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Author Topic: Are the recent record cold temperatures inconsistent with global warming?  (Read 11474 times)

paul.fr

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The lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Maine, a -50F reading taken on January 16, has been confirmed as real, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Weather Service this week. The new record occurred at 7:15 a.m. Jan. 16 at a remote river gauge in Big Black River (see USGS image at right), about four miles from the Canadian border. It ties the record set in 1933 for New England's lowest temperature, set at Bloomfield, Vermont. The old Maine record was -48F, set in 1925 at Van Buren. All-time state records are difficult to break. The last time a state record low was set occurred January 5, 1999, when Congerville, Illinois recorded -36F. Only one state record high temperature has been set in the past the decade--the 120F temperature measured in Usta, South Dakota on July 15, 2006.

All-time record lows are inconsistent with global warming, right?
An impressive cold wave hit the northern and eastern portions of the U.S. January 11-18, with 17 states reporting record daily lows. In addition to the coldest temperature ever measured in Maine, one station, Waterloo, Iowa, tied its 1962 record for all-time coldest temperature, when the mercury hit -34F on January 16. If global warming is occurring, we should not expect to see very many all-time city or state records being set. The nation's January-December average temperature has increased at a rate of 0.12F per decade since 1895, and at a faster rate of 0.41F per decade during the last 50 years. This 2F rise in temperature has undoubtedly allowed more high temperature than low temperature records to be broken. However, this is a low enough amount of warming that there should still be a few cold temperature records being set, since the weather is so highly variable.

The statistics support this position. The Waterloo, Iowa mark was only the second time this decade that an all-time record cold temperature has been set at a major U.S. city. The cities I consider are the 303 cities author Chris Burt tracks in his excellent Extreme Weather book. The cites chosen were selected based primarily on their length of weather records (all the records go back to at least 1948, with most going back to the 1800s), and include all the largest cities in the U.S. The only other all-time coldest temperature record set at these cities this decade was the -44F recorded in Grand Forks, North Dakota on 1/30/2004. By contrast, 49 all-time high temperature marks have been set this decade (Figure 1).

Perhaps a better judge of the impact of global warming on extreme temperatures, though, is to look at record warmest and coldest months. Month-long records are more reflective of the climate than an extreme event lasting just a few days. No all-time coldest month records were at any U.S. cities during January 2009, and it was not even close. Despite the cold blast of Jan. 11-18, the month of January finished out above average in temperature for the lower 48 states. So far this decade, no U.S. major city has set an all-time coldest month record. The last time a coldest month record was set occurred in January, 1994 when Caribou Maine and Bayfield, Wisconsin recorded their coldest month. By contrast, there have been 61 all-time warmest month records set in those same 303 cities between 2000 and 2008 (Figure 1). The summer of 2007 alone saw 42 all-time high (or warmest month ever) records. Just one record was set in the summer of 2008.


Figure 1. Minimum and maximum temperatures records for the U.S. for 303 major stations. The image has been updated through January 2009 to include the one record low set that month. The original version of this image was for 2007, and I modified it to update it for four changes made in the 2008 data. The numbers for the decade of the 2000s are correct, but there are four (out of 606) records that need to be subtracted off some of the earlier decades. Note the the 1930s were the most extreme decade for total number of records set, but the 1920s were the least extreme. U.S. weather has a high degree of variability from decade to decade. Image credit: Chris Burt, Extreme Weather.

Are the pattern of U.S. temperature records due to the Urban Heat Island effect?
There have been 110 all-time high temperature or all-time warmest month records set at the 303 major U.S. cities this decade, and only two such low temperature records set. Is this disparity due to global warming, or the Urban Heat Island effect? The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect occurs when development of former natural areas into pavement and buildings allows more heat to be trapped in cities, particularly at night. During the day, the UHI effect often leads to a slight cooling, since it can increase the amount of turbulence, allowing cooler air to get mixed down to the surface. For example, Moreno-Garcia (1994) found that Barcelona, Spain was 0.2C cooler for daily maxima and 2.9C warmer for minima than a nearby rural station.

However, temperature records are typically taken in parks and airports removed from the main heat-trapping areas of cities, and are not as strongly affected as one might expect. There are several reasons for this. One is that when tall buildings are present, they tend to block the view to the sky, meaning that not as much heat can escape upwards. In addition, the presence of moist vegetation keeps the atmosphere moister in park-like areas (which include the grassy fields near airports where temperature measurements are taken). This extra moisture helps cool the atmosphere on a local scale of tens of meters, due to latent heat effects (the energy required to convert liquid water to water vapor). Peterson (2003) found that "Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures." The study used satellite-based night-light detection to identify urban areas. Recent research by Spronken-Smith and Oke (1998) concluded that there was a marked park cool island effect within the Urban Heat Island. They found that parks in typical cities in the U.S. have temperatures 1 - 2C cooler than the surrounding city--and sometimes more than 5C cooler. While the Urban Heat Island effect probably has contributed to some of the reduction in record low temperatures in the U.S. in the past decade, research by Parker (2004, 2006) and Peterson (2003) theorizes that Urban Heat Island effect is a factor ten or more less important than rising temperatures due to global warming.

