Those promoting rejection of the widely accepted “consensus” among climate scientists must feel like the year-end gift-giving season — or at least the arrival of their own presents — came a bit late.

imageThroughout January 2014, many died-in-the-wool climate doubters have had a field day claiming, without scientific merit, that the temporary freeze spread across much of the U.S. is proof enough of flaws in decades and reams of peer-reviewed journal research.

But as if that weren’t enough, they then wallowed in the satisfaction they found in the widely televised isolation of Russia’s Antarctic research vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy, held captive by 10-foot-thick ice during a climate change research mission. Irony of ironies.


Just as some partisans seek to gain ground from unusual heat spikes or other short-term weather anomalies not necessarily firmly rooted in climate, so too do those on the “other side” seek solace in blustery cold temperatures and the attendant widespread publicity.

So it is with special joy that those same forces felt obliged either to celebrate or to heavily caveat the significance, if any, of the January snows and cold spells bludgeoning much of America’s mid-Atlantic and New England coastal population centers.

Way cold, and scores of record-breaking frigid temperatures during much of January must disprove, one argument holds, the considerably (and geographically far broader) observations documenting increasing global temperatures. What, after all, is a bounty of scientific evidence on shrinking sea and land ice, compared with a research vessel frozen solidly in its proverbial tracks? Let alone a few really blustery days in the heart of winter and, conveniently for PR purposes, in the most media-centric and heavily populated regions of the U.S.?

Who could ask for more?

The headlines and the talking points gushing forward from scores of non-certified science — or is it anti-science? — prognosticators and pundits showed they could hardly contain themselves. The bone-chilling one-day lows in places like Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Chicago, and St. Louis belie the years and decades of peer-reviewed and fully vetted scientific findings in places like Science, Nature, Geophysical Research Letters, and PNAS< (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science), we’re urged to believe.

What’s the power of carefully qualified and vetted evidence-based and peer-reviewed research papers when stacked-up against weighty (make that bloated) huff-and-puff sturm und drang invective spilled out over AM talk show airwaves or blogosphere?

One has to wonder.

There’s no doubt that the virtually back-to-back timing of the ice-bound Antarctic research vessel and the numbing cold spells stoked the fires of those looking for more ways to defuse the warming-climate meme. Forget about the scorching temperatures for days hampering the Australian Open tennis or the wild fires getting an especially early, and scary, start in California. These, and more, were mere irrelevancies for those bent on seeing a climate signature in what clearly were weather anomalies of the season.

But here again one wonders.

Were they really such great gifts, however late, that those January events provided?

Or was it more like, again irony, just like big lumps of coal in the stocking — finite and unsustainable?

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...