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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 01/21/2009

2008 Was Warm, But Coolest Since 2001

By Andrew Freedman

* Warming Up? Full Forecast | Inauguration: Staying Warm Wasn't Easy *

In light of the recent record-breaking cold snap that has gripped much of North America and Europe, it seems more appropriate to write about an impending ice age than global warming. Personally, I returned from a vacation in warm and humid Australia (where temperatures have been above average in many areas) to find the U.S. was, according to my little brother, "frozenated." Greeting my Qantas flight in New York was a sea of frostbitten faces that conveyed the message, "Go back, you don't want this."

So much for global warming, right?

Well, not exactly.

Keep reading for analysis of 2008's temperature...

One Arctic air outbreak does not negate the long-term, pronounced warming trend that has been observed across the globe during the past 30 years. Oddly enough, as meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground pointed out, even last week as the Midwest and East Coast shivered, there were more record high temperatures recorded at U.S. airport weather observation stations than record cold readings. This was due in part to anomalously warm conditions in Alaska and California.

Year-end wrap-ups recently published by international climate agencies all showed that the planet continued to be warmer than average in 2008, although it was cooler than in recent years.

Depending on whose data one chooses to ascribe to, 2008 will go down in history as either the eighth warmest year on record (tied with 2001, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the ninth warmest year on record (according to NASA), or the 10th warmest year on record (according to the World Meteorological Organization and the UK Met Office). According to NASA, the 10 warmest years since the instrumental record began in1880 have all occurred between 1997 and 2008.

Differences in the annual numbers and rankings arise because each agency uses slightly different methods to process and analyze the large quantities of meteorological data that go into their annual summaries. NASA cautioned that the rankings can be "misleading" and have less value than an examination of the longer-term trends and spatial patterns of climate change.

According to the analysis from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, most land areas of the world experienced near normal to above normal temperatures in 2008. Above normal anomalies were found in Eurasia, the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula (part of the Antarctic continent), while cooler than average conditions predominated in the Pacific Ocean. This was consistent with the La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean that existed in the early part of 2008 and likely played a significant role in cooling the globe slightly relative to recent years.

Looking just at the United States, NASA said that 2008 was the coolest year of the decade thus far.

nasatemps.jpg
Long term temperature trends courtesy NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

NASA scientists, including NASA GISS director James Hansen, reiterated their prediction that a new warm temperature record is likely to occur in the next one to two years, after taking several natural and manmade factors into account.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since 1880, the annual combined global land and ocean surface temperature has increased at a rate of 0.09 degree F (0.05 degree C) per decade. This rate has increased to 0.29 degree F (0.16 degree C) per decade over the past 30 years. Curiously, the agency's analysis did not make any mention of the role that greenhouse gases are very likely playing in causing much of this warming.

The climate of 2008 helps demonstrate that although the warming influence of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are expected to continue to cause global temperatures to increase, there will still be significant variability from one year to the next. In other words, scientists do not anticipate that the climate will warm in a straight and steady line from one year to the next, although it may seem that way from the use of the term "global warming."

There are many sources of year-to-year climate variability, both internal to the climate system -- such as El Nino and La Nina -- and external, such as variability in the amount of solar radiation emitted by the sun. These factors can cause the climate to warm in fits and starts, making shorter term charts of global temperature trends appear nauseatingly complex.

The computer models that climate scientists use to project the future evolution of the climate system take this annual variability into account. As a recent entry on the climate science blog RealClimate stated, "No climate model has ever shown a year-on-year increase in temperatures because of the currently expected amount of global warming."

Although skeptics of man-made global climate change may argue otherwise, a year like 2008 that was warmer than the long-term average but cooler than the previous few years is consistent with the vast body of scientific evidence that holds that recent warming is mainly due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Still, the likelihood of continued warmer than normal temperatures has not been much comfort during the frigid days of late, when global warming has seemed more like wishful thinking than a threatening phenomenon.

By Andrew Freedman  | January 21, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Environment, Freedman, News & Notes, Science  
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Comments

Mr. Freedman wrote, "Oddly enough, as meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground pointed out, even last week as the Midwest and East Coast shivered, there were more record high temperatures recorded at U.S. airport weather observation stations than record cold readings. This was due in part to anomalously warm conditions in Alaska and California."

And it had absolutely nothing at all to do with throwing out record low temperatures. I wonder if they threw out any record high temperatures? We already know the answer, don't we.

