Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2008 was the coldest year for the planet since 2000




Click here to find out more!Justin Berk

Baltimore Weather Examiner

Justin has been doing weather on Baltimore TV since 1997. His degree is from Cornell, he has the CBM- the highest certification from the AMS, and he taught college for 5 years. A true weather geek and snowhound, he mixes technical forecasting with pop culture, and may lose sleep after a bad forecast. Working WMAR-ABC2 mornings and WCBM-Radio dayside, when the tie comes off he likes to play outside and get dirty.


2008 was the coldest year for the planet since 2000


February 24, 10:05 AM

by Justin Berk, Baltimore Weather Examiner

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Temperature anomalies still raise questions of accuracy

The report from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) had a tongue in cheek approach to this finding.  It was colder, but stated that La Nina, or a cool phase, in the Pacific Ocean was primarily responsible.  It still shows a cool down despite increased greenhouse gasses. 

Pick your headline

The other highlight was that "2008 was the ninth warmest year on record"

Depending on who tells this story, you may get a different spin on the results.  I ask which of the following is more important?

*       The temperatures show a distinct cooling trend

*       The temperatures are still warmer than the average

While GISS claims to have continuous records dating back to 1880, we must ask, "how accurate is that data?"  President Grant commissioned the United States Weather Bureau, which wasn't fully organized as a civilian agency until 1891.  Are we to assume that accurate data and records for the rest of the planet already existed?  Besides, the GISS director is James Hansen.  This is the same man who turned off the air conditioning in the Capitol while speaking about Global Warming on a hot day in 1988.  I wrote about his exposure of bad data for Russia just this last October.  He used September data (a statistically warmer month) in place of cooler October data.  This skewed temperatures upward.  That is why I placed a question mark over Russia in the map above.  Was that region even 2.5-3.5 degrees above normal? GISS also stated that the 10 warmest years have all been between 1997 and 2008, which contradicts other data such as US weather stations.


The temperature in the United States in 2008 was not much different than the 1951-1980 mean, which makes it cooler than all the previous years this decade.

This statement came directly from the report, which raises another question: If we have continuous records back to 1880, then why don't we at least compare a 100 year mean (1880-1980)?  Does it have anything to do with the hot decade of the 1930s?  The year 1934 still ranks as the hottest on record in the United States.

When looking at temperature records for just the Unites States, the National Climatic Data Center shows a comparison for temperatures dating back to 1895.  A larger view of this chart is in the slide show below

I have highlighted the top 4 years showing the grouping spread out by 60 years.  I have also circled the drop last year to near the mean of all of the records.  NCDC stated that last year was the first year near 'normal' since 1997.  They also stated on their report, "The 2007-2008 winter season was the 53rd warmest on record".  That is between 1896-2008.  Notice the wording?  Why not just state it was statistically near normal?  Or 59th coolest?  If you think there is bias, this would add weight to your argument.

The spikes of hot years in the 1930s clearly show up, and so does the cool down in the 1960s and 1970s.  An upward trend above the mean is seen since 1980, but with wide variation each year. 

I was educated with the assumption that the United Sates had the most elaborate and reliable structure of weather records.  While the US is a small part of the planet as a whole, should our broad range of climate regions give a good sample of what is really happening?  With 20-25% of carbon dioxide emissions, shouldn't we be on the front lines of direct impact before spreading this greenhouse gas around the globe? Then why the dramatic cooling?

The GISS report does mention the solar cycle minimum as part of the reason for the cooler temperatures. Is the sun's role in global warming and cooling finally getting a mention of recognition?  Hansen did predict another record high temperature for the planet in 2010.

Climate Satellite Failed This Morning

Ironically, NASA just launched a $270 million mission this morning to study CO2.  The Taurus rocket lifted off this morning from California and failed.  The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was intended to help pinpoint the key locations on our planet's surface where the gas is being emitted and absorbed. Launch video and the full story can be seen on the BBC.

If you missed my morning weather post, click here.  Check out the images in the slide show, and please share your thoughts on this below.

For more info: NASA GISS report; NCDC 2008 Report

National Climatic Data Center 2008 Cold Break Down

Maps and graphs show seasonal cold trends. Precipitation, Tornadoes, and Alaska data as well.


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