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Denver’s September 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of September 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 2.8°F above normal (66.4°F vs. 63.6°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 97°F on the 5th and 6th; they recorded the minimum temperature of 38°F on the 28th.  Here is the Denver temperature September 2013 time series:

 photo Denver_Temps_201309_zps687d6b03.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during September 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

The month started off with a heat wave, as a result of an anomalous high pressure ridge over the western US.  It’s not obvious on this chart, but the week of September 8th ushered in a big change from the early month heat wave, which I discuss in the precipitation section below.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past five consecutive months.  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  Looking back a little further in time, October 2012 broke last year’s extreme summer heat including the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Through September, 2013, there were 57 90°F+ days in 2013, which means 2013 gained sole 4th place status of most 90°F days in one year.  Last year, the hottest summer on record for Denver, there was an astounding 73 90°F+ days!  Thankfully, this year also featured far fewer 100°F+ days than 2012: 2 instead of 13 (a record number).  After last year’s record hot summer, summer 2013 felt comparatively cool, which just goes to show how truly monumental last year’s records were.

I haven’t determined if the NWS (or anyone else) collects record high minimum temperatures (warm nighttime lows) in a handy table, chart, or time series.  Denver’s 68°F on Sep. 3rd was such a record (previously 67, set in 1947), as was Sep. 4th’s 69°F (previously 64°F, set in 1995 and previous years).  I’m curious how Denver’s nightly lows have changed in the past 100+ years.  If I find or put something together, I’ll include it in a future post.

Precipitation

Instead of amazing temperature records (although 97°F in September is very hot!), September saw precipitation records.  Total precipitation was much greater than normal during September 2013: 5.61″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 0.92″!  Most of this fell at DIA on the 14th and 12th of the month (2.01″ and 1.11″).  As I wrote about after the event, Denver and other communities with similar rain totals paled in comparison to southern Aurora and Boulder, which received over 18″ of rain in one week, and more for the month!  Given that the normal annual total precipitation for these places is 15″, Denver and other places received over 1/3 of their yearly annual precipitation total in one month – a month that is normally relatively dry.

During the week of the 8th, the confluence of a slow-moving upper-level low, a surface stationary front, and tropical moisture from both the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico generated record rainfall over the northern Front Range of Colorado, including Denver.  This rainfall led to devastating flooding, from which communities are just beginning to recover.  About the only good news from this natural disaster is it busted the area’s long-term drought.

Interannual Variability

I have written literally hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short of duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.  If temperatures continue to track warmer than normal in most months, the next set of normals will clearly demonstrate a continued warming trend.


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Denver’s August 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of August 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 2.1°F above normal (74.6°F vs. 72.5°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 99°F on the 20th and they recorded the minimum temperature of 52°F on the 9th.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in August 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201308_zps974cdaa4.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during August 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

The month started off cooler than normal as this year’s very active monsoon continued well into August 2013.  High pressure began to dominate the region again in the middle of the month.  Note the large number of days with daily mean temperatures equal to or greater than 78°F.  This was mainly due to the excessive nighttime heat (note the blue line above the climatological normal lows), but also the daily high temperatures in the mid to upper-90s.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past four months in a row.  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  October 2012 broke last year’s extreme summer heat including the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Through September 4th, 2013, there were 50 90°F+ days in 2013, which ties three other years (1960, 1964, 2011) for 10th most 90°F days.  As of September 5th, the NWS forecast calls for an additional four days with maximum temperatures equal to or greater than 90°F, which would push the yearly total to 54, good for a tie for sixth place.  Last year, the hottest summer on record for Denver, there was an astounding 73 90°F+ days!  Thankfully, this year also featured far fewer 100°F+ days than 2012: 2 instead of 13 (a record number).

I haven’t determined if the NWS (or anyone else) collects record high minimum temperatures (warm nighttime lows) in a handy table, chart, or time series.  Denver’s 68°F on Sep. 3rd was such a record (previously 67, set in 1947), as was Sep. 4th’s 69°F (previously 64°F, set in 1995 and previous years).  I’m curious how Denver’s nightly lows have changed in the past 100+ years.  If I find or put something together, I’ll include it in a future post..

Precipitation

Precipitation was greater than normal during August 2013: 2.78″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 1.69″.  Most of this fell at DIA on the 22nd of the month (1.94″).  This wasn’t the case for every location in the Denver metro area however since precipitation is such a variable phenomenon.