Agenda driven science at its finest!

There is no catastrophic man made global warming. Look at the satellite record.

Unless more people wake up to this scam, you will find yourself less free and more poor in the very near future. The government is going to take away some of your liberties and a lot of your money.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

How many of you are aware that the land based temperature record that is recorded and presented by both NASA and NOAA is "adjusted"? Whenever you see temperature data from them, you are seeing "adjusted" temperatures and not the raw recorded temperature.

DO NOT TRUST
THE LAND BASED
REPORTED TEMPERATURE.

I could sit here all day posting link after link about why you shouldn't trust the land based record, but today happens to be a busy day for me. But nothing is stopping you from doing your own research on the matter.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Failure to get an accumulating snow here in Washington [despite the recent Arctic surge!] still bespeaks "global warming" to me.

It's remarkable, how just a few inches of snow cover can increase the albedo and chill out the neighborhood.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 21, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

A sincere and honest question for Mr. Freedman. Sir, time will prove one of right and one of us wrong. If time proves me wrong, I will make a public apology. If time proves you wrong, will you make a public apology for promoting the belief in global warming?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Please just tell me this. Do you honestly believe that the best course of action is to keep using our finite deposits of fossil fuels, and discharging toxic chemicals into our air and water with wild abandon. And that humankind will never see any repercussions from this? What reasoning to you have against creating cleaner, renewable, energy solutions and limiting the pollutants that we expunge into the biosphere? That it costs too much? What would the cost be if you're wrong?

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

The only scam being propagated here is by the continued insistence of Mr. Q. that there is no global warming - based on the UAH satellite temperatures. He continues to ignore the fact, as I've pointed out previously, that the GLOBAL average temperatures displayed include the demonstrably erroneous cold over the Antarctica. Moreover, he ignores the additional information provided by with the graphics underlying the temperature trace which he links to.


So, let's put this misinformation to rest once and for all - at least for objectively minded individuals.

By way of example, see the Global Temperature Map for December 2008 and the summary notes below the figure.

Note:

* Extreme cold over Anarctica, an ever present feature in charts for every month since the very first chart in 1979, which is included in the Global average.

* The extreme cold over much of North America and Siberia in December is counterbalanced by extreme warmth elsewhere over the Northern Hemisphere.

* The Global trend since 1978 is +0.13 C (.32 F)

* Global Composite temp in Dec 2008 is +0.18 C (about 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit) above 20-year average for December.

* Northern Hemisphere temp in the Dec 2008 is +0.41 C (about 0.74 degrees Fahrenheit) above 20-year average for December

* Southern Hemisphere temp Dec 2008 is -0.05 C (about 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit) below 20-year average for December.

* Since 1978, the Northern Hemisphere has warmed more than 3 times as fast as the Southern Hemisphere (+0.19 C to +0.06 C per decade).

The same differential between Northern and Southern (NH warmer than SH) appears all months to some degree and in the composite map for 1978 to 2006


BOTTOM LINE: Global temperatures - as observed by satellite - are increasing, especially in the Northern Hemisphere (mostly at higher latitudes) and are doing so beyond any shadow of doubt - unless one purposely ignores the erroneous cold over Antarctica.

BTW: Temperature adjustments to surface obs are for sound scientific reasons, not because of some conspiratorial reason as Mr.Q seems to imply. And, the satellite data shown is also adjusted from raw values for equally as sound reasons.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Q wrote:
"Unless more people wake up to this scam, you will find yourself less free and more poor in the very near future. The government is going to take away some of your liberties and a lot of your money"

in light of the outgoing administration's achievements over the last 8 years, that may be the funniest thing I have read all day. I'm already less free and more poor.

You keep right on arguing about minutiae Q, even as the evidence for climate change continues to mount.

Posted by: jbroon | January 21, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Brian wrote, "Do you honestly believe that the best course of action is to keep using our finite deposits of fossil fuels, and discharging toxic chemicals into our air and water with wild abandon."

You don't know a thing about me. Check the record. I am pro nuclear energy.

Does that answer your question?

The problem is that the vast majority of the people on your side of the debate are against nuclear energy. As if wind and solar could possibly satisfy one tenth of existing demand!

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

Where to start?

We had this debate before. You lost it. You don't have a single scientific study or scientific argument against the satellite record. The only thing you could point to was a graphic that you didn't like. That was explained to you. The graphic looked goofy because of the software used to turn a round object into a two dimensional image.

