Model-Data Comparison: Alaska Land Surface Air Temperature Anomalies

Mainstream media and climate alarmist websites have been publishing a lot of nonsense about record and near-record surface temperatures in Alaska over the past few weeks.

Near-record? Yup. Near-record. On June 25th, Sophia Rosenbaum penned the NBC News article Alaska sweating through brutal blast of heat. But right at the top of the page is a photo of smiling bikini-clad residents sunbathing at the lakeshore. Doesn’t look that brutal to me. Later, she notes:

In Fairbanks, the “near-record temperatures” are expected Wednesday and Thursday to clock in at 91 degrees.

Temperatures above 90 are extremely rare in Alaska. Fairbanks has only experienced 90 or above 14 times since in 109 years. The record in Fairbanks is 95 degrees set back in 1915.

If the record was set in 1915, why would anyone be worried about Alaskans receiving the gift of sunbathing weather? Let them enjoy it in peace.

To give Sophia Rosenbaum credit, she ends her article on a high note, by concluding there are differences of opinion about the cause of the heat wave:

A large northward bulge in the jet stream is to blame, consensus shows. Why that has occurred is more hotly debated. Some scientists tie the jet stream’s odd behavior on climate change. Others don’t make the connections directly, instead seeing random weather or long-term cycles at work. And even more scientists are taking a wait-and-see approach.

I wonder if Sophia Rosenbaum dropped by Steve Goddard’s blog and found the past newspaper articles about the high Alaska temperatures in the 1930s and in the 1950s.

The author of a SkepticalScience post, on the other hand, is not that well balanced…in his news roundup.

It’s easy to see when and why Alaskan surface air temperatures warmed. Based on linear trends of the recently released CRUTEM4 data, land surface air temperature anomalies were relatively flat in Alaska from 1900 to 1975, and from 1977 to present, they’re flat again. Between those two periods was the Pacific Climate Shift of 1976, which, in effect, raised Alaska land surface air temperature anomalies in the neighborhood of 1 deg C. See Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1

Figure 1

##############

Figure 2

Figure 2

(Note: We discussed the 1976 Pacific Climate Shift in the Blog Memo to John Hockenberry Regarding PBS Report “Climate of Doubt”. That phenomenon occurred across the entire East Pacific Ocean, effectively raising the sea surface temperatures of 33% of the surface of the global oceans almost 0.17 deg C…in one year. See the graph here.)

As you’ll note in Figure 1, in addition to the one in 1976, there appear to be other shifts in the land surface air temperature anomalies of Alaska, like in 1911 and 1934, and possibly 1957 and 2001. Between the shifts, surface air temperatures decay, gradually cooling after each shift, except for the recent period, when surface temperatures are cooling quite drastically. Unfortunately, the UKMO CRUTEM4 data lags a few months at the KNMI Climate Explorer.

So, how well do climate models simulate Alaska land surface temperature anomalies? The outputs of the climate models stored in the CMIP5 archive are also available through the KNMI Climate Explorer, though you may have to sign in to access them. For the period of 1900 to 1975, the climate model performance is kind of good (relative to the most recent 35 years). The difference in the observed trend in Alaska surface temperature anomalies from 1900 to 1975 and the trend of all the ensemble members of the climate models stored in the CMIP5 archive (models used for the upcoming IPCC AR5) is only about 0.06 deg C per decade, with the models showing warming and the data showing no warming.

Figure 3

Figure 3

However, according to the models, if manmade greenhouse gases were responsible for the warming, Alaska land surface air temperature anomalies should have warmed about 1.4 deg C since 1977, based on the linear trend. See Figure 4. But land surface air temperatures in Alaska have not warmed since 1977, also based on the linear trend. In fact, over the past couple of years, Alaskan surface air temperatures have been dropping rapidly.

Figure 4

Figure 4

STANDARD BLURB ABOUT THE USE OF THE MODEL MEAN

We’ve published numerous posts that include model-data comparisons. If history repeats itself, proponents of manmade global warming will complain in comments that I’ve only presented the model mean in the above graphs and not the full ensemble. In an effort to suppress their need to complain once again, I’ve borrowed parts of the discussion from the post Blog Memo to John Hockenberry Regarding PBS Report “Climate of Doubt”.

