When Alaska Was Cold

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Temperatures are generally referred to some kind of long-term, often 30-year average. This is called the “climatology”, meaning the long-term average values of various climate variables. For up-to-date analyses, the period of time is usually taken as being the thirty years from 1981-2010. For Alaska, the usual measure for the overall state average uses twenty “first order” stations in Alaska. These have the longest and best records. We all know that the Arctic is warming now, but it hasn’t always been so.

Now, the climatology is the month-by-month average temperatures for that period. And of course, given the general warming of the planet over the last century, there have been some way colder years in Alaska than the modern 1981-2010 average. Here’s the record of one such year, back when Alaska was really cold.

mean monthly temperatures alaska 20 stationsNote just how extraordinarily cold Alaska can get. Ten of the twelve months were below average. And not just a little bit below average either.

The most surprising thing about the year was that January was a full 14°F (8°C) colder than the modern average. It would be unusual for one single temperature station to be that much colder than the climatology. But to have the average of 20 different stations being so very much colder than the climatology? It shows not just how cold Alaska used to be, but how widespread the cold was as well. It was bitterly cold, not just in one single area but covering almost the entire state.

And it was not just a cold January that year either. March was 7°F colder than usual, the summer was below average, and the start of the next winter was quite cold as well. In addition, the ice in the Bering Sea was much more extensive than usual, and snowfall was 30%-50% above normal.

All in all, it was a pretty brutal time for people living the state, back when Alaska was really cold. It’s fortunate that they made tough people back then, and Alaska is full of them. You’d have to say that it was a bad, cold year overall, 2012 … I’m just glad the world is warmer now.

The source document is here.

w.

PS—don’t bother telling me that weather is not climate … because that’s exactly what I’m pointing out, isn’t it. My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average, we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.

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52 thoughts on “When Alaska Was Cold

  1. And this occured while atmospheric CO2 concentrations were at their highest. Where did all that heat go if CO2 is supposed to be a blanket keeping it from radiating to outer space?

  2. Many new record low temperatures were observed. For example, Bettles in the northern Interior, recorded temperatures at or below -60°F

    -60F(-50C) certainly puts things into perspective.

    If I have the right place on Google (maps), it has an airport. Nothing else, just an airport. What is it? A mining operation? (sorry – looks really ‘alien’ to a UK resident)

  3. None too far (mouse wheel zoom speaking) from Fairbanks. I guess one needs to be ‘tough people’ to live and work out there. I’m impressed.

  4. Not altogether OT (so forgive me Willis)…some comparisons for UK residents….

    Area : England – 50,346 sq miles / Alaska – 663,268 sq miles
    Pop. Density : England 1,054.1 per sq mile / Alaska 1.26 per sq mile
    Capital of Alaska : Juneau – pop. 32,000 souls

    No wonder Alaska looks a bit ‘alien’ to me!

  5. “and snowfall was 30%-50% above normal.”.
    Not possible; you only get more snow with higher temperatures. /sarc

  6. A zinger, as always, Willis.

    But: “Children just won’t know anymore what snow looks like!” – and “By 20XX (you name it) the North Pole will be free of ice!” – you know…

  7. “We all know that the Arctic is warming now, but it hasn’t always been so.”
    Yeah that sounds like a like a good story, one full of hot air.
    “Here’s the record of one such year, back when Alaska was really cold.”
    And what year would that be since your figure 2 is for 2012 which you
    conveniently left off the bottom of the graphic.

  8. “bdub’s comment”
    I never cease to be amazed at the propensity of so many members of the human race to parade their own stupidity for all to see.

  9. bdub says:
    March 9, 2013 at 8:23 am

    “We all know that the Arctic is warming now, but it hasn’t always been so.”

    Yeah that sounds like a like a good story, one full of hot air.

    Like the rest of the world, it cooled post 1940 …

    “Here’s the record of one such year, back when Alaska was really cold.”

    And what year would that be since your figure 2 is for 2012 which you
    conveniently left off the bottom of the graphic.

    Umm … that would be back in 2012, when Alaska was anomalously cold …

    w.

