Why Aren't We Warming Up to Global Warming?

Last Updated Jan 15, 2010 6:55 AM EST

With frigid weather overtaking the northern U.S., ice forming on Florida oranges and snowstorms as far south as New Orleans, insurers and even the media are ignoring "global warming." One recent cartoon showed a woman in front of her fireplace, burning Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to keep warm.

Europeans tend to take the long view: global warming is still around, it's just hiding. Hadley Center, part of Britain's Meteorological Office, tells the London-based Economist that 2010 may break the trend of cold years we have seen since 1998 and be the "hottest year ever."

But weather forecasters are like economists. They are paid to be wrong and often are, particularly when they hang themselves out to dry by making early predictions for next-year's hurricane season. Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project is run by Dr. William Gray, who for years drew environmentalists' ire by claiming there was no global warming.

So if Hadley Center is right, where has global warming been all these years and where was it during this cold and harsh January? Hiding in the Pacific Ocean, that's where.

Hadley says the huge Pacific Ocean swallows heat and then releases it in a phenomenon known as El Nino, Spanish for "the boy." During colder years the opposite occurs and La Nina "the girl" swallows the heat. This theory makes sense because, while we may be freezing on land, global oceans appear to be warming and ice caps melting.

So why is this important to insurers? As oceans heat up, they create the cauldrons that spawn typhoons and hurricanes. And, as most insurance experts predict, sooner or later we will see the first $100 billion disaster. That should make even the atheists believe.

  • Ed Leefeldt

    Ed Leefeldt is an award-winning investigative and business journalist who has worked for Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is also the author of The Woman Who Rode the Wind, a novel about early flight.