Global Warming VS US Snow Storms: No Conclusions Please
February 11, 2010

Tough To Convince These Folks About Global Warming

I have heard radio talk show hosts and politicians make all sorts of jokes about Global Warming as much of the United States get slammed by snow storms.  They could be right but, then again, it might be a good idea for them to check out the facts before they speak.  See, our opinions are limited on what we know and for people in the eastern United States, what we know is that it has been colder and snowier than normal which runs counter to what most people consider global warming.  Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore all have not only exceeded their average annual snowfall totals but also have broken annual records.  The midpoint of winter was just passed about 10 days ago and spring time often produces big snowstorms.  Louisville is probably fairly representative of much of the northeastern quadrant of the US if not parts of the South as well in regard to temperatures. 

Nearly 2/3 of US buried under Snow On Feb. 11 2010

According to the National Weather Service’s  National Snow Analysis, the snow cover of the United States as of February 11 was about 63.5% of the nation with an average depth of over 8 inches.  If you look at the Louisville archived climate data, you find that Louisville has been much cooler than average going back to July 2009 when for the first time in recorded history, Louisville did not have a 90 degree day.  Keep in mind, that 3 years ago Louisville moved the official recording site from the National Weather Service to the airport after over 30 years and the airport routinely has higher temperatures.  There were bureaucratic reasons for the change but it generally will skew temperatures warmer and unless a climatologist is aware of the switch, then they might conclude that Louisville is a great example of global warming.  Nevertheless, in spite of the switch, no 90 degree temperatures in July 2009.  every month since then has been colder than average except for September 2009 and November.  In most cases, the degree of colder monthly temperatures has been pretty dramatic, such as the July 2009 departure from normal coming at at negative 5 degrees.  January 2010 featured 13 days of consistent below freezing temperatures but a week long warm up resulted in January’s departure from normal only coming in at negative 2.9 degrees.  So far, February has been some 5-6 degrees below normal with no real warm ups in site for at least 10 days. 

Arctic Sea Ice Growth of Recent Years Slowing?

What is going on is that the long wave pattern has been generally stuck.  There has been a consistent ridge over the Atlantic extending all the way to Greenland.  The result has been the eastern part of the US has been in a generally persistent trough that allows the Arctic air to spill down at times to the Gulf of Mexico and there are not the normal fluxuations.  Now, this is an El Nino year so we expect some variations to the norm.  But, here’s the interesting thing:  According to the Univeristy of Alabama at Huntsville’s data,  January 2010 was the warmest month globally was the warmest January since they began making records using satellite sourcing.    How can this be?  Europe has also been in the grips of a deep freeze and heavy snow all winter.  Dr. Roy Spencer of UAH has never been accused of being a Global Warming chicken little.  He has worked tirelessly to analyze the climate from a non-political view and so he has been the target of much criticism from the left.  So, his January report should not be dismissed by anyone.  Spencer explains that the long wave pattern has been such that the cold pattern has been over land masses while the oceans have largely been dominated by a warmer pattern.  The North Atlantic ridge I described is an example.

More Ice On Pacific Side of Arctic, Less on Atlantic Side

 I have been critical of “pro global warming” news reports based on data from the National Sea and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in recent years that always say that the Arctic ice was the 2nd or 3rd lowest when, in fact, the sea ice at the North Pole has been growing.  Yes, it’s low but it has been coming off its recorded historic lows so the headlines could say that its growing but instead they take the negative angle.  I’ve been tagged derisively as a “denier” when, in fact, I am looking for truth not trying to join a team.  In that spirit, I should note that the ice growth trend seems to be slowing for the moment.  In January, the total ice cover was greater than the lows of 2006 but, it is less than 2009 which is a break in the trend of growth since 2006.   To be sure, one month does not a trend make and nothing can be construed one way or another from this single month.  But, it is interesting in that the Pacific side of the Arctic really has an ice extent beyond the long term average.  But, it’s the Atlantic side that has come in low.  That same ridge that has given Louisville and the rest of the east colder and snowier conditions has resulted in warmer conditions, thus reduced ice growth.

Trend Has Been Down but is it Mother Nature's doing or Man's Fault?

What does all of this mean? I dunno.  And, as I’ve pointed out before, the correct response should be I Don’t Know rather than taking a position one way or another.  Because no one does know.  The earth temperatures have been rising in recent years, but they’ve done so in the past.  Is man contributing to the warmth?  It’s so hard to say especially after revelations that some of the books have been cooked.  If man is the cause can we do anything about it?  And perhaps more importantly, should governments try to do something about it?  Would the amount of difference from any treaties really make enough of a difference to justify the costs and could that money be used better for a fight against disease or world poverty?  I have suggested that perhaps we are neglecting a bigger and real threat, which is the pollution of our oceans,  waterways and water sources.  But, the lesson here is to recognize that the world is a big place and just because you are having a tough winter doesn’t mean that the world is going into an ice age.  It’s the weather…and it changes.