  10. Could you give the details of the stations, please? I’d like to look at the actual values, especially if there are “historical” records, for the whole of 20th century, or a substantial portion thereof. Would KNMI be possible source?

  11. Tricky,
    I think the cool part of this weather cycle is going to cause self doubt and violent denial in the faithful.
    2012 is just the start of their implosion of faith. Must hurt when one realizes they have been “saving the world” by fighting natural cycles.
    Our govt funded experts keep insisting that the Arctic is warming like nowhere else on earth, when I look at their measuring methods, few stations, poorly located and calibrated, no satellite monitoring of the high arctic. I smell a bunch of rats.
    Environment Canada is a miserable waste of tax dollars, if as they insist, the Arctic is the canary of modern AGW, why is it so poorly monitored?
    Any improvement from the mess revealed by FOIA 2010?
    I can not get any assurance from EC that their Arctic stations are accurate below -40C or even stay within calibration over the normal arctic temperature range.
    Environment Canada, has their own science, see their website, something apparently above and beyond actual empirical science. Its so much easier to smear poor measurements over land and sea to create the numbers an activist bureaucrat desires.
    Another public watchdog that has gone mad, rabid and dangerous.

  12. .
    Willis. Sorry, but your punch-line is a bit flat. I missed that you were talking about 2012. Could you make the punch-line a bit more robust and punchy. Thanks.

  13. Nothing to see here. Alaska is just a small region, a bit like Europe in the Little Ice Age.

    /sarc

    No sarc – you gotta give bdub some credit for knowing it was 2012 without even reading the rest of the post …

  14. Willis a little too subtle for you, Ralphy?
    The meme has ever been that the polar regions are the canary in the coal mine, that polar amplification would result in the greatest warming occurring in polar regions. Sure, it’s just weather since the anomaly points in the cold direction. If the anomaly had been in the warm direction, just imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the warmist faction.

  15. John Robertson says
    Our govt funded experts keep insisting that the Arctic is warming like nowhere else on earth
    Henry says
    The cooing will affect higher latitudes first, Those enjoyng a warm Gulf stream will be affected a bit later.
    In my sample, the 2 Alaskan stations showed severe cooling, as expected,
    and this will continue,

    http://blogs.24.com/henryp/2013/02/21/henrys-pool-tables-on-global-warmingcooling/

    If it was me living there I would pack my bags.

  16. “the period of time is usually taken as being the thirty years from 1981-2010″
    “there have been some way colder years in Alaska than the modern 1981-2010 average”
    “Here’s the record of one such year”
    “back when Alaska was really cold”
    “And it was not just a cold January that year either”
    “back when Alaska was really cold”
    So why not lead the whole thing off with back in 2012 or better yet last year?
    I know when someone is trying to mislead the reader and that is exactly
    what you are doing.

  17. bdub says:
    March 9, 2013 at 11:12 am

    “the period of time is usually taken as being the thirty years from 1981-2010″
    “there have been some way colder years in Alaska than the modern 1981-2010 average”
    “Here’s the record of one such year”
    “back when Alaska was really cold”
    “And it was not just a cold January that year either”
    “back when Alaska was really cold”
    So why not lead the whole thing off with back in 2012 or better yet last year?
    I know when someone is trying to mislead the reader and that is exactly
    what you are doing.

    My friend, I fear you have missed the point entirely. I was certainly trying to temporarily mislead the reader, in order to show said reader how strong our misconceptions are. Everyone is willing to believe Alaska used to be colder and is now warmer.

    But that’s not the facts.

    2012, for example, was very cold.

    So I deliberately left out the year, so that people would be surprised in their assumptions when the year was revealed at the end of the piece.

    Now, overall was the reader misled? Not a bit. At the end I stated quite clearly that the year was 2012, last year. That was the point, that such a cold year didn’t happen a half century ago.

    I’m sorry you didn’t get the joke.

    All the best,

    w.

  18. Well done Willis….love your articles and I saw the crunch line coming.

    Unfortunately some readers seem to lack a sense of irony….or something

  19. The cold weather in Alaska is having an impact on local agriculture. And the heavier than normal snowfall this winter will take longer to melt keeping things colder into the spring. Growing seasons are short up there and the extra hours of sunshine really help, but growing degree days are still the limiting factor on plant biochemistry.

