Arguments from Personal Incredulity are Worthless in Science – Part 1: Global Warming

Argument from Personal Incredulity in regards to Global Warming

Example of personal incredulity to be discussed

Link provided in the post.

What it was in response to.

“I challenge the believers of this doctrine… to explain why glaciers in Europe have grown in the last decade, contrary to the claims of climatologists.”

Challenge accepted. I won’t address it right now, instead, I’ll look at the references provided in your link. Well, none were provided, so that was really quick. What about the cause of the observed increase in snow, and the growth of the glaciers, dealing with the later first.

Quotes in regards to the growth of glaciers in Europe

“In the Swiss resort of Saas Fee, high snowfall meant the glacier stopped shrinking at its top this summer.”

“This summer was a great improvement on recent years as the high levels of precipitation meant we had more snow than normal and it was cold so the level of retreat certainly slowed considerably,” he said.”

“It will, however, need much more snow and colder temperatures to halt the retreat low down.”

“Western Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, actually grew last summer as the glacier on its summit got thicker.

It now stands 2m taller at 4,810m (15781ft). The volume of ice has doubled since 2005 to reach 24,100 cubic metres.”

So, what do we know from the quotes?

  • A glacier quit shrinking
  • There were high levels of precipitation
  • More snow than normal
  • The increased snowfall reduced the level of retreat
  • More snow and colder conditions will be required to halt the retreat of glaciers at lower elevations
  • Mont Blanc grew due to the glacier on its summit becoming thicker, and doubled between 2005 and the time the link that the quotes came from were last updated (November 19, 2007)
Since looking at why it is that the glaciers have done something unexpected has lead us to look at why there is more snowfall, the question should be asked: what caused the increased snowfall?
Well, since not everybody is unfortunate enough to live in an area where there is a lot of snow, let me help you out. I live in an area where there is a lot of snow, and fairly detailed records. So, when do we get the most snow? I looked around through some of the records (such as this one) and noted one thing:
when the daily low temperature increased, the snowfall increased, and that temperature went down for a short while afterwards.
Which lead me to suspect that temperature and precipitation (specifically, snowfall) has a relation of some sort. So I decided to look around for anything to confirm or disprove my observation. Well, what did I find?
  1. The decrease in temperature following snowfall is fairly well documented.
  2. An explanation for what causes snow
  3. The frequency of Intense snowfall events (ISEs) are, and have been suspected to be influenced by the warming of the Northern Hemisphere, where Europe is located.
Yet, while its all fine and good, what is it that causes the increased snowfall and rainfall? After all, when it comes to the Alps, or areas such as Winnipeg, we’re dealing with frigid winters which are below the freezing point, which a quick glance would indicate that water vapor shouldn’t get into the air through evaporation. So, where is the snow coming from? I’d recommend reading 2. to understand where snow comes from.
So now, what do we know?
  • The general conditions responsible for snow
  • The cause of the increased growth of the glaciers (increased snowfall)
  • That increased average temperatures and increased snowfall is not contradictory as long as the conditions that are ideal for the formation of snow are met
What would be beneficial to know?
  • What are the conditions of the other glaciers in the area (Alps)?
I’ll get to that later.
What about criticism of the statements made by Hanguraama? Well, I’d rather not get that in depth about them yet. There are a few more posts that I plan on doing in the Arguments from Personal Incredulity are Worthless in Science series, one or two more of which would be based on other statements by Hanguraama, so instead, I’ll address his source and interpretation of that source.
“Explain why glaciers in Europe have grown?”
I hope I’ve explained and provided references meant to elaborate on details to a somewhat satisfactory standard to help people understand why glaciers in Europe have grown, but if he decided not to read his own source, there is one point that can be used against him.
“It will, however, need much more snow and colder temperatures to halt the retreat low down.”
Which doesn’t indicate that all glaciers within Europe are growing. In fact, both of the examples provided within the source provided indicate that its only the glaciers higher up that are growing. As an example of that, consider this excerpt from a news report entitled Global Warming makes Mont Blanc Grow

“Mr Giezendanner said such “growth” in mountains was specific to higher Alpine peaks.

“Glaciers at high altitude seem to be growing, while those situated at mid or low altitude are melting, shrinking and threatened with extinction,” he said.”

So attempting to use one example, which isn’t representative of the whole (as the excerpt points out), to prove your point, from a source which can be used against you, just makes your argument from ignorance even more entertaining.
The entire question, summed up as “Why is it that something contrary to what is expected occurred?” also ignores that global warming refers to the increase in average global temperature, so that regions in which the temperatures become colder doesn’t disprove global warming, as long as the average temperature is increasing. This misunderstanding appears to have been at the basis of most scientists, specifically meteorologists and climatologists, opting to use climate change when discussing the subject with the general, layman, public. So addressing his argument from ignorance might contribute to fewer people making that mistake.
This section is directed at Hanguraama.
“contrary to the claims of climatologists”
Well, if you think that, then I’d like you to find one paper
  1. written by a credible climatologist 
  2. written within the last twenty years
  3. has most of the relevant data available currently
  4. and states that increased snowfall is not a possible result of warming

After all, you claimed to be “well learned in the sciences” so it shouldn’t be impossible for you to provide a paper which meets those qualifiers.

By all means, don’t take my word for it. Ask meteorologists, climatologists, or other qualified professionals who study the relevant subjects. Should anybody provide references to somebody such as Moncton, I refer you to the playlist in the further viewing and reading section.
Further Viewing and Reading search “Increased snowfall with global warming” (also recommend looking up “Intense Snowfall Events with Global Warming”)
Climate Change playlist by Potholer54 (deals with a lot of the misconceptions about global warming, and highly recommend that you watch)

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