather patterns are playing havoc with the monsoons of India for example and causing floods during harvest times. Summers have become perceptibly warmer and rains have not only decreased but they arrive 'not on schedule'.

All of this is imperceptibly connected with global weather phenomena and something we take for granted - the Arctic ice. Because sea ice in the Arctic is white, it bounces heat back from the sun. It also creates a barrier between the water and atmosphere, reducing the amount of heat that escapes from the sea into the air. In 2009 and 2010, the coverage of sea ice was much lower than the average. The open sea being darker, absorbed more heat from the sun during the warmer months. Because it bled more heat into the Arctic atmosphere, this increased air pressure that resulted in severe winters.

A global warming trend does not mean that every region becomes warmer every month. Climate change deniers should take note of this: just because it is snowing in Britain and elsewhere doesn't mean that the planet is not warming. According to NASA's datasets, the world has experience the warmest January to November period since 131 years ago. 2010 is recorded as being the hottest year since global recording began.

All this means something much more than a possible White Christmas. It means daffodils in January and the increasing proof that global warming is affecting everybody through vastly perceptible 'climate weirding'.

Photo Credit: Michael Dalton © Reproduced with permission.