Sunshine should Help reduce the snowpack some next couple of days

NAM 84 hr snow map points the way to Sunday night and Monday

Weather Bottom Line:  Global Warming or not, as you can tell from the data above, Louisville has been colder than the 30 year average every month but two since last summer and most of those anomolies have been fairly significant on the down side.  I don’t see much of a change.  In fact, I still don’t see how we get above freezing Friday and Saturday or even Sunday as some forecasts suggest.  We will be close and if we do get above 32, it wont be for long and unless you are a thermometer, it won’t matter.  I think we’d get more snow loss from sublimation than from actual melting.  And it still looks like we’re going to add to our snow totals.  The models continue to be consistent with bringing a shorwave down thorugh the flow on Saturday bringing snow for us Saturday night through Monday with most data suggesting the best accumulations coming on Monday. Some want to carry flurries and light snow into Tuesday.  The range in snow totals generally are from 3-6 inches.

GFS 120 hours Shows Possible Result of Next Snow Event in Time for President's Day

If you examine the NAM and GFS graphical snow depiction you can see a striking similarity.  The NAM only goes out 84 hours to Sunday evening but you can see what looks like a finger painted line of snow pointing straight to Louisville with about 3 inches or snow pointing to Kentuckiana.  The 84 GFS map looks almost exactly the same but we have the benefit of going out 120 hours on the GFS and you can see how it carries out the scenario.  As with recent storms, there is a tight snowfall gradient from south to north.  What is interesting is that the GFS takes a sharp turn higher in Southern Indiana just north of Louisville with totals up toward 8 inches whereas louisville is in the 4-5 inch range.  As I’ve said for several days, I do think that we will get some decent snow but it’s tough to get 8 inches from a storm coming from the northwest.  Typically, you need a moisture source like the Gulf of Mexico involved or a storm coming from the Southwest to get some really good snow totals.  But, then again, if the shortwave is cold enough aloft it will squeeze whatever moisture  it can find right out.  So, we’ll see.  And I still don’t see how we get above freezing anytime soon.

“We Don’t Know” is better than “Global Warming” “Global Cooling” or “They are Wrong”
December 18, 2009

This Was Truth in 1975...Is it Today?

“Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects.”

With the meeting going on in Copenhagen, one might think that the headline above was from current media.  But, it’s not.  It’s actually a quote from an article in Newsweek from April 28, 1975.  The topic was climate change but at that time, the concern was global cooling.  The concern then was from aerosols being emitted by humans, as this article partly explains.  In 1974, articles began appearing, like this one in the New York Times, that say that climate change could threaten global food production.  Another New York Times article from May 21, 1975 says that the scientific community was concerned about climate change.  It says that many thought that the earth was getting colder and we were heading toward another ice age.  But, in an interesting side note, it also mentioned that some scientists felt like man made pollution would hold  off another ice age.  It then goes on to say that just about everyone agrees that global cooling was inevitable and even cited cooling northern hemispheric temperatures since 1950 that had shortened Britain’s growing season. 

“There seem little doubt that the present period of unusual warmth will eventually give way to a time of colder climate, but there is no consensus with regard to either the magnitude or rapidity of the transition.” 

Again, some might think that is a quote from a recent global warming study that would seem to fit some folk’s world view.  But, it’s not.  This quote if from a January 19, 1975 article in the New York Times.  The Times is quoting a National Academy of Sciences report.  Now, people may jump on the parts of the article that state that says there is the potential for an abrupt end to the warmth of the interglacial period.  But, instead, I would focus attention on another quote from the article which says: “A far greater understanding of these changes is required than we now possess.”  While the article talks about the prospects of possible increasing global temperatures due to man’s activities, it also says that northern hemisphere temperatures rose steadily from the 1880’s to the 1940’s but then fell consistently from the 1940’s to the mid 1970’s.  Huh?  We’ve been led to believe that temperatures have been steadily increasing all through the 20th century. 

The Copenhagen talks have come and gone and nothing much happened.  We are in the middle of a global recession and all of the remedies proposed seem to have one thing in common: Money.  There is the cost of taxes designed to discourage fossil fuel use and encourage the development of “green” technology.  There is some sort of “cap and trade” effort which doesn’t seem to stop carbon emissions but instead shifts money around in a shell game.  And then there was the proposal that rich nations give hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries.  Some say these proposals are nothing more than a transfer or wealth and no one can tell me who gets the tax money and what it is to be used for.  Also, what assurances are there that the poorer countries that get the money from the rich ones will actually use the funding for what it was intended?  Ask yourself if you believe a third world government that is given hundreds of billions of dollars will do what they are supposed to do with all that money. 

