16 February 2007

The Hottest January Ever... Sort Of

You have got to love this. I was just saying to my wife the other day that it is interesting that the news loves to bring up global warming whenever the temperature gets a little about average, but you don't hear the same thing when we get stuck in a cold spell like the one we are experiencing this February. And then they prove me wrong with an article that basically says that, even though things are very cold right now, we'd like to let you know that some scientists have concluded that last month was the hottest ever due to, in part, "a gradually warming world."
It may be cold comfort during a frigid February, but last month was by far the hottest January ever.

The new record was fueled by a waning El Nino and a gradually warming world, according to U.S. scientists who reported the data Thursday. Records on the planet's temperature have been kept since 1880.
Well, then January 2007 was the hottest January since 1880, right? Not necessarily. The article appears to be based upon information provided by the U.S. National Climatic Data Center. When I went to the USNCDC website, temperatures were being compared to a monthly mean from 1895 and the previous year. So, I'm guessing that it would be more precise to say that January's average was higher than the 1895-2006 January mean temperature.

The article says that the land and water temperatures combined were 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal globally, though the global water temperatures alone would not have broken any records. It then goes on to point out that the land areas in the Northern Hemisphere had a 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit jump over the normal for January, which makes sense since you would need higher land temps to edge the combined land/water temps over the top when the water temps weren't breaking any records.

So, all of the Northern Hemisphere experienced the hottest January ever, right? Well, not exactly.
But the United States was about normal. The nation was 0.94 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for January, ranking only the 49th warmest since 1895.
With the data we have so far, where does February 2007 fall on the normal temp scale? Is this February above or below normal? The article doesn't really answer that, which leads me to believe that this February currently is below the normal temps.

If climate change was a factor in making January 2007 the hottest ever (sort of), what factor is off in February that is causing it to be so cold just weeks later? Well, according to U.S. National Climatic Data Center's David Easterling, it was inevitable.
"Even with global warming, you're not going to keep that cold air bottled up in Alaska and Canada forever," Easterling said.
Let's recap. Combined land and water temps in January 2007 were over the normal January temps, shattering the record by more than 0.25 degrees Fahrenheit. The land temps in the Northern Hemisphere were over normal in January 2007, and they shattered the old record by about 0.75 degrees Fahrenheit. The U.S. wasn't all that much over normal, though, and only experienced the 49th hottest January since 1895.

I think I've got it. Temps were above normal, and now they're not. The reason why temps are not above normal now is because global warming can't always warm areas that are normally cooler, especially when colder areas make those normally cooler areas really cold. So, if those normally cooler areas are cool to cold, then it is just normal trends; but when those cooler areas are above normal, then it is due (at least in part) to global climate change.

Can I get a consensus?


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