Precipitation that fell during the past couple of months alleviated some of the worst drought conditions in northern Colorado.  The link goes to a mid-August 2013 post.  Almost all of Colorado continues under at least some measure of drought in early September 2013 (the exception being along the Front Range in northern Colorado, which received almost daily monsoon rainfall in August).  The worst drought conditions (D4: Exceptional) continue to impact southeast Colorado however.  The good news is this area shrank in the last month or so.  Colorado still needs the jet stream to substantially shift position this fall and next spring in order to receive the amount of precipitation required to break the long-term drought.  The last NWS 3-month projection didn’t indicate that this was likely to happen.  Hopefully, for the state’s sake, I hope the NWS is wrong.

Interannual Variability

I have written hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short of duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.  If temperatures continue to track warmer than normal in most months, the next set of normals will clearly demonstrate a continued warming trend.


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Denver’s July 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of July 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 0.1°F above normal (74.3°F vs. 74.2°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 100°F on the 11th and they recorded the minimum temperature of 55°F on the 2nd.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in July 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201307_zps3eecd5f9.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during July 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

Compared to spring 2013, June and July brought less extreme weather to the Denver area.   After a very warm start to the month’s temperature due to high pressure that covered the area since mid-June, cooler temperatures were the rule for the 2nd half of the month.  This change was due to an active monsoon season.  Clouds formed nearly every day and the NWS measured rain 9 out of the last 18 days of the month – a big change from last year.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past three months (May- June-July).  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  Seven of the past twelve months were warmer than normal.  October finally broke last year’s extreme summer heat, which included the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Precipitation

Precipitation was lighter than normal during July 2013: only 1.98″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 2.16″.  Precipitation is a highly variable quantity though.  The west side of the Denver Metro area received rainfall on days that the official Denver recording site did not, which is the usual case for convective-type precipitation.

Precipitation that fell during the past couple of months alleviated some of the worst drought conditions in northern Colorado.  The link goes to a mid-August 2013 post.  Almost all of Colorado continues under at least some measure of drought in early September 2013.  The worst drought conditions (D4: Exceptional) continue to impact southeast Colorado however and the area with D4 conditions slowly expanded during the past few months.  Absent a significant shift in the upper-level jet stream’s position, the NWS expects dry conditions to persist over CO during the next one to three months, which will likely worsen drought conditions.


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Denver’s June 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of June 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 3.7°F above normal (71.1°F vs. 67.4°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 100°F on the 11th and they recorded the minimum temperature of 39°F on the 2nd.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in June 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201306_zpsee96454c.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during June 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

In comparison to April 2013, June 2013 brought less extreme weather to the Denver area.   After a moderate start to the month’s temperature, high pressure began to dominate the area by the 11th through the end of the month.  This high pressure brought warmer than average temperatures, which offset the early month cool snap.  This same pattern brought warmer than average temperatures to much of the southwestern United States, culminating in extremely dangerous heat at the end of the month from Idaho to Arizona.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past two months in a row.  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  Seven of the past twelve months were warmer than normal.  October broke last year’s extreme summer heat including the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Precipitation

Precipitation was lighter than normal during June 2013: only 0.75″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 1.98″.  Precipitation is a highly variable quantity though.  The west side of the Denver Metro area received rainfall on days that the official Denver recording site did not, which is the usual case for convective-type precipitation.

Precipitation a couple of months ago alleviated some of the worst drought conditions in northern Colorado.  The link goes to a late April 2013 post; further relief occurred in May with regular rain events.  With below average precipitation in June for most areas, drought conditions unfortunately worsened during the month.  All of Colorado continues under at least some measure of drought in early July 2013.  The worst drought conditions (D4: Exceptional) continue to impact southeast Colorado however and the area with D4 conditions slowly expanded during the past few months.  Absent a significant shift in the upper-level jet stream’s position, the NWS expects dry conditions to persist over CO during the next one to three months, which will likely worsen drought conditions.  I will write an updated drought post within the week.

Interannual Variability

I have written hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short of duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.  If temperatures continue to track warmer than normal in most months, the next set of normals will clearly demonstrate a continued warming trend.


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Denver’s May 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of May 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 0.8°F above normal (57.9°F vs. 57.1°F).  The maximum temperature of 88°F was recorded on the 17th while the minimum temperature of 19°F was recorded on the 2nd.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in May 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201305_zpsacd74199.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during May 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

In comparison to March and April 2013, May 2013 brought much less extreme weather to the Denver area.   After a cold start to the month, there was a general regime change that allowed high pressure to dominate in the middle and at the end of the month.  This high pressure brought warmer than average temperatures, which offset the early month cold snap.

