It’s kind of humorous watching the blogosphere play “It’s cold / it’s hot” tennis when these things happen. When it gets cold, the AGW-proponents grumble to themselves in silence as the skeptics/deniers/ throw out anecdote after anecdote of cold weather. Then when it gets hot, Gore’s fan club, no doubt emboldened and perturbed at the previous volley, come out swinging to once again announce the science is settled and Watts and Cavuto and others are nitwits with their collective heads in the sand.
Of course, we all try to adhere by a few rules, and few of us really adhere to them as completely as we should. The first is that “weather is not climate.” The second is that “the earth is complex, and variation happens on a day to day or month to month basis.”
But what fun is that?
And so, we delve into the question that has the pro-AGW crowd giddy with all sorts of excitement: Why did we just recently have the warmest January day in history (history meaning, since 1999), according to UAH? You can link to the site that tells us that here. You may need to recreate the chart, which is easy enough. Just hit “draw” and then select all the years and hit “redraw.” Make sure you’re on the “near surface” option.
As an official member of the community of skeptics, should I hide from this? Should I explain it away?
Nope. And the reason is simple: it is what it is. More important than any agenda-driven concerns, I’d rather give puzzling news that’s true, rather than a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that isn’t.
The truth is, I don’t know why we saw that sudden jump in temperature, just after a period where many places in the globe were seemingly getting hammered by cold and severe winter weather. And the real truth is that nobody else can possibly know why one or two days is suddenly so high. And let’s be honest – it was an impressive temperature reading. It’s not like it just barely nipped the 11-year record. It left no doubt. Further, the entire month of January promises to show a warm reading. Don’t fret about it. Accept it as the truth it is.
As I’ve said many times, we skeptics are somewhat in a corner. Most of us actually prefer warming – I know I do. But we don’t accept the AGW premise, and we see other evidence suggesting that we’re not warming – at least not catastrophically – and we have a desire to see these alarmists get their come-uppance that we, in a way, want to see it cool. But as perverse as that may be, it doesn’t hold a candle to the AGW crowd. You see, they get themselves so worked up over warming that they start seeing nice, warm, weather as a threat to existence rather than a nice, warm day. Instead of enjoying it, they lose sleep over their children’s futures and wonder why we can’t go back to the “good old days” where we had freezing rain throughout the month of April.
So, given all that introspection, let’s at least take a look at some obvious contributors to the warm beginning of 2010.
Exhibit One: El Nino.
There’s an El Nino that is impacting temperatures right now. Whenever there’s cooling during a La Nina, the pro-AGW crowd trips over themselves to point it out, but when there’s an El Nino up and about, they somehow fail to mention it when talking about -for example – how warm this January is shaping up to be.
The last 7 readings have exceeded 0.500, the traditional benchmark for El Nino. 3 readings in a row makes it official, so were well into a good old El Nino, which we know affects temps in an upward manner. And this may well make 2010 a nice, cozy year, since the December reading is the largest of the seven.
We know there’s a 4-6 month lag effect of El Nino (if I remember my facts as related to me from Bob Tisdale), so the first half of the year should reflect that, and if the El Nino persists we could see warmer temps throughout the year. This is a good thing, because my garden has had major issues the last couple years. Cool, damp weather really sucks for raising a garden.
It’s probably a stretch to suggest, as some do, that 2010 will be the warmest year ever, though. While we’ve gone up over 1.0 on the El Nino reading, it is by no means an unusually high value, and it pales in comparison to the consistently super-high values from 1997-98, which almost hit 3 at the highest point. There is nothing to indicate that we can expect such high values from this El Nino. I suppose anything can happen, though.
Exhibit Two: The AMO cycle.
The AMO had taken a dip below zero preceding last year’s ridiculously unpleasant summer, but the values jumped back up to levels above 0.2 a couple months ago, which is likely contributing to the January temps. But the AMO cycle overall has peaked, and while it will probably remain around these current levels, it won’t continue to rise any more, at least not on a prolonged basis. But current levels will contribute to a warmer 2010 than last year, but the contribution is really no more than the couple years before that and is very unlikely to reach levels from 2005-06.
Exhibit Three: Even the PDO is joining in the fun.
The PDO has gone into its long-term cold cycle, but variations about that wave still occur for short-term periods. We can see that it was quite negative over the last couple years. Over the last five months it has increased, even above zero in four of the five months. No doubt the lack of a negative PDO influence has also contributed to our nice January, and will start off 2010 with more pleasant temps than the previous couple years. There is little likelihood, though, that this will soar to levels that push 2010 to record temps, though temps are certainly likely to be higher than the last couple years.
Now, as for the spiking temperatures of a single day, you’re just going to have ask God about that when you see Him next. Even these shorter-term variations in these indices don’t explain day-to-day variations, but they can certainly help explain our elevated temperatures in January on a general basis. I’m sure there are numerous other contributors to climate and temperature that play a part, and sometimes these things happen to align themselves in such a way that a spike or dip occurs.
Quite honestly, it’s really a silly proposition to constantly be arguing about how climate change is about long-term trends, and then trumpet a daily temperature reading, but we’re all probably guilty as charged to one extent or another.