Find one, just one, scientific study or published paper that supports your argument against the satellite record.

And while you are at it; perhaps you can explain this.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back Andrew. It's been quiet without your weekly column.

Posted by: John-Burke | January 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

My last comments on this:

The numbers I provided (from UAH) have nothing to do with the graphic.

But, let's just forget the Antarctic and surface data. If one is to live by the UAH satellite data alone, then one must accept the fact that it unquestionably shows the Northern Hemisphere is warming, especially at higher latitudes.

Indeed, it's obvious that warming is occurring on average around the globe north of about 70 deg South. And this is where almost everyone on earth lives!

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

@Mr. Q:

You may be interested in this article -- Antarctica is warming.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

You are partly correct in your last statement, but you messed up with one critical word. instead of using the word IS in "it's obvious that warming IS occurring on average around the globe north of about 70 deg South," you should have used the word WAS. The satellite data shows global colling since early this decade. How many more years of this will it take to convince you that the warming trend has (at a minimum) taken a break?

Furthermore, does not nearly a decade of cooling give you pause that there might be something flawed with current models that needs to be improved-upon?

Posted by: RMVA | January 21, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I can't help myself let Mr. Q get away with these totally erroneous statements - statements which are indisputable evidence that Mr. Q twists facts or makes them up to suit his agenda.

If Mr Q bothered looking at the UAH satellite data beyond his blinders - or was truly interested in facts rather than ignoring them when contrary to his claims - he (or anyone else) would find that the supposed cooling over over Northern Hemisphere this decade is totally non existent. Indeed the UAH data indicates just the opposite - if anything the Northern Hemisphere is warming and doing so at an increasing rate.

I'll use the Northern Hemisphere December data to exemplify

2000: -0.05 degrees below 20-year average for December.

2001: + 0.18
2002: + 0.03
2003 + 0.43
2004 + 0.08
2005 + 0.31
2006 + 0.49
2007 + 0.15
2008 + 0.41

There is obviously a good deal of variability from one year to the next (to be expected), but you don't have to be a statistician to see there is no cooling trend. Indeed the average over the first to last three years increases from + 0.27 to + 0.35 C.

Talk about scams! It is any wonder why the provider of the trace Mr. Q refers to - as does just about every other denier of warming - provides only the global data series and never the corresponding chart for just the Northern Hemisphere.

Bottom Line: Question Global Warming if so inclined on the basis of the UAH satellite data. But, one cannot justifiably challenge the concept of Northern Hemisphere Warming


Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, the previous comment should have referred specifically to RMVA, not Mr. Q, but it's clear from previous occasions both are reading from exactly the same page

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton, since we are talking about "GLOBAL" warming, why are you cherry picking Northern hemisphere data? Thats a regional look.

The "GLOBAL" satellite data indicates colling this decade.

Instead of trying to deny what is happening on a global basis, should we not be seeking a better understanding of why it is happening?

Posted by: RMVA | January 21, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

typo in cooling again, sorry.

Posted by: RMVA | January 21, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, you're right, I don't know anything about you and I dont know what record you speak of but, I'm happy to say that we finally agree on a subject. If the French can provide more that 75% of their energy needs with nuclear power, what on earth is the hold up on this side of the pond?

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

way to go MR Q thanks to you the brainwashed nonsence gets called on here mother nature is so much better at healing her self. why the libs try to be the almighty?

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | January 21, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Brian wrote, "... I dont know what record you speak of but,"

I am speaking of the statements I have made at this very site. They were made prior to your arrival, but are, for the most part, readily accessible. Try this link.

Brian also wrote, "If the French can provide more that 75% of their energy needs with nuclear power, what on earth is the hold up on this side of the pond?"

The eco activists.

You can also check the record, same method as before, and you will find that I am pro environment, pro science, and I think the media is an essential ingredient in a free democracy. The problem is that the backlash from this scam is going to hurt the environmental movement, damage the reputation of scientists, and do great and lasting harm to the reputation of the media. There will be a public backlash. No scam can run forever.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Satellite data indicates that north of 70 deg S latitude average temperatures continue to increase. RMVA has not disputed this. Insisting that we focus ONLY on global temperatures is clearly an attempt to dismiss the whole notion of "global warming" and divert attention away from the real issues and concerns.

