I was recently reminded of one of the most common misconceptions about our changing climate that is often accepted as fact by climate skeptics and true believers alike. Last week a commentary written by a fellow geologist and colleague lamented the less snow and cold in recent winters compared to the winters of his youth in Kentucky in the 1950s and 60s. He also related a talk he had with an octogenarian in Europe over the holidays who told him that he also recalled common snow during Christmas in Germany but alas, no longer.
This nearly universally held belief that even the most skeptical of us tend to believe is “warming by recollection.” Virtually every person from snowy climes claims that winters today are nothing like they were when they were a child. This recollection reinforces the thought that we are experiencing global warming within our own lifetime. Never mind that the slight warming of ~0.6 oF (0.3 oC) that a typical 45-year-old may have experienced since that big snowfall when he was five years old is much too slight to be recognizable by anyone.