The model mean provides the best representation of the manmade greenhouse gas-driven scenario—not the individual model runs, which contain noise created by the models. For this, I’ll provide two references:

The first is a comment made by Gavin Schmidt (climatologist and climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies—GISS). He is one of the contributors to the website RealClimate. The following quotes are from the thread of the RealClimate post Decadal predictions. At comment 49, dated 30 Sep 2009 at 6:18 AM, a blogger posed this question:

If a single simulation is not a good predictor of reality how can the average of many simulations, each of which is a poor predictor of reality, be a better predictor, or indeed claim to have any residual of reality?

Gavin Schmidt replied with a general discussion of models:

Any single realisation can be thought of as being made up of two components – a forced signal and a random realisation of the internal variability (‘noise’). By definition the random component will uncorrelated across different realisations and when you average together many examples you get the forced component (i.e. the ensemble mean).

To paraphrase Gavin Schmidt, we’re not interested in the random component (noise) inherent in the individual simulations; we’re interested in the forced component, which represents the modeler’s best guess of the effects of manmade greenhouse gases on the variable being simulated.

The quote by Gavin Schmidt is supported by a similar statement from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). I’ve quoted the following in numerous blog posts and in my recently published ebook. Sometime over the past few months, NCAR elected to remove that educational webpage from its website. Luckily the Wayback Machine has a copy. NCAR wrote on that FAQ webpage that had been part of an introductory discussion about climate models (my boldface):

Averaging over a multi-member ensemble of model climate runs gives a measure of the average model response to the forcings imposed on the model. Unless you are interested in a particular ensemble member where the initial conditions make a difference in your work, averaging of several ensemble members will give you best representation of a scenario.

In summary, we are definitely not interested in the models’ internally created noise, and we are not interested in the results of individual responses of ensemble members to initial conditions. So, in the graphs, we exclude the visual noise of the individual ensemble members and present only the model mean, because the model mean is the best representation of how the models are programmed and tuned to respond to manmade greenhouse gases.

CLOSING

We can add Alaskan land surface air temperatures to the variables that the IPCC’s climate models cannot simulate. In recent months we’ve also illustrated and discussed that the climate models stored in the CMIP5 archive for the upcoming 5th Assessment Report (AR5) cannot simulate observed:

Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures and the Diurnal Temperature Range

Hemispheric Sea Ice Area

Global Precipitation

Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperatures

Global Surface Temperatures (Land+Ocean) Since 1880

And we recently showed in the post Meehl et al (2013) Are Also Looking for Trenberth’s Missing Heat that the climate models used by Meehl et al (2013) show no evidence that they are capable of simulating how warm water is transported from the tropics to the mid-latitudes at the surface of the Pacific Ocean, so why should we believe they can simulate warm water being transported to depths below 700 meters without warming the waters above 700 meters?

TITLE FOR UPCOMING BOOK

Many thanks to all who have suggested titles for my upcoming book about the extremely poor performance of climate models being used by the IPCC for their 5th Assessment Report.

I’ve been toying with another title based on a comment I recently made on the thread of a WUWT post by easy-to read, always-informative Willis Eschenbach.

As I’m writing a model-data post or when I come across an alarmist webpage tolling the life-as-we-know-it death knell while referring to a climate model study, I’m reminded of an early scene from “Young Frankenstein”. In it, a medical student asks, “But what about your grandfather’s work, sir?”

Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein cries out in reply, “My grandfather’s work was doo-doo!” See the YouTube clip here.

So right now, the working title is Climate Models are Doo-Doo, with the subtitle An Illustrated Overview of IPCC Climate Model Incompetence. And for the cover art I’m thinking a cartoon by Josh with Barack Obama asking, “But what about climate models?”, and a cranky old pensioner replying, “Climate Models are Doo-Doo!” Maybe with Obama feeding billions of dollars to a mainframe that looks like the Frankenstein monster and a diverging model-data graph of global temperatures behind the frazzled Billy Connolly-looking pensioner.