All of this is, of course, framed in the current “climategate” scandal in which thousands of emails from a leading climate institute came to light in which the scientists involved appear to be acknowledging cooking the books to make data fit their hypothesis.  Now, apparently Russian scientists confirm that UK scientists manipulated climate data to fit their opinions.    Some people say that all of this new evidence proves that the whole Global Warming scare is all wrong.  But, that is not necessarily true.  Peter Gwynne, who authored the famous Global Cooling article in the April 28 1975 Newsweek issue says that his story was not wrong in the journalistic sense.  He reported accuratetly what was being reported.  What the difference is that scientists in the 1970’s were looking at the situation with an open mind.  They suspected that man’s activities were altering the climate but were unsure of just how it was happening.  They let the facts lead them to reach conclusions.  NASA explains that they use the term Climate Change instead of Global Warming because the latter term is suggestive of a terminal conclusion instead of merely an alteration of the climate. 

Have global temperatures risen? Yes.  Has the Arctic Ice Cap receded? Yes over 20 years but over the past two years, there has been modest ice growth at the North Pole, but most news articles use verbiage to try and obfuscate that fact.  That is the word…obfuscation instead it should be transparency.  The world should take the view of the scientists in the 1970’s that more understanding was required.  The truth is, we just don’t know for sure what is going on.  We have no idea if the proposals at the Copenhagen Summit would change the environment one bit.  We have no idea what the truth is regarding anthropogenic global warming because so many politicians, political world bodies, people who have a monetary stake in the process and countries who stand to gain politically have gotten involved.  Everyone should step aside.  Former Vice-Presidents should leave their private jets in the hanger and let the grown ups do their work.  The UN should look at the question of whether or not, if anthropogenic global warming is a certainty, if there is anything that can or should be done.  Thomas Friedman raised the question in one of his books if they money used to try and re-alter the earth’s climate could not be better used to fight disease, hunger and poverty. 

Global Cooling? Yeah…everyone just chill out and allow for a transparent, academic process to move forth that leads to a rational, precise conclusion.  The politicians can remain spectators.  The thing that gets overlooked in the January 1975 New York Times article is the subheadline:  “Scientists Warn Predictions Must Be Made Precise to Avoid Catastrophe.”   That holds true today and those at Copenhagen should paste that sub-headline to their foreheads.   So, those who act like facists and call anyone who even raises a question a “global warming denier” and attacks them with closed ears and no answers, pipe down.  For those who run around saying that global warming is a “hoax” recognize that while some methodology may be corrupt, the conclusion may in fact have veracity and the fears well founded.  At the same time, everyone should realize that developing alternative forms of energy is a good thing.  Any time you can create energy in a cleaner, more efficient manner it is nothing but positive provided it can be economically feasible.  If the United States had renewable, home grown energy independence, that would not only potentially be a long term economic benefit, but must certainly an addition to national security. 

NAM Snow Total through 7 AM Monday

Weather Bottom Line:  As for the big snow storm…its not going to be a big snow storm for Louisville.  First off, the ground is not cold enough.  The models are still in great disagreement regarding rain or snow though it will in all liklihood start as rain before turning to snow on Saturday.  The GFS keeps on claiming over 2 inches but much of that falls when the layers just above the surface are above freezing.  The NAM continues to have more rain than snow.  It’s really tough.  Remember, the difference between one and two inches of snow would be .10″ of  liquid .20″ of liquid.  That’s not much wiggle room.  Guess here is that we have rain that washes away the brine solution put on the roads (thus wasting taxpayer money again) and that we get about an inch or so on grassy areas. 

This whole pattern is typical of an El Nino year with a low coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and moving up into the Lower 48.  This can be a good pattern for Ohio Vally Snow if a low moves northeast out of SE Texas.  In this case though, it’s a low moving through the base of the trof along the Central Gulf Coast and moving up through Georgia and then exploding off the East Coast as it moves north.  The Appalacian mountains may get as much as two feet of snow.   I know that Apple Hill Farm the llamas and Alpacas are prepared, and Knox will love it…but Chi Chi will no doubt cower in fear.  As the low deepens while moving up the coast the cold front that moves through here on Saturday will catch up and there will be plenty of cold air in the Northeast Corridor to allow for the moisture tossed ashore by the low to create quite a snow storm. 

Now, its tough for moisture to come all the way from the Atlantic, across the mountains and to the Ohio Valley in much amounts.  But, there is expected to be about a half a foot in eastern Kentucky.  The next system that comes out of the Gulf for Christmas Eve has more promise, but its also possible that we get rain and maybe freezing rain.  Could be a mess…could be a White Christmas or could be just wet.  We’ll see. Needless to say, it will not be getting warm anytime soon.