Because of the Earth's warming climate, this story warned, the lethal heat that scorched Europe in 2003, killing thousands, would by 2040 return every other summer. The United States, too, would suffer frequent hellish summers, presumably in punishment for our environmental sins of greenhouse pollution.
But are such heat waves, however extreme, really evidence of a fast-warming global climate as Gore and the mainstream media would have us believe? Even Post reporter Juliet Eilperin conceded that "it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to climate change."
"Virtually all climate experts agree that it is impossible to attribute any single weather event � a heat wave, drought or hurricane � to global warming," wrote the New York Times near the bottom of an Aug. 1 editorial, "given the myriad factors that influence weather."
"A heat wave is a heat wave," is the more blunt assessment of Jim St. John, a meteorological scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "We've always had them in the summer months, and they don't necessarily tell us anything about climate change."
Atmospheric scientists have good reasons to be skeptical about purported weather-climate connections. Weather involves short-term phenomena such as rainstorms, heat waves and dry spells that happen on time scales from minutes to at most a few years. Weather changes constantly and often goes to extremes of hot and cold, wet and dry.
Climate, by contrast, describes a place's average patterns of weather over 30 years or more � and therefore reflects the continuing influence of temperature, wind, precipitation and many other factors. A place's � or a planet's � climate cannot be redefined by a few days, or even a few years, of unusual weather.
Environmental radicals claimed that this summer's heat wave shattered all previous high-temperature records, and they implied that this heat came at least in part from human-caused global warming. Such claims are incorrect or unproven, according to Virginia Polytechnic Institute climatologist Patrick Michaels.
"From June 1 to Aug. 31, 1930," Michaels told Cybercast News Service, "21 days had high temperatures that were 100 degrees or above" in metropolitan Washington, D.C. Many heat records were set that year, especially from July 19 to Aug. 9. "That summer has never been approached," said Michaels, "and it's not going to be approached this year."
The blazing summer of 1930 began the longest American drought of the 20th century. "In 1934, dry regions stretched from New York and Pennsylvania across the Great Plains to California," wrote CNS reporter Randy Hall. "A �Dust Bowl' covered about 50 million acres in the south-central plains during the winter of 1935-36," and drove many thousands of busted Oklahoma and Arkansas farm families -- Okies and Arkies -- westward to California.
Then as now, a few scientists became media darlings by warning of an impending climatic disaster from global warming. A handful of those scientists identified carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels as a climate-warming greenhouse gas, but human cars and factories were too few to have caused the Dust Bowl.
But a sudden chill began around 1940, the start of nearly four decades of climatic cooling in the Northern Hemisphere. By the late 1970s the Mississippi River was clogging with winter ice. Water pipes five feet underground were freezing and bursting in Chicago. Buffalo, N.Y., was buried beneath record blizzard snowfall. Snow even fell briefly on the beaches of Miami, Florida. The same weekly news magazines that today tout Gore's extreme claims about global warming were only three decades ago warning of a fast-approaching new ice age.
The mainstream media trumpets hot spells as evidence of the global warming on its political agenda. Here's some of the opposite-but-equal unusual cold it scarcely reported:
In December 2005 devastating cold chilled the Rocky Mountain West. Last Dec. 7 at West Yellowstone, Mont., the temperature fell to 45 below zero, fully six degrees colder than the previous record set in 1927, according to the National Weather Service. In Fort Collins, Colo., the mercury plunged to 37 below zero, and even in Lubbock in the Texas panhandle it dipped to only six degrees above zero.
Across the Pacific Ocean, February 2006 temperatures along Russia's Siberian coastline plummeted to 69 degrees below zero, shattering all previous cold records by six degrees. Unusual cold and snow blasted other regions of the former Soviet Union, from Moscow to Georgia along the southern beaches of the Black Sea.
Winter snowfall has been breaking records in the United States and Eurasia since March 1993's "Storm of the Century" dumped snow up to four feet deep from New York to Alabama, as TechCentralStation reported June 2. On Feb. 17-18, 2003, Boston set a new all-time storm record with 27.5 inches of snow. On Feb. 17-18, 2006, a blizzard dumped 26.9 inches of snow on New York City's Central Park, a record unequalled since the blizzard of 1888.
The climate is now measurably cooling in Eastern Europe. Even Gore in his global warming book, An Inconvenient Truth, shouts that "temperature increases are taking place all over the world" (p. 78) but in the back of the book's fine print admits that "some parts of the globe � such as northern Europe � might actually become colder" (p. 321).
We now know that the 2003 European heat wave was caused by rare events in Earth's upper atmosphere, not by global warming. Recent record snowfall, as well as 2005's brief burst of hurricanes, has been driven by known cycles in such weather phenomena, not necessarily by global warming.
Bottom line: As research scientist Dr. Nigella Hillgarth of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography near San Diego says, "One heat wave does not make global warming."