For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wrapping up the year.

Obligatory disclaimer...

Hello again! I hope everyone had a great Christmas, as well as the other holidays being celebrated this time of year.

I'd been staying off the computer a fair amount, but I still tried to get in my morning news. On Boxing Day, I found myself greeted with this headline.

Records broken in heat waves in North America, Europe

It was accompanied by the usual photo of adorable polar bears - a mother with two cubs, in this case.

The whole article was an interesting read, contradicting earlier articles and data, as well as the usual misleading wording (though that's not a reflection on the writer, but rather the terminology). Just a few examples.

January was the warmest first month on record worldwide - 0.85 degrees Celsius above normal. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe's average temperature has been so far above the norm for any month of the year.

At least it included "since record keeping began," which is considerably better than the usual "ever" or "in history." It's still misleading. I assume the writer is referring to a global average temperature, but worldwide, few places kept temperature records that early. Heck, even today, there are huge gaps in temperature records simply because there are no stations. Most records a from the US, the UK, Canada to a certain extent, and temperature readings from the oceans gathered by co-operative ships' crews that tossed a bucket over the side, pulled in some water and tested it, then recorded their readings for the behalf of others.

There's also the term "normal." The definitions of "normal" and "anomaly" are things I've discussed before, but in a nutshell, they mean something different in climatology and meteorology than in regular usage. "Normal" is the mean average temperature taken over a number of years (usually 30, because most weather stations have existed for at least 30 years). An "anomaly" is anything that isn't "normal," - in other words, anything above or below the mean average. Since mean averages are reached by taking a group of numbers, adding them together, then dividing that total by the number of integers, the range involved can be quite wide. So a temperature difference of 0.85C isn't necessarily unusual - it's just not the mean average.

Next we have...

And as 2007 drew to a close, it was also shaping up to be the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere.

The decade of 1998-2007 has been the warmest on record, it said.

I found these to be an interesting claims as well. Especially in light of these earlier articles.

Year of global cooling
By David Deming December 19, 2007

Al Gore says global warming is a planetary emergency. It is difficult to see how this can be so when record low temperatures are being set all over the world. In 2007, hundreds of people died, not from global warming, but from cold weather hazards.

Has global warming stopped?
David Whitehouse Published 19 December 2007

With only few days remaining in 2007, the indications are the global temperature for this year is the same as that for 2006 – there has been no warming over the 12 months.

The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly.

The period 1980-98 was one of rapid warming – a temperature increase of about 0.5 degrees C (CO2 rose from 340ppm to 370ppm). But since then the global temperature has been flat (whilst the CO2 has relentlessly risen from 370ppm to 380ppm). This means that the global temperature today is about 0.3 deg less than it would have been had the rapid increase continued.

For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It’s not a viewpoint or a sceptic’s inaccuracy. It’s an observational fact. Clearly the world of the past 30 years is warmer than the previous decades and there is abundant evidence (in the northern hemisphere at least) that the world is responding to those elevated temperatures. But the evidence shows that global warming as such has ceased.

So which is it? Warmest ever, or statistically unchanged? Let's see what else there is...

U.S. weather stations broke or tied 263 all-time high temperature records, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. weather data.

England had the warmest April in 348 years of record-keeping there, shattering the record set in 1865 by more than 0.6 C.


Smashing records was common, especially in August. At U.S. weather stations, more than 8,000 new heat records were set or tied for specific August dates.

Well, I can't say much for England, because I simply don't know anything about their system, but perhaps these might explain why the US weather stations continue to show warming.

Climate scientists say that the Arctic, which serves as the world's refrigerator, dramatically warmed in 2007, shattering records for the amount of melting ice. Sea ice melted not just to record levels, but far beyond the previous melt record.

Another misleading statement - how far back to these records go? Not very far, though a search of other records has shown that this has happened before. There is even reason to believe the Arctic Ice Cap has melted away completely in the past. (And the polar bears survived just fine.)

The ice sheets that cover a portion of Greenland retreated to an all-time low and permafrost in Alaska warmed to record levels.

That would depend on how far back you look at the records, and what evidence you're looking for, whether in Greenland or Alaska.

That article then goes on to describe several extreme weather events, then saying...

Individual weather extremes can't be attributed to global warming, scientists always say. However, "it's the run of them and the different locations" that have the mark of man-made climate change, said top European climate expert Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in England.
This is one I hear a lot - many claim that the weather we're having is somehow unusual, yet these claims are made over and over again. Having reviewed the book, Wild Weather, as well as other historical records, extreme weather events have always happened - and humans always search for something to blame it on. In the Dark Ages, it was blamed on witchcraft. In the 1970's, it was the coming ice age. Today, it's global warming.

Get used to it, scientists said. As man-made climate change continues, the world will experience more extreme weather, bursts of heat, torrential rain and prolonged drought, they said.

They've covered everything... No matter what the weather does, it can be blamed on global warming.

"We're having an increasing trend of odd years," said Michael MacCracken, a former top U.S. federal climate scientist, now chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington.

"Pretty soon odd years are going to become the norm."

Funny thing is... it already *is* the norm.

Although I suppose it depends on what your definition of "normal" is.

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