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July-August 2010

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From the Editor

Scientists regularly produce new evidence telling us that anthropogenic climate change is having an increasingly negative effect on the weather and the earth's ecosystems. But just how much of this change can we see on the ground? Each new storm system or drought seems to provide fodder for the arguments in support of global warming, and it's hard not to get caught up in that train of thought. For example, an unusual spate of 90-degree days in the first week of April here in Washington, D.C., caused murmurs about climate change and global warming. Meanwhile, folks in Monterey, California, swear that global warming is making for fewer overcast days in an area known for their dense fog.

But there has also been a vocal group of scientists and others who say that global cooling, not global warming, is the more pressing issue. And when you look around, it is easy to come up with on-the-ground evidence for that as well. For example, on a recent trip to Carmel Valley, California, I experienced temperatures far below normal for late April, and there were reports of snow in the area, unusual in a region that only rarely sees temperatures below freezing.

So who can we believe? In “Global Cooling: Science and Myth,” Jason M. Vogel and Brian Lazar look at the history of the climate change debate and examine some of the points global warming skeptics make to argue that the earth is cooling, not warming. Their insightful article provides an excellent background for anyone trying to understand where the climate debate stands.

Meanwhile, for history buffs, this issue features two articles that take a close look at the beginnings of two different aspects of modern meteorology. “Weather Warnings: History in Action” examines how today's modern system of extreme weather warnings came into being, including the earliest tornado forecast. Today, tornado warnings save hundreds of lives each year. The second piece, an excerpt from Bob Henson's latest book, Weather on the Air, takes readers back to the inception of modern TV weather graphics, tracing its progress from hand-drawn symbols to today's high-tech, 3-D displays.

Finally, now that we have a couple of months of warm weather under our belts here, we take a look back at the extreme weather that characterized the 2009–2010 mid-Atlantic winter. What caused the back-to-back snowstorms that pummeled the East Coast megalopolis? Why did each storm result in so much snow accumulation? How did the region cope? Could this happen again? These questions and more are answered in “The Mid-Atlantic's Blockbuster Winter of 2009–2010: Mega-Snow in the Megalopolis.”

I hope you enjoy this issue of Weatherwise and enjoy learning about some of the early phases of modern meteorology as much as I did.

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