Sometimes ‘hot’ is just ‘hot.’ Or not

It is climate change. It isn’t climate change.

Welcome to another day of science trying to explain March and the recently expired winter.

“Clearly, this is outstanding and well outside any expectation under an unchanging climate. The magnitude and duration of the events in March certainly indicate that some unusual factors are afoot,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the independent National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., tells LiveScience today about a March that broke heat records in 7,755 locations in the U.S.

Is that a lot? There are 175,000 observing stations in the country. Still, the webiste says only one other March — 2007 — broke more than 7,000 records.

Certain extremes related to heating are becoming more evident, according to Trenberth.

So it’s climate change, then?

“Climate change was certainly a factor, but it was certainly a minor factor,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Martin Hoerling says.

His analysis of March says a persistent warm wind sent warm air north from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s freaky wind and little more, he suggests.

“”Why wouldn’t we embrace it as a darn good outcome,” Hoerling tells the Associated Press. “This was not the wicked wind of the east. This was the good wind of the south.”

In his analysis — available here — Mr. Hoerling observes that if the March heat wave were pinned primarily to climate change, meteorologists would’ve predicted it:


In sum, the initialized forecasts possess many of the essential attributes of what crime scene investigators would look for in pinning a crime (the heatwave, in this case) to an individual (a physical cause, in this case). The forecast models give probable cause, namely that a particular atmospheric initial condition – emergent sometime in early February – led to a high probability outcome in the form of a large magnitude March heatwave. The sequence of forecasts allows one to largely reject other probable and immeditate causes for such a large magnitude event. For example, the GHG conditions that were known to be operative in prior months, had failed to predict or project an outcome of the magnitiude that was eventually observed. The forecasts further identify this particular culprit because those evolving internal atmospheric initial conditions yielded the precise location of the heatwave, at precisely the particular time of its occurrence, and with a high confidence of exceeding prior record heatwave magnitudes.

He also says the fact it was so warm in March, doesn’t mean we’ll bake in July. That’s something comforting to think about while you mow your lawn in Minnesota in the first week of April.

  • http://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com Drae

    Maybe they would have predicted it if it hadn’t been for el nino (or was la nina?). Whatever.

    The first thing to keep in mind is that weather isn’t climate. The other thing to keep in mind is that weather is chaos (as in theory) in motion. The smallest factor can affect the weather, like a volcanic erruption, but the resulting fluctuations in the weather are not evidence for or against the overall changes occuring to the climate.

  • GregS

    Here are three things not mentioned above.

    1) UAH satellite reading show below average global temperatures.

    2) 650 people died of the extreme cold in Europe this winter.

    3) La Nina conditions moved the jet stream to the north over the United States deflecting cold arctic air toward Russia and Eastern Europe.

    Why aren’t these things mentioned? Simple, the purpose of public radio is to form opinion, not inform.

  • Bob Collins

    // Why aren’t these things mentioned? Simple, the purpose of public radio is to form opinion, not inform.

    I’m confused. There are two vastly different positions paraphrased above. You’re saying that both provide one opinion?

    Second, if you’d actually check the links I provide, you’d find that the deaths on Europe and the cold wave were mentioned. And since the jet stream pattern was pretty much the ENTIRE basis of NOAA’s analysis, it’s pretty clear you didn’t even bother to read it. \

    Also as far as Europe gpes, I hardly ignored the occasion.

    Third, you fail to provide much needed context, including what it is (it doesn’t measure surface temperatures). You should also pointed that it’s a controversial tool in which several calibration errors — including failing to account for a decay in orbit — have been discovered.

    What does this mean? It’s open to interpretation, but it means there’s a little more context here than you provided. And certainly room for debate.

    If you want to do the drive-by talk show nonsense and debate a boogeyman that keeps you up at night, call a talk show. If you want to have an intelligent conversation stick around and try again with a little mutual respect. Being more insulting doesn’t make an argument more attractive or any more correct.

  • GregS

    //I’m confused. There are two vastly different positions paraphrased above. You’re saying that both provide one opinion?

    Which came first? We all understand the importance of what leads and what gets buried at the bottom.

    //Second, if you’d actually check the links I provide, you’d find that the deaths on Europe and the cold wave were mentioned.

    So let me understand this. I must follow links to get balance but the article leads with statements from an activist who was up to his arm-pits in ClimateGate?

    //You should also pointed that it’s a controversial tool in which several calibration errors — including failing to account for a decay in orbit — have been discovered.

    You have got to be kidding. Why would you dredge up a decade old problem in a lame attempt to discredit UAH?

    For your information the telemetry issue was quickly spotted and corrected because unlike Trenberth and his “hockey team” cohorts, UAH publishes its data and methods.