    The cold in Alaska and Siberia is having an impact on North Pacific SSTs. They are 1-3 degrees below climatology now. They will not warm up much anytime soon.

  20. Poor bdub. Even after the clever rhetorical technique is explained, he/she just doesn’t get it. :)

  21. So it was a joke? You’re kidding me, right? Simply, WOW.
    “Everyone is willing to believe Alaska used to be colder and is now warmer”
    Well I guess I’m not “everyone” because I have no such preconceptions.
    What makes you think you know what people are willing to believe?
    “At the end I stated quite clearly that the year was 2012, last year”
    “You’d have to say that it was a bad, cold year overall,
    2012 … I’m just glad the world is warmer now. You call that clear I’d hate
    to see what is unclear. You certainly didn’t use the words last year nor did
    you say anything like ‘believe it or not folks the bad cold year I’m describing is
    really 2012!’.

    “That was the point, that such a cold year didn’t happen a half century ago.”
    “My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average
    ,we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.”
    To bad your “main issues” don’t match.
    You stated your real point and that is “the world is warmer now”. Unfortunately
    your source document kills that dead. You don’t fool me at all fella.

  22. “NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.”http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-temps.html. On the matter of global climate, you cannot take data from one relatively small area (and relative to the globe, Alaska is small) and one 12-month period and conclude “so there” about much of anything. It’s bad science, akin to a bad angler catching one small trout from one small stream and “concluding” that trout everywhere are small.

  23. bdub says:
    March 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    So it was a joke? You’re kidding me, right? Simply, WOW.

    I’m not sure “joke” is the best description for it, I’m not sure what to call it. It was a way to challenge orthodox beliefs.

    “Everyone is willing to believe Alaska used to be colder and is now warmer”
    Well I guess I’m not “everyone” because I have no such preconceptions.
    What makes you think you know what people are willing to believe?

    Because I write for the web and people spend a lot of time telling me what they believe … and because I read the popular articles on climate and the comments on those articles … in other words, I stay abreast of the field, including public attitudes and beliefs.

    “At the end I stated quite clearly that the year was 2012, last year”
    “You’d have to say that it was a bad, cold year overall,
    2012 … I’m just glad the world is warmer now. You call that clear I’d hate
    to see what is unclear. You certainly didn’t use the words last year nor did
    you say anything like ‘believe it or not folks the bad cold year I’m describing is
    really 2012!’.

    Actually, bdub, some of us like to just simply state the point, rather than take a sledgehammer and pound in a big sign saying

    “For the 1% who didn’t get it, the point is right here! ——>”

    “That was the point, that such a cold year didn’t happen a half century ago.”
    “My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average
    ,we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.”
    To bad your “main issues” don’t match.
    You stated your real point and that is “the world is warmer now”. Unfortunately
    your source document kills that dead. You don’t fool me at all fella.

    Fool you? Whatever gave you the impression I was trying to fool you? I truly didn’t expect to fool anyone. At the end of the post I said that the year was 2012, and left folks to draw their own conclusions.

    Fool you? Words fail me, bdub. I tried to explain gently that everyone except you got the joke, and they got the point of the story. It wasn’t hidden or mysterious. I linked to the original document, it’s an interesting read. But you, almost alone among all of the readers, didn’t understand what was going on. So I explained it to you as best I knew how.

    A wise man at that point would say “Oh … OK” and leave it at that.

    You, on the other hand, take it the other way. Instead of noting that everyone but you got the joke, you want to bitch about how the joke was told

    So you complain that the point was made too subtly, and that I should ring bells and put up big arrows saying “POINT HERE, DON’T MISS IT” … in other words, everyone but you is out of step …

    Truly, bdub, the First Rule of Holes applies here … when you’re in one … stop digging.

    All the best,

    w.

  24. bDub: Try looking at Willis’ article as if it were a murder mystery on TV. At the last scene or two the answer (murderer) is revealed. Willis just employed the same basic literary device. My question to you: are you a mystery lover, or a sitcom lover? In sitcoms you get an instant punch line and it takes very little thinking. It would be an interesting poll of readers here to determine if they are mystery or sitcom lovers. Science is a mystery.

