Campbell: Global warming? And snow? Yes, it's possible

With cold air blustering through Geneseo and many students despairingly wondering if the weather will ever get warm again, the atmosphere has suddenly taken on a whole new relevance.

Geneseo students, however, should count themselves lucky to escape the severe blizzards that shut down cities on the East Coast last week. By Feb. 6, Philadelphia had received 28.5 inches of snow. Baltimore got over 30 inches of snow. Some areas of Washington, D.C. were buried by 36 inches of snow.

Another blizzard hit the same areas three days later.

While Geneseo was lucky to get just a few inches of snow on the ground, politicians looking outside their windows in Washington made some comments that started some controversy.

"It's going to keep snowing in DC [sic] until Al Gore cries 'uncle,'" Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said on his Twitter feed.

Taken at face value, this was probably just a joke. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma joined in poking fun at Gore by taking his family to build an igloo on Capitol Hill. Signs reading "Al Gore's New Home" and "Honk if you love Global Warming" were attached.

It is fairly clear that Republican lawmakers understand that this is just jest in the name of politics. In an ironic twist of fate, the blizzard stalled legislation on cap-and-trade agreements concerning global warming, prompting some of these comments.

Right-wing media personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, however, have latched onto these comments and shown a staggering lack of comprehension about the issue. In light of these snowstorms, some have used this extreme instance of cold weather as proof that global warming is a myth. While recognizing the futility of attempting to engage in meaningful dialogue with cable-news pundits, some of their comments are worthy of mention, for the purpose of instruction against some incredibly illogical thinking.

"It's just another nail in the coffin for the whole global warming thing," Limbaugh said, after spending time analyzing why climate change has nothing to do with these blizzards. He attributed the blizzards to the effects of El Niño - though this does not necessarily disprove global warming.

"It's the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore's hysterical global warming theories," Hannity said on a Feb. 8 broadcast of his show.

Never mind, of course, that NASA scientists listed 2009 as the second-warmest year on record, and that the past decade has been the warmest.

In fact, meteorologist Jeff Masters - founder of the Weather Underground, a weather service that provides weather information on the Internet - argues that global warming theory indicates precipitation increases. "This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air," Masters said.

Global warming was likely not responsible for these blizzards, but to observe specific weather phenomena, like these blizzards - without realizing that weather and climate are different concepts - and to conclude that this must be the overall trend for the planet is simply ignorant.

Do not be misinformed. If Geneseo seems cold now, you can probably look forward to an unusually hot summer.