Precipitation

Precipitation was lighter than normal during May 2013: only 0.82″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 2.12″.  Precipitation is a highly variable quantity though.  The west side of the Denver Metro area received higher than normal precipitation during the same time period.

Precipitation in the past couple of months alleviated some of the worst drought conditions in northern Colorado.  The link goes to a late April 2013 post; further relief occurred in May with regular rain events.  All of Colorado continues under at least some measure of drought in early June 2013.  The worst drought conditions (D4: Exceptional) continue to impact southeast Colorado however.

Interannual Variability

I have written hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.


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Can scientific issues be up for political debate?

The short answer should obviously be yes.  But within the climate change realm, there are some folks who think that scientific realities should dictate political attitudes:

Even as some studies suggest the potential for double-digit warming across the globe, the media has been stubbornly silent, treating climate change as an issue that is still up for political debate, instead of a scientific reality.

That is a dangerous viewpoint to hold and to operate from.  This isn’t an either-or choice to make.  Politics and science are two very different enterprises for many different reasons.  Would these same advocates accept dictated political attitudes based on religious reality?  Of course they wouldn’t.  So why should others blindly adopt their viewpoint?

This is but one example of climate advocates trying to silence others’ opinions, the same charge that they accuse the fossil fuel industry of doing to them.  Which leads us to a rather inevitable conclusion: the fight isn’t about “reality” vs. politics (note the frame – if you don’t agree, you’re not a part of someone’s “reality”).  The fight is over value systems.  Many climate activists are using science as a proxy in a battle which demands other tools.

Another note: if the media isn’t paying “enough attention” to your BIG problem, perhaps the problem lies in your messaging and not the media’s bias.  Doubling down on used-up rhetoric isn’t going to sell your story any better.


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Denver’s April 2013 Climate Summary With A Bonus

During the month of April 2013, Denver, CO (link updated monthly) recorded a 74°F difference between maximum and minimum temperatures.  This fact tells us nothing about how temperatures compare to climatological norms however.  For the entire month, Denver was 5.7°F below normal (41.7°F vs. 46.4°F).  The maximum temperature of 80°F was recorded on the 29th while the minimum temperature of 6°F was recorded on the 10th.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in April 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201304_1_zps0b7f12c3.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during April 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

There is a big disparity between 2013 temperatures and normal temperatures, especially daily maxima.  Three outbreaks of Arctic air impacted Denver during the month, which set record low temperatures on four different days.  This graph also shows something else that is eye-opening: five daily maximum temperatures were equal to or lower than the climatological daily minimum temperature!  As someone who was ready for spring to spring, April was a disappointing weather month.

But it also got me to thinking about the difference between spring 2013 and spring 2012.  As many of us remember, temperatures in the US in 2012 were very warm compared to climatological norms.  So how different were temperatures in Denver in February-March-April 2013 versus 2012?  I decided to take a look.  Let’s start with extending the dates in Figure 1 back to the beginning of February 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201304_2_zps9764a3a4.png

Figure 2. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during February-April 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are the top dark gray line, and normal low temperatures are the bottom dark gray line. [Source: NWS]

This graphic simply demonstrates the same story that I wrote above as well as in my March and February Denver Climate Summary posts.  February was obviously colder than normal due to extended cold air masses over the area.  March and April were also colder than normal, but this was due to vigorous mid-latitude cyclones that brought Arctic air masses south over the area.  This is evident by the significant dips in both maximum and minimum daily temperatures: there was one in the beginning of March, another in the end of March, and three in April.

With this chart in mind, let’s look at the difference between 2012 and 2013.  First, daily maximum temperatures:

 photo Denver_Temps_201304_3_zps34dbe5f9.png

Figure 3. Time series of maximum temperature at Denver, CO during February-April 2012 and 2013.  2013 temperatures are in brick-red, 2012 temperatures are in red, and climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are the dark gray line with green crosses. [Source: NWS]

My memory of 2012′s maximum temperatures was close to reality.  February 2012 was colder than I remember, but this was likely affected by the warmth of April 2012 and the record-setting daily highs in the summer of 2012.  Figure 3 shows a very large difference between daily maximum temperatures in 2012 and 2013, especially after the 22nd of March.  I didn’t remember the cold snap on April 3, 2012.  This graphic shows, by proxy, the lack of spring synoptic storms in 2012.  Daily maximum temperatures rarely fell below the normal for the date.  Instead, April temperatures were as much as 20°F warmer than normal on some dates, but regularly 10°F warmer than normal.  In contrast, 2013 temperatures were often 25-30°F colder than normal.  The difference between two years’ temperatures is a measure of interannual weather variability.  I have more on that below.

