Throughout most of central Canada, where I live, as well as the north-central US (west of the Great Lakes), we’ve had a very cool spring and summer. It feels like we’ve only had a few days of actual summer. My shorts are sitting at the bottom of my closet wondering why I’ve rejected them.
The media has been all over this. Skeptical websites are thrilled. I’ve heard way too many “So much for global warming!” comments for my comfort and sanity. There are only so many times that I can patiently explain the difference between weather and climate, regional and global change before I go a little nuts.
I made an uneducated assumption that the world was still around 2008 temperatures. Perhaps it was due to a solar minimum, the last dregs of La Nina, or just statistical noise. I didn’t think too much about it.
It was a bit of surprise yesterday, then, when I read a blog post that suggested that the southern US was experiencing above-average summer temperatures. I was quite intrigued. I went on a search for a global temperate anomaly map for this spring and/or summer. Here is a map from the National Climatic Data Center (part of NOAA).
As you can see, north-central North America did have below average June temperatures (not too surprising to me – the jet stream almost reached Chicago the other day). So did parts of Asia, Europe, and South America. But it’s clear that these cooler areas are the minority. Almost everywhere else on our planet (including the southern US) had a warmer than average June.
The NCDC states that the global land-and-ocean temperature for June 2009 (basically the map you see above) “was the second warmest on record”. They also note that, during June, an El Niño began. As the global temperature increases during an El Niño event, due to a change in heat exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere, the NCDC predicts that “global temperatures are likely to continue to threaten previous record highs”.
There’s a good chance that it won’t be long before we stop hearing that global warming stopped in 1998. In a way, that makes me happy – no other claim annoys me quite so much, can you say statistical misrepresentation – but it also makes me worry about the state of the world.
I wish I was wrong about this. I wish that global warming had really stopped in 1998.
June 2009 alone can’t prove a warming trend – it doesn’t even come close to the classical 30-year climate period. But it really makes the “so much for global warming” hypothesis in my area fall apart. That claim was unscientific even before we knew the stats for the whole world. How can you possibly discern an idea of global climate from a few months in a single area?
There’s a reason it’s called global warming, not regional warming.
There’s a reason it’s called climate change, not weather change.
And hooray for scientific data that is readily available to the public, so we don’t have to rely on personal experience of our own little corner of the world to try to figure out the whole planet.