Is the Urban Heat Island effect partially responsible for global warming?
Global warming is affecting the entire Earth, including rural areas far from cities, and the 70% of the world covered by ocean. Thus, the Urban Heat Island effect--if not corrected for--can cause only a small impact on the global temperature figures. Since the Urban Heat Island is corrected for, the impact on the observed global warming signal should be negligible. For instance, NASA uses satellite-derived night light observations to classify stations as rural and urban and corrects the urban stations so that they match the trends from the rural stations before gridding the data. Other techniques (such as correcting for population growth) have also been used. Despite these corrections, and the fact that the Urban Heat Island effect impacts only a relatively small portion of the globe, global warming skeptics have persistently used the Urban Heat Island effect to attack the validity of global warming. There are no published peer-reviewed scientific studies that support these attacks.


http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1190


 

Offline justaskin

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Nothing is inconsistent with global warming.
If it's to hot its global warming.
If it's to cold it's global warming.
If it's to wet it's global warming.
If it's to dry it's global warming.
If it's to windy it's global warming.
If it's to still it's global warming.
If your car won't start it's global warming.
And if it is not global warming then it sure as hell is climate change. ;D
As for airports being good places for temperature collection I wouldn't think so not with all those jet engines running all the time.How much heat would a 747 emit at takeoff power.

Cheers
justaskin
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Nothing is inconsistent with global warming.
YEP! ;D
 

Offline frethack

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Give it twenty more years.  Peak temperature was reached in 1998 and temps have been fairly stable (even declining slightly in some regions) since, but 10 years does not make a climate assessment.  30 years is about what is necessary to judge whether climate is actually taking a downturn in temperature or if it is an anomalous excursion.   

One interesting note...I do find it rather curious that our sun has taken such a long break during the recent weather phenomena.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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I do find it rather curious that our sun has taken such a long break during the recent weather phenomena.
It has?

-------
I haven't noticed
 

Offline frethack

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Quote from: frethack on 15/02/2009 17:32:28
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I do find it rather curious that our sun has taken such a long break during the recent weather phenomena.

It has?
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I haven't noticed

Magnetically, the sun is in its deepest solar minimum since the first part of the twentieth century.
« Last Edit: 16/02/2009 14:16:53 by frethack »
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Magnetically, the sun is in its deepest solar minimum since the first part of the twentieth century.
What sort of impacts will that have?
Anything to do with extremely hot summers?
 

paul.fr

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Magnetically, the sun is in its deepest solar minimum since the first part of the twentieth century.

Are you sure, Adam?

With my poor memory, I am sure we are ...two years out of this cycles solar minimum, so we could not be in the deepest minimum...could we?
 

Offline frethack

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Are you sure, Adam?

With my poor memory, I am sure we are ...two years out of this cycles solar minimum, so we could not be in the deepest minimum...could we?

Unfortunately we are still in solar minimum.  Not the deepest minimum, but the deepest since the early 20th century.  Late 20th C cycles have been particularly active (we are in a Grand Maxima currently) so the deep minima that we are in is within normal range when compared to the last 400 years.

The first cycle 24 spot appeared Jan 08 which should have signaled the decay of cycle 23 and the beginning of cycle24.  Though cycle 24 has already officially started, the ramp up into solar maximum has been greatly delayed when compared to late 20th century solar cycles. 

Here is a comparison of cycle 23/24 days without sunspots


Here is a current image of the sun from yesterday


This is the sun at solar maximum (from cycle 23)


These are Dr. David Hathaways (a NASA solar physicist) predictions over the past year and a half or so for cycle 24 (a fuzzy science at best, but necessary for the future)


Here are a couple of sites that deal directly with the solar cycle.  The first is an amateur radio operator site, and the second is a space weather site.
www.solarcycle24.com
www.spaceweather.com
« Last Edit: 17/02/2009 14:17:16 by frethack »
 

Offline yor_on

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Frethack, nice photos, and sites:)
But I'm not sure what you think here?
Is it that sunspots seem to have even less to do with our Global warming than we thought before?
If so, I agree.

