Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Winter That Was

The Winter That Was
By Douglas Barnes

We had been bizarre winter here in Ontario, Canada. For most of Canada, the winter was rather anemic. While it did ease the home construction I did over the winter, it also threw us for a loop. So, imagine my surprise when renowned scholars such as real estate magnate Donald Trump made comments like this one: ""With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore."

The coldest winter ever recorded? Really? Well, the popular myth goes that the very wealthy are very wealthy because they are very intelligent and very knowledgeable. But let's have a look at what happened this winter nonetheless.

The combined global average of land and sea temperatures for December, 2009 made it the eight warmest winter on record; and the month came in 0.49°C above the average for the 20th century. The following image shows the temperature anomalies for December. The more an area was below the average, the larger a blue dot it has. The higher above the normal, the larger the red dot it has. The map is very red.What was really bizarre was the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic taking a detour and heading towards Western Greenland instead of Europe. I would suspect that this under-reported phenomenon contributed to the cooling from the arctic oscillation that kept Europe and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. so chilly this year.

This phenomenon continued more or less right through the winter as can be seen in the Mercator reports over the winter.

The story for January was a little different. Whereas 2009 had the eighth warmest December on record, 2010 had the fourth warmest January on record with temperatures 0.60°C above the 20th century average for combined land and sea temperatures. The picture for January looks like this:
Yes, yes. But what about February when it was so cold in the eastern U.S. and when Trump made his comments?

Well, I have to admit, there is a gotcha. It was only the sixth warmest February on record with the combined land and sea temperatures 0.60°C above the 20th century average. Incidentally, the sea temperatures for December, 2009 through February, 2010 were the second warmest on record at 0.54°C above the 20th century average. The picture for February looks like this:

As for March, this year was the 34th year in a row where March was above the 20th century average. The combined average of land and sea temperatures were 0.77°C above normal making it the warmest March on record ever. March looked like this:

So what happened? Donald Trump and too many pundits were wrong? How can that be? Simply put, they made the shockingly common error of assuming that where they happened to live was the entire world when, in fact, it is only a tiny corner of the world.

The figures for April aren't out yet, though I know that the region I live in is a full month ahead of where it was last year and will be showing up as a large red dot on the map when it is released. Stay tuned...







Jez said...

don't confuse your 'red dot' with the 'entire world' ;-)

Seriously. Wanting to take Al Gore's Nobel Prize from him. The chutzpah!

sarah said...

Awesome work. I'm running with this over at http://mysticvalleymusings.blogspot.com/2010/04/this-winters-climate-averages-ie-donald.html . Thanks!

Greg said...

This is an interesting article. Your maps confirm what I noticed in my area. This was the first time in many years that it seemed like we actually had winter here in the southeastern US. I got a nice new wood stove so I was the warmer indoors than I have been in years. I had been wishing to have winter again especially hoping it would decimate some insect populations. So far it's been good. The mosquitoes are taking longer to proliferate this year.

If I were of Trump's mentality I guess I'd be saying the world is cooling too from last winter's experience, but I also know I'd be full of feces since I inhabit such a small portion of the globe.

Phil Van der Mude said...

i never heard about the gulf stream going off course like that very interesting