The real question is why - if we grant that cooling over Antarctica could be real - the globe is warming EXCEPT for extreme southern latitudes? Attempts to avoid the fact that it is continuing to warm over most of the globe - where almost everyone lives - is irresponsible, but apparently it's the only hat the deniers have.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Satellite data indicates that north of 70 deg S latitude average temperatures continue to increase. RMVA has not disputed this. Insisting that we focus ONLY on global temperatures is clearly an attempt to dismiss the whole notion of "global warming" and divert attention away from the real issues and concerns.

The real question is why - if we grant that cooling over Antarctica could be real - the globe is warming EXCEPT for extreme southern latitudes? Attempts to avoid the fact that it is continuing to warm over most of the globe - where almost everyone lives - is irresponsible, but apparently it's the only hat the deniers have.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 21, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton wrote, "The real question is why - if we grant that cooling over Antarctica could be real - the globe is warming EXCEPT for extreme southern latitudes?"

No, Dr. Tracton. The globe is not warming. It has been cooling for the last 5 years.

You can wish that it were warming, but that doesn't make it so.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

Have you told President Obama, Dr. Hansen or Mr. Freedman about this new change in terminology? It started out global warming, then switched to climate change, and now you appear to be promoting northern hemisphere warming. I don't think anyone else got the memo!

But I concede that it would be hilarious to hear the politicians try to spin it now as (use your booming announcer voice here) "Man Made Northern Hemisphere Warming".

I would pay money to see that.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 21, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

The only denier on this board is Dr. Tracton, who seems to be in denial that in recent years the globe has been cooling. There is no disputing the satellite data. Instead of trying to understand why this is the case, he lashes out at others, hurls epithets, and gets defensive. Very professional. NOT.

Posted by: RMVA | January 22, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

New data show much of Antarctica is warming more than previously thought

"The researchers devised a statistical technique that uses data from satellites and from Antarctic weather stations to make a new estimate of temperature trends."

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 22, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman,

Should I infer from your silence that you will NOT publicly apologize should time prove you wrong in your public advocacy of catastrophic man made global warming?

I freely admit that I may be a relic of a bygone era, but I was raised to believe that the right thing to do would be to apologize in such a situation. And I have stated that I will publicly apologize if time proves my comments wrong. What about you?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 22, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The cat seems to have gotten Mr. Freedman's tongue. That is a pity.

I am a very patient man Mr. Freedman. I have waited years to take my upcoming Class 2 flight physical. Waiting a year or two on you is child's play. I have already demonstrated my readiness to wait one year. What's another year or two? ;)

I won't "go away" Mr. Freedman. I will remain here singing your praises to the highest heavens (for that complete and eternal memory). Enjoy. Aren't you glad I respectively refer to you as Mr. Freedman?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | January 23, 2009 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, I wonder if any of your frequent posts you might let the rest of us in on which climatology-related field you got your Ph.D., or even Master's degree in. Since you seem convinced that you know so much more than the vast majority of climatologists out there.

Here's a hint. Getting your view of this complex issue from slanted blogs on the internet is never going to give you the truth. GO to your local university library, SIT down in the recent journals section, and pick up a few of them. Barring that, even a visit to the public library and some quality time with Science magazine (a prestigious peer-reviewed journal actually) or Scientific American (non-peer-reviewed but pretty faithful to the current state of science at any given time) would do wonders for opening your eyes.

Blogs with an agenda will give you an out-of-context, half-story to pump you up so you can go charging around the rest of the internet like a bull in a china shop. But you aren't spreading any knowledge or truth, you're just making a fool of yourself.

Just as a quick answer to one of your points, a frequent mantra of the denialist contingent, on the phrase "climate change"... The term is not a copout, or hedging of bets, or anything of the sort that you all love to pretend that it is. The phrase arose because the changes we are seeing are more complicated than simple temperature rises. This increase of energy in the atmosphere changes all kinds of other things, especially related to precipitation and season lengths, etc.

And YES - you will love this because with it you can cling to some sense of validation in a twisted way - the overall increase in planetary warmth is pushing some local climate regions into chaotic behavior where you see not just increased average temps, but increases in temperature VARIANCE - which may in some cases cause more frequent COLD spells. In a word, the climate is going haywire due to it being nudged out of its normal equilibrium.

There's your "climate change" primer for you. It's not a weasly marketing phrase. It's a description of things gone to hell in a handbasket. I hope that helps.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 23, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

B2O2,
Actually, it is a "weasly marketing phrase", invented and promoted by the wascally wabbit himself, conservative hack and corporate shill Frank Luntz.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | January 23, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

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