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47 thoughts on “Model-Data Comparison: Alaska Land Surface Air Temperature Anomalies

  1. WOnderful, Brutal! Oh the brutality, I looked at the photo. Journalist schools are such a marvelous invention.

  2. I’m cracking myself up. I looked at SkS:
    “A clear view of Alaska—and maybe our future
    The melt in Greenland and the high temperatures in Alaska may be more signs—like we needed more—of the reality of climate change.”

    What you mean there’ll be Bikini babes all over the place? Wait, can we model that?

    ” Even scarier is the fact that the climate models used before didn’t predict this sort of thing.”

    No. Ah dang.

    ” The climate is very complex, and it’s hard to model it accurately”

    Hey! That’s OUR argument! You cleptocrat warmists!

  3. Climate models are well-established as neverending comedy fountains, but frankly I’d rather see taxpayers’ money spent on something serious.

  4. Then take a look at the DMI high arctic temperature mean this summer — it’s running about 1.5* – 2° below the long-term mean. The summer move above freezing came about ten days late.

  5. I like the line from SkS:

    So it’s not that the models are wrong and therefore climate change doesn’t exist. It’s that the models aren’t perfect, and it’s looking like things are worse than we thought.

    Substituting ‘the models’ for ‘things’

    So it’s not that the models are wrong and therefore climate change doesn’t exist. It’s that the models aren’t perfect, and it’s looking like the models are worse than we thought.

    johnb

  6. One thing is clear: if you live in Fairbanks the bugs are about to hit biblical proportions. As an northern canoeist, a saying meant to bring good luck is, “May the wind be in your face.”

  7. I’m going to indulge in some “cherry picking.” I know, I know, but hey…

    Figure 4: Looking at the model predictions vs the CRUTEM4 data beginning ~ 2000, I am struck by 1) a roughly FLAT trend for the model predictions (temps NOT rising???) and 2) a distinct COOLING trend for the CRUTEM4 observed data.

    I know – meaningless, meaningless, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

  8. With its topography Alaska sports an extreme gradient of marine influence. At the coast there is a classic Marine West Coast or Marine Subarctic regime, meanwhile a few short miles inland it’s Mongolia or inner most Siberia. The whole West Coast sees this to varying degrees. Here in Norcal it can be 55 deg F at the beach meanwhile some semi desert intern montaine basin 20 miles inland has 105 deg F.

  9. Alaska has suffered through 2 straight brutal winters and awful summers. Now they get some nice weather the people are very happy and the greeny wackos are trying to argue that they are suffering.

  10. #4 son is working at a resort in the Denali National Park this summer and told me last night that ALL the natives up there are ectastic about the brief warm spell they are getting. He told me they told him it had been about 2-3 years since the last one, but that in the past they might have had temperatures in the high 80′s or low 90′s for up to 2-4 weeks.

    He also told me that the bugs are already bad.

  11. Weren’t there serious low temps in AK in the last winter or two?

    I can’t remember the temperature in Hay River NWT the July 2 I inspected the runway there, that area seems similar to Fairbanks but is distant from it though both inland and Hay River is on a big lake.

    My memory is hot, albeit out on the asphalt and gravel there’s much heating by the sun. Big flies.

  12. http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/alaska

    If you want to compare alaska surface temps to models then you must use a model run that was focused on regional accuracy. You are using the wrong model runs.

    Hmm

    Try here

    http://www.narccap.ucar.edu/

    Sadly the domain doesnt cover all of alaska. But you can check out what there is.

    Since regional hindcast and prediction is ground breaking you have to spend time

    doing model evaluation first. might be above your pay grade, but you’ll find that a couple of the models are good

  13. Steven Mosher says: “If you want to compare alaska surface temps to models then you must use a model run that was focused on regional accuracy. You are using the wrong model runs.”

    Actually, I’m not. The CMIP-archived models were used for regional temperature presentations in AR4.

