You have to hand it to the global warming crowd. A little cold and snow doesn't scare them one bit.

Here in Northwest Montana we recently received good news when it was announced that our local ski resorts are having record years for snowfall. The Whitefish Mountain Resort, for instance, had gotten 424 inches of snow at the summit as of April 4, a hefty improvement over the previous record of 406 inches, which was set in the 1996-97 season.

That's not proof that there is no global warming under way, of course. But considering that snow records have been kept at Whitefish for well over 50 years, it's at least a pretty good indication that there's no need to panic about "local warming" just yet. In fact, it's entirely possible that the generally warming temperatures of the past 20 years are part of a cyclical change that is not man-caused at all. Everyone knows that the alpine glaciers in Glacier National Park are diminishing, but no one can prove that the melting ice isn't part of the same trend that pushed the planet out of the last ice age 12,000 years ago.

Most of the "evidence" for global warming, in fact, is based on computer modeling, where scientists try to predict or explain weather phenomena by entering known data into a computer program and then analyzing the results. The analysis is generally (but not always) scientific and reputable and makes sense, but the problem is that "known data" about climate is infinitesimally small compared to the billions-year-old dynamic systems known as Earth and the Solar System. That leaves room for error, even if hard-core global-warming proponents such as Al Gore say there is no room for doubt.

Similar scientific "certainties" based on known data have littered the dust bins of history since man first started trying to understand the world around him. Among them were the "certainty" that decaying meat spontaneously generates maggots and flies, and the "certainty" that the sun revolves around the earth. I suppose that as a matter of faith some trusting souls may believe modern science is incapable of such errors, but that is a risky proposition indeed when you consider that modern science is an invention of the somewhat error-prone modern man.

Other people, such as myself, believe that all data and analysis is welcome in our attempts to understand our planet, our universe and ourselves. As long as people don't become married to their theories and reject any new suitors from the realms of common sense, logic and observation, there is always the chance to refine and improve theories so that they more and more closely resemble the truth.

Thus, once again, I record some news in this column which might at least be part of what people consider before they accept "global warming" as a fait accompli. That news ranges from the amusing to the tragic.

In the amusing category, consider that International Falls, Minn., the city which just won a federal trademark as "The Icebox of the Nation," set a record low temperature of 40 degrees below zero on Feb. 11 of this year. The previous record low in International Falls was minus 37. Not conclusive certainly that warming is not a huge danger, but intriguing nonetheless. (Unless you have your mind made up that everything is getting warmer. Then any evidence to the contrary can be neatly labeled as an anomaly and ignored.)

Regarding tragedy, we can look to South Asia, which suffered its lowest temperatures in 70 years this winter. More than 1,500 deaths were reported in Afghanistan alone, and many more occurred in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and other Asian countries.

Everyone remembers the pictures out of China in February when millions of travelers were stranded as they tried to make their way home for the Chinese New Year festival. More than 100 died, although it is hard to pin the Chinese government down on these numbers.

One thing that is clear is that, according to Reuters, the Chinese Meteorological Administration announced that "the weather was the coldest in 100 years in central Hubei and Hunan provinces." And ultimately, according to a story in the Sunday Telegraph of London, the cold weather and accompanying snow resulted in "the northern hemisphere's greatest snow cover since 1966." It was also the coolest winter globally since 2001, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

But, of course, this kind of data doesn't deter proponents of manmade global warming - who appear to be more interested in using people's fears of catastrophe to accomplish sweeping and costly social reforms than in pursuing a calm and rational discussion of the science involved. Besides, it's not global warming, we are now told - rather, it's climate change. All varieties welcome.

Nor does the evidence amassed by global warming proponents necessarily reach any higher standard of significance than the anecdotal evidence I have presented here, at least in many cases. A famous example was found last year when a picture of two forlorn polar bears stranded on a melting iceberg was shipped round the world to "demonstrate" the plight of the animal world as a result of mankind's heedless industrialization. It certainly touched the heartstrings, didn't it?

But as we now know, thanks to a Canadian journalist (NewsWith the picture of the polar bears was taken in 2004 by a marine biologist named Amanda Byrd, who said the polar bears were not in any danger and that bears typically swim to icebergs and back to the mainland on a regular basis. No news. No tragedy. Just another example of climate extremists trying to create a sense of terror in the general populace. (No better example of this could be found than Ted Turner's goofy comments last week that within 30 to 40 years, "Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals" as a result of global warming.)

As for polar bears, they are a strange choice to make the case for the harmful effects of global warming. After all, the polar bear population has been increasing in recent decades. But that didn't stop the federal government from commissioning two studies to justify its plan to add the polar bears to the threatened or endangered species list, and conveniently those studies predicted a sharp downturn in polar bear numbers in the future.

This year, however, three scientists did an audit of the government-sponsored forecasts and concluded that "the government forecasters followed fewer than one-sixth of the relevant principles of scientific forecasting." Their new study will be published in the management science journal Interfaces and has been "peer reviewed." That should be reassuring to Al Gore, and maybe will convince him to stop using the polar bear picture in his traveling slide show and circus of disaster.

It's also time to update the statistics on arctic ice loss. Last fall we were being told that arctic ice was itself on the endangered list, and that the ice had shrunk from 13 million square kilometers to just 3 million. All true, and very scary to the uninformed, but oddly enough by the end of winter this year, the ice cover had actually rebounded and then some to past 13 million.

What does it mean? It's called a seasonal cycle, and it happens every year. Just look at the ice chart and you will see it for yourself. And the ice in Antarctica has actually expanded in recent years to the point where it has been setting records for the most ice ever seen. (This little detail somehow went unreported in most stories last month about part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf breaking off from the Antarctic mainland, as did the fact that the Wilkins Shelf sticks out into the warmer South Atlantic and is above a region noted for volcanic activity. Read more by doing a search for "Wilkins" at

Bottom line is we don't know as much as some people claim about the weather.

To prove the point, consider that Khabibullo Abdusamatov, the supervisor of the Russian section of the International Space Station and a researcher at the laboratory of solar physics at Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, is predicting that mankind's next serious threat will not be global warming but a "little ice age" similar to the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) when sunspots were exceedingly rare and the weather was exceedingly cold.

Abdusamatov claims that the "solar radiation hitting the earth has been constantly decreasing since the 1990s and will reach its minimum approximately in 2041. Hmmm. Who knows? I'm certainly not predicting the day after tomorrow will be unseasonably cold, but you just might want to put a stop loss order on those carbon credits you bought last year. Turns out that global warming is not such a hot pick after all.

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake and writes a weekly column. E-mail responses may be sent to