If the planet is warming, why is a third of America locked in a deep freeze, with record-low temperatures as far south as the Mexican border, where the thermometer in Ciudad Juarez plummeted Wednesday night to a bone-chilling 9-below zero?
Self-proclaimed planetary climate czar Al Gore thinks he has answer.
"As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now, and they say increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming," Gore write in a blog post. The Nobel Prize-winning former vice president was responding to a question posed by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who wondered on air why global warming was such an urgent science policy priority when the New York City area had become a “tundra” this winter.
Gore also indicated that he believes a rise in global temperatures is creating “all sorts of havoc,” from hotter dry spells to colder winters and ever more violent storms. This is even endangering certain species of animals and leading to forest fires and floods.
But not surprisingly, some climate-change skeptics are a bit hot under the collar over Gore’s “scientific” explanation.
“Gore’s statement actually indicates a deeper problem -- lack of precise predictions,” said Dr. William M. Briggs, a statistician and climate scientist. His research shows that there are no increased weather problems because of global warming, Briggs told FoxNews.com.
“He’s saying that anything bad that happens must be because global warming caused it. Activists like Gore are great at identifying events after the fact as being caused by global warming, but terrible at predicting them beforehand,” Briggs said.
Meteorologist Art Horn agreed, noting the extensive history of devastating weather over the millennia -- none of which he connects with global warming.
“If one actually studies the history of weather over the last 2,000 years, you see massive storms, amazing heat, brutal cold waves, devastating droughts, terrible floods and disastrous hurricanes -- none caused by global warming,” he told FoxNews.com.
“Gore has no appreciation for large natural variability in weather,” Horn said.
Other scientists were quick to leap to Gore's support, arguing that the extreme cold weather is a logical, expected outcome for our warming planet.
“It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming,” meteorologist Jeffrey Masters told FoxNews.com. “There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming with plenty of opportunities for snow.”
The contretemps over global warming and winter weather -- and the bickering among scientists about man's effect on the climate -- has had a profound impact on public opinion around the globe.
A January poll by Rasmussen Reports indicates that Americans are still more inclined to believe global warming is primarily caused by long-term planetary trends, although the gap narrowed a bit this month. But Americans don't blame global warming for this winter’s weather.
Skepticism is very clearly increasing overseas; a poll released this week by the Office for National Statistics in the U.K. indicated that the number of climate skeptics there had nearly doubled during the last four years. The proportion of people who said they were “not very concerned” about global warming now numbers more than one in five, the U.K. government said.
But many still argue that global warming is real, and the ultimate cause of the wretched weather. One environmental consultant pointed FoxNews.com to an article that detailed a polar bear's nine-day swim to find an ice raft for refuge -- due to global warming’s impact on the environment of Alaska.
Others take a less anecdotal approach, and say that pure science supports Gore's global-warming argument.
“It’s basic atmospheric physics,” said Meg Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Ceres, a national network of investors and environmental organizations. “Warmer air holds more moisture. This fact is apparent when you see water vapor hanging in the air after turning off a hot shower. When warm air holding moisture meets cooler air, the moisture condenses into tiny droplets that will fall as precipitation, rain or snow, depending upon atmospheric conditions.”
Warm air meets cold air seems simple enough. So why can't scientists agree?
If it all seems confusing and contradictory, other experts say, the real blame lies not with the climate, or with science, or even scientists or former politicians, but with the incompetent media for failing to provide critical context for readers.
“The last 2,000 years is full of incredible weather events that dwarf what we see today,” said Horn. “Nature isn't cooperating with the global warming camp and theory.”
He points to a New York Times story from the 1970s, which said the planet was getting so cold that humanity was in danger of starving to death. The article argued that the world’s weather would soon be so frigid that it could no longer permit the cultivation of crops for food. The Times’ headline on August 8, 1974, was simple enough: “Climate changes Endanger World’s Food Output.”
“First we were told the world was cooling. Then it was getting hotter,” Dan Gainor, a spokesman for the Media Research Center, tells FoxNews.com. “Then cooling again. Then hotter. Now it’s just climate change -- so they can’t be wrong no matter what change occurs.”