The persons people usually 'lifts forward' when trying to credit the idea of the sun being the 'propagator' of the Earths warming is Scafetta and West.
Here is a pdf from them from 2005. http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/2005GL023849.pdf
And if you want an analysis of what they say from a global warming perspective you should read this. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/03/solar-variability-statistics-vs-physics-2nd-round/

As for sunspots in them self http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/09/the-trouble-with-sunspots/
And read the 'comments' on both threads. That's where you really get a 'full' picture from:)

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Did you mean that we might go into a Dalton Minimum? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalton_Minimum
That would certainly help to mask the global warming. Not a good thing if one take the longer perspective :)
But according to NASA it seems like we just have a delay. "There have been some reports lately that Solar Minimum is lasting longer than it should. That's not true. The ongoing lull in sunspot number is well within historic norms for the solar cycle." http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/11jul_solarcycleupdate.htm
« Last Edit: 17/02/2009 16:31:26 by yor_on »
 

Offline frethack

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Hello yor_on :)

Actually, I personally believe that the sun (not just sunspots, they are only a measure of solar activity) has more to do with our current warming than previously believed.  Im not saying that CO2 has no part at all, but there is a lot of research indicating that the sun may produce non-linear effects in cloud nucleation/optical depth and in the position of the ITCZ. 

RealClimate.org is a site that I frequent and use for reference, but do not always agree with, and is run by colleagues of my paleoclimate professor.

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Did you mean that we might go into a Dalton Minimum?

No, Im not inferring that we are going into any sort of Grand Minima (the Dalton is technically not a GMimina, but it is considered with the others of the Little Ice Age).  It is merely the deepest since the early 20th century.
Quote
Unfortunately we are still in solar minimum.  Not the deepest minimum, but the deepest since the early 20th century.  Late 20th C cycles have been particularly active (we are in a Grand Maxima currently) so the deep minima that we are in is within normal range when compared to the last 400 years.

In fact, my personal opinion is that the current Grand Maxima (a very large one, even when considering the entire Holocene) will last for another century or so, but has probably reached its peak.  Again...that is opinion only.
« Last Edit: 17/02/2009 19:58:30 by frethack »
 

paul.fr

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I misunderstood what you where you were going, Adam. It sure will not be the last time I get things wrong! Anyhooo, Do you use Twitter? If you do then you may wish to add these guys :Earthtoday or use their website Earthtoday, where you will get daily space weather forecasts including sunspot activity. I follow them, but don't really have the time to get down and dirty with them.

Quote
Actually, I personally believe that the sun (not just sunspots, they are only a measure of solar activity) has more to do with our current warming than previously believed.  Im not saying that CO2 has no part at all, but there is a lot of research indicating that the sun may produce non-linear effects in cloud nucleation/optical depth and in the position of the ITCZ.

This is also part of what climate skeptics believe to be more important than anything man made.
 

Offline justaskin

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Gee yor_on Realclimate now there is an unbiased objective web site.
Isn't that the web site of one Michael Mann of the famed hockey stick graph and lately of the was that Harry or Gill weather station in the antarctic.

Cheers
justaskin
 

Offline frethack

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Excellent site Paul :) I added it to my must reads science news list!

I dont really use twitter, though I probably will if I get an iPhone.  I think the word "student" should be a synonym for the word "poor".

Quote
Isn't that the web site of one Michael Mann of the famed hockey stick graph and lately of the was that Harry or Gill weather station in the antarctic.

justaskin, Michael Mann is a contributor there, but he doesnt run the site.  The "head dude" is Dr. Gavin Schmidt.  There actually is some good information that you can get from that site, but youre right, its not the most objective site in the world when it comes to solar forcings.  My climatology professor has published a few papers with Schmidt, and has admitted that her colleagues (and AGW proponents in general) tend to have a knee jerk reaction when it comes to someone bringing up anything other than total solar irradiance as a solar forcing agent.  If presented with a good scientific argument though, she will respectfully listen and debate.

As for the "hockey stick"...

She explained the Medieval Warming as a European regional event that, when thrown together with the data from the rest of the world, created only a very small excursion in the "hockey stick" graph.  Ive read papers with data from China, the US, Europe and N Africa and all so far have shown evidence of a Medieval Warming.  Not sure what to think of this.
« Last Edit: 18/02/2009 04:23:40 by frethack »
 

Offline yor_on

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justaskin, to find unbiased information is very difficult. That's one reason why I always recommend people to read the 'comments' made by both sides there at Realclimate. Doing that you get a better perspective than if only reading the 'headlines' I think. But I find them quite good if that was what you were wondering :) And I don't think we need to wait that long before the polar bears are gone f ex. Look here for some biased thinking :) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/feb/02/frontpagenews.climatechange

And here for a monthly report http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2009/perspectives.html (put in '2008' in the link instead of '2009' then you will see monthly reports from last year) This site is the 'NOOA satellite and information service'. It may be biased too of course, but there is a lot of good data there.

--
Apropos methane concentration in the atmosphere I have this link from 2008 http://www.physorg.com/news144504938.html
« Last Edit: 06/04/2009 03:10:46 by yor_on »
 

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