There have been enough oddities with unusually cold weather in recent years that pundits have started referring to the Gore Effect. The Gore Effect is an informal rule of weather prediction that says there'll be unseasonably cold weather whenever anyone schedules a conference to talk about Global Warming. This was first noted after Britain passed its first global-warming related legislation - there was an immediate unseasonal snowfall in London.
The recent Copenhagen conference was no exception: news reports spoke of delegates standing in line in the freezing cold to wait for admission to the gabfest, and when Obama went to return hom to Washington DC, the weather there was setting an all-time record for December snow accumulation by suffering through a two-foot pasting.
The cold snap didn't ended with the conference; the great and the good with their CO2-spewing private jets were able to leave promptly enough, but lesser beings who'd planned to Save the Planet and take the train fared not so well. The New York Times reports that the Eurostar train that runs through the fantastically-expensive tunnel between England and Europe has been shut down for an unknown period due to, of all things, unseasonably cold and snowy weather.
Eurostar suspended all its rail links between London, Paris and Brussels on Sunday as cold weather caused chaos on the high-speed passenger line for a third day, with no relief in sight.
The company, which is owned jointly by a consortium of British, French and Belgian rail operators, attributed the problems to the difference in air temperature inside and outside the tunnel. It said excessive condensation had then produced a series of electrical faults.
The unusual temperatures on the French side of the tunnel were part of wintry weather that stretched across Europe, killing 15 people in Poland and leading to cancellations at airports in several countries, The Associated Press reported. [emphasis added]
We've seen this effect first-hand; it is not entirely unknown to the world of science. Nearsighted people who go camping in wintry weather find that their glasses get pretty cold over night. When cold glasses are put on a warm face in the morning, moisture condenses on the lenses, making them opaque very suddenly if the night was cold enough.
When the Eurostar trains run through France, the outside of the trains and all the external running gear such as wheels and wheel motors gets chilled to ambient temperature. When the train plunges into the much, much warmer tunnel at, say, 150 MPH, the moisture in the warmer air condenses all over anything cold. This includes the equipment that takes electricity from the power system, the wheel motors, and most of the controls.
The Times didn't go into details about the "electrical faults," but other media reported that every electrical device shorted out, leaving the passengers suffocating in the dark as the air conditioning and ventilation systems shut down. The passengers finally opened the doors manually and walked to the nearest connection to the emergency access tunnel, only to find that nobody was aware that their train had been in trouble - there was no way for the staff to communicate without electric power.
Politicians are already calling for heads, saying that Eurostar was utterly incompetent and utterly unprepared, but that's quite unfair. We've noted the tendency of politicians to blame businessmen for problems caused by the politicians, and European Parliament members are no exception.
In this case, the problem was caused by excessively cold weather. The engineers had expected a certain amount of condensation during winter as trains met the warmer tunnel air; this is a well-known phenomenon. How an engineer designs equipment depends on just how cold experts expect the train to get. This depends on how cold experts expect winters to get.
What have politicians been saying for lo these many years? The planet is getting warmer! We'll all suffer a heat wave! We'll have to raise taxes!
What have the weather experts been saying? The same thing: the planet is getting warmer! The science is settled! Give us more research money!
With that sort of anvil chorus going on, engineers can't be faulted for designing their equipment for weather just a bit warmer than the unusually cold weather we've been getting thanks to the Gore Effect. The politicians have no one to blame but themselves for accepting the scientists' self-serving claim that the science was settled; the businessmen and railway engineers were only following the advice of Settled Science in designing their equipment, and after all, isn't obeying Science what we're all supposed to do?
The fact that this fiasco isn't the railroad's fault won't keep the politicians from trying to blame them, of course, as politicians never accept blame voluntarily.
Let's hope that the British newspapers who, unlike their American counterparts, are working diligently to unravel the tangled lies of Climategate, can figure out how this incident relates to the falsified weather predictions coming out of government-funded labs courtesy of crooked scientists.