 photo Denver_Temps_201304_4_zps477a8e24.png

Figure 4. Time series of minimum temperature at Denver, CO during February-April 2012 and 2013.  2013 temperatures are in blue, 2012 temperatures are in green, and climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are the dark gray line with brown pluses. [Source: NWS]

Again, February 2012′s temperatures were similar to February 2013′s.  The specific dates of temperature swings obviously varies between the two years.  March 2012 and March 2013 also look similar, up until the 22nd of March (see maximum temperatures above also).  Thereafter, the time series diverge with much colder air in place over Denver four different times through the end of April.  2012 had warmer than normal minimum temperatures through most of April.  The combination of warmer than normal nights and days, combined with a relative lack of precipitation in 2012 set the stage for the record-setting warmth in the summer as well as the rapid decline in drought conditions, which are still largely present now.

Interannual Variability

I have written hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.

Precipitation

Precipitation was above normal again during April 2013, extending this new trend to three months.  During the month, 1.87″ of liquid water equivalent precipitation fell, compared to 1.71″ normally.  The wettest April on record was in 1983 when 4.56″ of precipitation fell.  There were three notable weather events during April: a 6″+ snowstorm on the 9th, a 7″+ snowstorm on the 15th, and a 5″+ snowstorm on the 22nd.  In total, the NWS recorded 20.4″ of snow.

The recent precipitation surplus reduced northeast CO drought severity in the last three m months, but did not break it yet.  Above-average precipitation will have to fall for longer than three months for that to happen.  The NWS expects continued drought conditions across most of Colorado through the next three months.  Additional improvement in eastern Colorado might occur, but NOAA and the CPC expects western Colorado drought  to remain the same or worsen.


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Denver’s March 2013 Climate Summary

During the month of March 2013, Denver, CO (link updated monthly) recorded a 74°F difference between maximum and minimum temperatures.  This fact tells us nothing about how temperatures compare to climatological norms however.  For the entire month, Denver was 2.7°F below normal (37.7°F vs. 40.4°F).  The maximum temperature of 76°F was recorded on the 15th while the minimum temperature of 2°F was recorded on the 25th.

 photo Denver_Temps_201303_zps2e96a01c.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during March 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

Precipitation was above normal again during March 2013, making a two-month trend.  During the month, 1.47″ of liquid water equivalent precipitation fell, compared to 0.92″ normally.  The wettest March on record was in 1983 when 4.56″ of precipitation fell.  There were two notable weather events during March: a 6″+ snowstorm on the 9th and the 23rd.  In total, the NWS recorded 23.5″ of snow, 13.5″ more than the normal of 10.0″ for the month.

While more precipitation fell than normal during the month, the drought impacting the region was still not broken.  Above-average precipitation will have to fall for longer than one month for that to happen.  The NWS expects continued drought conditions across most of Colorado through the next three months.  Some improvement in northeast Colorado might occur.  In contrast to February and March, the NWS projects warmer and drier than normal conditions over Colorado during the next three months.


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Extreme Weather, Climate Change, and Public Reporting

If you have had any exposure to this subject, you probably already have your mind made up about my title. As I’ve gained exposure, via multiple disciplines, I’ve changed my mind. And that allows me to look at climate reporting in new ways.  Take this article and interview for instance. It’s meta-related, masked by the climate’s relationship to extreme weather. There are thousands of examples of conservatives ignoring science when it suits them. Doing so actually has more to do with conservatives operating from their value system. Are there similar examples of others ignoring science when it similarly suits them? I think it would be foolhardy to assume otherwise. Here is what I think about this article.

First, the mask: climate-extreme weather. There is no documented causal relationship between the two. In fact, the number of identified causal relationships between climate change and anything is still relatively small. There is a strong temperature signal. There is a growing ocean acidification signal. The sea level change signal is small but present and growing. How about precipitation? Nothing definitive. How about snowstorms? Nothing definitive.

But those signals are small against much stronger climate signals. Would something like drought or hurricanes or floods or tornadoes exhibit a stronger signal. In a word, no. There simply is not a detectable climate and extreme weather link today. That is not to say a future signal will not exist – there very well might be. But as of today, there is not. What science backs up that claim? The 2008 U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Synthesis Report for starters (p.42; 2.2.2.1):

When averaged across the entire United States (Figure 2.6), there is no clear tendency for a trend based on the PDSI. Similarly, long-term trends (1925-2003) of hydrologic droughts based on model derived soil moisture and runoff show that droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century (Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006).