    // If you want to have an intelligent conversation stick around and try again with a little mutual respect

    You and your staff regularly pass along press releases from left-wing advocacy groups as NEWSCUTS topics – I hardly see how calling this out constitutes an insult.

  • Jamie

    The argument that colder weather is killing people, or that some places are experiencing colder weather does nothing to further the deny-ers’ denial. One of the characteristics of global climate change (aka “global warming”) is that it creates more weather extremes in both directions, both colder and hotter.

  • Bob Collins

    //Which came first? We all understand the importance of what leads and what gets buried at the bottom.

    In news, the newest angle goes up top. As in this case. One was today, one was yesterday.

  • GregS

    //In news, the newest angle goes up top. As in this case. One was today, one was yesterday.

    Well, I guess there is a logic to that.

    I hardly see why Tremberth was cited at all, given that he is a highly partisan, polarizing figure. Where is the balance to his extremism?

    I would think a better approach to the story would begin with the fact that the earth has not warmed in twelve years and had only warmed a meager tenth of a degree in the decade prior to that. So why the sudden interest in “extreme weather”?

    Look, environmentalism and sustainability are important issues but the environmental movement is seriously off track and is damaging the credibility of science itself.

    I read a great article about just this thing in The American Interest Magazine, see Green Dreams Die Ugly On Capitol Hill by Walter Russel Mead

    The strategic incompetence exhibited by the climate movement and its congressional allies is something that students everywhere need to study — and especially those who hope someday to help build a better world or fight for social change. This is how you fail, kids: Advance half baked policy ideas by hyping the science to create a global panic; when that fails, fall back on shady little dodges that don’t fool anybody — all the while telling anybody and everybody that you are the smartest, most virtuous person in the room.

  • GregS

    //One of the characteristics of global climate change (aka “global warming”) is that it creates more weather extremes in both directions, both colder and hotter. – Jamie.

    It is interesting how this was discovered only after two extremely cold winters struck Europe. For years, the world had been lectured about “the end of winter” and “our children will not know what snow is” – then POW!!

    Since it has been getting progressively warmer each decade for one hundred and sixty years, one would think, logically, that the weather would be getting hotter (and colder) and more extreme for each subsequent decade.

    Well, it hasn’t.

    I guess these things only happen when NGO’s and governments throw $100’s of millions of dollars at environmental activist groups each year – to notice such things.

  • kennedy

    It’s odd how some people apply an almost religious zeal to this issue. I read the post (the entire post) and get the impression that experts attribute Minnesota’s warm March weather to a strange jet stream pattern and not climate change.

    I am not and evangelist on either side of this issue, though.

  • http://climatechangepsychology.blogspot.com Tenney Naumer

    It is becoming very interesting how Hoerling repeatedly jumps the gun on extreme weather events by coming out to the press with his “analysis” that whatever the event is is not related to global warming or only just a tiny bit.

    However, it is simply not possible to analyze the data in such a short space of time.

    Then, a few months later, when our best and brightest climate scientists have taken the time to do the appropriate statistical analyses, Hoerling’s jump-the-gun “analyses” are completely refuted.

    He’s done this on the last 5 or 6 major extreme weather events, and has been refuted by deeper science each time.

    Isn’t it about time that the journalists reporting on “weather” get wise to his modus operandi?

    Just because he is affiliated with NOAA doesn’t mean that his rapid, off-the-cuff analyses are any good. In fact, experience has shown that they are quite bad. Check it out.

  • krissy

    Wishful thinking but we cant spin our way out of this one. Cold marches will be a thing of the past and yes the summers will continue to warm on average as well.

  • GregS

    //He’s done this on the last 5 or 6 major extreme weather events, and has been refuted by deeper science each time. – Tenney Naumer

    Can you give us an example?

    All I have seen are instances of “the usual suspects” spinning their climate models to infer, with deep caveats, that everything from stinky catboxes to the price of Mazdas is caused by “climate change”.

  • Steve Bloom

    I’ll just do one, GregS:

    “UAH publishes its data and methods.”

    Methods? Um, no, as it turns out. Perhaps that’s why it took others so long to identify the numerous problems, even while UAH co-authors Christy and Spencer were making large claims about a lack of warming.

    Fact-check much before you post?

    Perhaps you’re too preoccupied with being up to your armpits in Rush Limbaugh and Tony Watts. (Apologies for that entirely icky image.)

    And as an educational exercise, you might try looking up Hoerling’s track record yourself.

  • The Real Greg S

    http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/climatechange/

    take this free online class on climate change through UW-Madison, sponsered by NASA. yep you know NASA the biggest hoaxters of all. you will find in there among other things that we will experience climate drift here in the Midwest, winters by end of the century will be like one state south of us, but summers here in Wisconsin will be like Lousiana’s, now imagine Lousianas!!!! try to focus so much on what local radio is saying sometimes they mess things up, but that doesnt mean the whole thing is wrong though.