  25. Barbra & Jack
    “…global climate, you cannot take data from one relatively small area…”
    Reading comprehension is an acquired skill – go back and re-read the article. It is pretty clear that Willis admits precisely what you are pointing out.

    Willis: Heh, not that you need it, [but] I am in a “defend Willis” mood today.

  26. Barbra & Jack Donachy says:
    March 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    “NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.”http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-temps.html. On the matter of global climate, you cannot take data from one relatively small area (and relative to the globe, Alaska is small) and one 12-month period and conclude “so there” about much of anything. It’s bad science, akin to a bad angler catching one small trout from one small stream and “concluding” that trout everywhere are small.

    First off, get rid of the user name. Am I talking to Barbra, or am I talking to Jack? It’s like those disgusting couples who say “We’re pregnant”. Whichever one of you I’m talking to, get your own separate identity.

    Second, if you disagree with something I say, please QUOTE MY WORDS. I can defend my own ideas. I cannot defend what some man/woman might imagine about my ideas.

    For example, I said nothing about “global climate”. In fact, I said nothing about “global” at all. Didn’t use the word once.

    So when you get off onto how “global climate” is this or that … what on earth does that have to do with me? I said nothing about global anything. That is nothing but your fantasy.

    Come back when there’s only one of you, and you are willing to quote whatever it was I said that has you upset. I know it’s not global anything, I didn’t discuss that.

    w.

  27. Barbra & Jack Donachy says: “NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880″
    Wilis says: “if you disagree with something I say, please QUOTE MY WORDS. I can defend my own ideas. I cannot defend what some man/woman might imagine about my ideas.”

    Come on Willis, don’t be such a baby. Your whole thread is about a local region on a web site on _global_ climate. The Donachy’s comment is more on topic than your post.

  28. trafamadore says:
    March 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Come on Willis, don’t be such a baby. Your whole thread is about a local region on a web site on _global_ climate. The Donachy’s comment is more on topic than your post.
    ——————————————————————–

    So following your strange logic, anything posted on here, even a humorous article or WE’s life experience can be connected to Global_Climate?
    Interesting.

  29. Willis my mum who hails from Scotland has often used the following phrase when one does not share in a groups understanding. “We’re all out of step except for our (pronounced oor) Jock”. Maybe that can explain bdub difficulty with your tongue in cheek look at Alaska’s “historical” temperatures.
    James Bull

  30. trafamadore says (March 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm): “Your whole thread is about a local region on a web site on _global_ climate.”

    I suspect WUWT’s owner would dispute your idea of what his site is all about (hint: check the part of the banner that starts out, “Commentary on puzzling things”).

  31. trafamadore says:
    March 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Barbra & Jack Donachy says:

    “NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880″

    Wilis says:

    “if you disagree with something I say, please QUOTE MY WORDS. I can defend my own ideas. I cannot defend what some man/woman might imagine about my ideas.”

    Come on Willis, don’t be such a baby. Your whole thread is about a local region on a web site on _global_ climate. The Donachy’s comment is more on topic than your post.

    Actually, if you’d bothered to read the WUWT masthead, you’d have noticed that my post is on a web site dedicated to “puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news”. There have been dozens and dozens of articles on WUWT about regions, and about local areas, and states, and counties, and even the weather at individual stations. Are you possibly so out of touch you’ve never noticed that? Or are you just pretending to be that out of touch?

    Or are you simply so desperate for any reason to attack me that you make things up?

    In any case, whichever way I try to explain your strange accusation, the prognosis isn’t good.

    Do try to keep up, read the masthead, notice a few of the articles, there’s a good fellow … someday you’ll understand that your relentless yapping at my ankles isn’t doing your reputation any good.

    w.

    … don’t let the Alaskans hear you call it a “local region”, they think it’s a country …

  32. @trafamadore
    Come on Willis, don’t be such a baby. Your whole thread is about a local region on a web site on _global_ climate. The Donachy’s comment is more on topic than your post.

    Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news by Anthony Watts

  33. Here are the rules.

    14°F below the average is just the weather in Alaska which is just a small fraction of the globe.

    14°F above the average is a sure sign of global warming. It’s worse than we thought.

    7°F above the average is a sure sign of global warming. It’s worse than we thought.

  34. David Johnson says:
    March 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

    “bdub’s comment”
    I never cease to be amazed at the propensity of so many members of the human race to parade their own stupidity for all to see.

    ————–

    Seconded.

  35. Is it just me or are the trolls out in force today looking for any pretext for argument?
    Willis is correct that any warm spell is declarative evidence of global warming as is any cold spell, tornado, hurricane, blizzard.
    All of it obscures the search for the truth.
    I am reminded of the science guy’s CO2 in a jar video that was shown to millions of children as proof of the coming global warming disaster. The purpose of that video was to indoctrinate not educate.

  36. Before they started with the carbon dioxide nonsense, people looked at the planets to explain weather cycles, rightly or wrongly.
    see here

    http://www.cyclesresearchinstitute.org/cycles-astronomy/arnold_theory_order.pdf

    to quote from the above paper:
    “A Weather Cycle as observed in the Nile Flood cycle, Max rain followed by Min rain, appears discernible with
    maximums at 1750, 1860, 1950 and minimums at 1670, 1800, 1900 and a minimum at 1990 predicted.
    The range in meters between a plentiful flood and a drought flood seems minor in the numbers but real in consequence….

    end quote

    According to my table for maxima, I calculate the date where the sun decided to take a nap, as being around 1995.
    and not 1990 as William Arnold predicted. please correct me if you think I am wrong.
    This is looking at energy-in. I think earth reached its maximum output (means) a few years later, around 1998.

    Anyway, look again at my best sine wave plot for my data

    http://blogs.24.com/henryp/2012/10/02/best-sine-wave-fit-for-the-drop-in-global-maximum-temperatures/

    1900 minimum flooding – end of the warming
    1950 maximum flooding – end of cooling
    1995 minimum flooding – end of warming.
    predicted 2035-2040 – maximum flooding – end of cooling.

    Do you see the pertinent correlation with my sine wave?

    I really don’t trust the base line of temperatures before 1925 as it seems nobody can supply me with a calibration certificate of thermometer from those days.
    Also, the way of recording, meant that you did a reading every 4 hours or so,
    which may have affected the average for the day, never mind the fact if people were sick or on leave and the job just did not “get done”

  37. I could be wrong, but I thought I’d left a comment here last night. A few jars and Springing forward might be clouding my memory.

    Something to do with Bettles? Mod?

  38. Has anyone noticed how few flowers are in bloom in UK at the moment? I am so used to the meeja commenting on early blooming that I had expected them to notice how late things are this year and draw our attention to it. Silly me.

    PS Not off topic as it follows Willis’ theme of howling about high temps and ignoring low ones.

  39. DaveS says:
    March 10, 2013 at 3:37 am
    David Johnson says:
    March 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

    “bdub’s comment”
    I never cease to be amazed at the propensity of so many members of the human race to parade their own stupidity for all to see.

    ————–

    Seconded.
    ————-
    Where’s a Like Button when you need it?
    cn

  40. “My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average, we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.”

    I suppose that is testable. The monthly anomalies in alaska are somewhat erratic ( rail to rail in excess of 5C) so it should be easy to look at the announcements over the past 5 years ( lets say)
    and find a time when a single state ( any state, not just alaska, giving you 50 bites at the apple) was called out for its high monthly temperature. Not drought, not tornados, but called out exclusively for its temperature extreme and soley its monthly extreme.

    you see if we never would have heard the end of it, we’d still be hearing it and I cant for the life of me remember any time a single state was called out for a single months temperature.. In short, even if we had heard it, we have heard the end of it.

    So, there are the words quoted exactly. Next, I’ll show you how much notice the extra cold actually generated.

  41. Nice article. I must be too used to Willis’ style though, because I’d twigged that 2012 was the subject by the end of the second para, and had an inkling by the end of the first.

    I also instantly noticed, in the comments, that bdub dropped the 4th letter from his moniker. The “m”, of course.

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