So as of the early 21st century, U.S. droughts have become less severe, not more. The IPCC’s global analysis on extreme events concurred (p.171):

There is not enough evidence at present to suggest high confidence in observed trends in dryness due to lack of direct observations, some geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and some dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts (e.g., southern Europe, west Africa) but also opposite trends exist in other regions (e.g., central North America, northwestern Australia).

One big impediment to our extreme event trend ascertainment is our basic inability to monitor events in the first place. But based on the observations made, there is, in the IPCC’s own language, only medium confidence that droughts in some areas of the world are increasing in severity while decreasing in other places. Is climate change increasing extreme events? Not droughts – not yet.

What about storms like Sandy or Katrina (note: the former was a tropical system that changed to an extratropical system at landfall while the latter was a full-fledged hurricane at landfall)? There is at this time no global trend in hurricane frequency or intensity that demonstrates a clear causal relationship to climate change. There are indexes that a few scientists have developed to examine the data in different ways with differing results, but they require fairly complex methodologies to calculate. If I created my own index that demonstrated a relationship between the type of food I ate and climate change, does one cause the other? Certainly not directly. The hurricane-climate change relationship should exhibit a detectable signal in 50 more years or so. Until then, scientists cannot confidently say the data supports such a relationship. Extratropical storms increased in strength a little over the past century, although the locations of increase are limited. Their frequency has not increased.

Quickly, the same thing holds for floods and tornadoes. Datasets are simply too limited in space and time to currently identify a robust relationship.

As I wrote above, there are clear signals that we have already detected. The effects of those signals are mostly well-known, although some surprises are certainly in store for the planet. Extreme weather is not one of those signals. At least, not yet. If people are concerned about the level of inaction taken on climate change to date, it is folly to chase down or exaggerate signals that do not yet exist. If arguments based on signals detected are not enough to propel action, then we need to address their sets of values and how we communicate them. Fear-mongering and purposeful ignorance of science are not adequate substitutes.

Finally, I question the following from the article:

“I quote the climate skeptics or deniers — whatever term you prefer — when they’re relevant. So when I’m doing a piece about the science itself and what the latest scientific findings are, especially if that’s a short piece, I don’t necessarily feel obliged to quote the climate skeptics the same way that if you were doing a story about evolution, a New York Times reporter wouldn’t feel obliged to call up a creationist and ask them what they think. On the other hand, the climate skeptics are politically relevant at this point in American history [in a way that] the creationists are not, for example. So we have a fair chunk of the Congress … that sees political traction right now in questioning climate science or purporting not to believe it, so in a political story or in a longer story, I usually do give some amount of space to the climate skeptics.”

This quote comes from Justin Gillis, who writes about climate change for The New York Times. Does any of the above evidence make it into his interview with NPR? Here is my question: is Mr. Gillis a climate change writer or a politics writer? Scientific climate change writers should focus on the science. If Mr. Gillis wants to be a political climate change writer, he and the NYT owe it to their readers to make that distinction clear. Especially when double standards are applied to a different type of science writing. I would argue that creationists have a considerable amount of political traction right now also. I do not agree with their viewpoint, but if Mr. Gillis and the NYT want to write comparison pieces and not news pieces, I do not see why that effort should stop at climate change.


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Denver’s February 2013 Climate Summary

During the month of February 2013, Denver, CO recorded a 58°F difference between maximum and minimum temperatures (20°F less than January!).  This fact tells us nothing about how temperatures compare to climatological norms however.  For the entire month, Denver was 2.4°F below normal (30.1°F vs. 32.5°F).  The maximum temperature of 63°F was recorded on the 17th while the minimum temperature of 5°F was recorded on the 22nd.

 photo Denver_Temps_201302_zps6d6262b9.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during February 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

Precipitation was finally above normal again during February 2013.  During the month, 0.77″ of liquid water equivalent precipitation fell, compared to 0.37″ normally.  For the first time in my life, rain fell across the Denver metro area in February!  On the 6th, it rained very lightly, just enough to make the streets and plants wet.  To add to the oddity and rarity of the situation, the ground was still wet with liquid on the morning of the 7th – it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the rain overnight. A similar event occurred in late January.  Conditions returned to normal in the second half of the month.  Measurable snow finally fell on the 20th and 21st of the month.  Then a significant winter storm hit the area on the 24th, dropping ~9″ of snow across the metro area.  In total, the NWS recorded 14.1″ of snow, 8.2″ more than the normal of 5.9″ for the month.

While more precipitation fell than normal during the month, the drought impacting the region was not broken.  Above-average precipitation will have to fall for longer than one month for that to happen.

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