    Regards

  14. Where was all the hysteria when the winter temperatures were brutally cold? Or was that caused by global warming too?

  15. Pieter F. says:
    June 27, 2013 at 8:35 am
    Then take a look at the DMI high arctic temperature mean this summer — it’s running about 1.5* – 2° below the long-term mean. The summer move above freezing came about ten days late.

    You are aware that that is the result of a model I hope?

  16. Good report, Bob!
    My daughter lives in Anchorage. She said they went from snow warnings to the heat wave in about a month. They are loving the weather other than their lack of fans to cool the house.

  17. Bob

    “Actually, I’m not. The CMIP-archived models were used for regional temperature presentations in AR4.

    ##########
    yes but you didnt pull those results for your presentation.

  18. Steven Mosher says:
    June 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm
    “Bob
    “Actually, I’m not. The CMIP-archived models were used for regional temperature presentations in AR4.
    ##########
    yes but you didnt pull those results for your presentation.”

    Too bad that even SkS thinks the models are crap. (Go to the linked SkS page)
    Are they also too stupid to find the model that works?

  19. Steven Mosher says:
    June 27, 2013 at 10:46 am
    “doing model evaluation first. might be above your pay grade, but you’ll find that a couple of the models are good”

    Use only dice that throw a six.

  20. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on temperatures around the developed world will know that this has been a particularly cold and prolonged winter in Alaska. So how can a brief warm spell possibly be anything to do with global warming. I call out the bullshitter journalists making this claim.

  21. Tim says:
    June 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Anyone who has been keeping an eye on temperatures around the developed world will know that this has been a particularly cold and prolonged winter in Alaska.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    As Pieter F. said, Take a look at the DMI high arctic temperature mean….

    Daily mean temperature and climate north of the 80th northern parallel, as a function of the day of year. The temperatures have not made it above freezing yet this year and it is passed the summer solstice.

    This is 2012 for comparison. It is definitely colder up there this year.

  22. Ric, they need them for the winter visit to Hawaii.

    Just for added data, a local article on the summer to date in AK http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130627/alaskas-record-shattering-summer-sizzle-due-end-next-week

    So, 17 days in June above 70, 19 at a local TV station. Normal is around mid-sixties. Big cool down coming, and rain. May be a new pattern with a persistent low and prolonged cool and wet conditions. Last summer had one of the coolest Julys on record and the previous one had 36 straight days of rain, but a great King Bolete crop.

  23. “In summary, we are definitely not interested in the models’ internally created noise, and we are not interested in the results of individual responses of ensemble members to initial conditions. So, in the graphs, we exclude the visual noise of the individual ensemble members and present only the model mean, because the model mean is the best representation of how the models are programmed and tuned to respond to manmade greenhouse gases.”

    Somebody, you, Gavin, or another must unpack these concepts. What is internally created noise? What is that with regard to specific aspects of the programming or scientific principles embodied in the model? The models are different, aren’t they? Do the differences make up the noise? If not, what is the noise apart from the other differences among the models?

    Are you sure you know the difference between process and product here? The model and its preparation belong to the process. The numbers generated in a run are the product. Does noise belong to process, product, or both?

    What you vaguely describe sounds more like different scenarios run on the same model.

  24. Hi, Bob Tisdale! Another fine refutation of the CAGW propaganda. Thanks for the instruction.

    [What is WITH Mr. Mosher? From the congenial, impeccably polite, warm, honest, way you write, Mr. Tisdale, I think that if Stephen Mosher would just spend a weekend with you walking along the beach, going for pizza, watching "Young Frankenstein" or whatever, he could not possibly talk to you like that ever again. (head shake)]

    Re: THE TITLE….

    I’m sorry, but, the “doo-doo” thing is just tooooo old-fashioned sounding. I am not at all the one to ask for the latest lingo, but, from the conversations I have from time to time with people in their teens or twenties, it would sound kind of dumb. To someone in her 40′s, well,….. it sounds…. please forgive me,…. kind of dumb. In the movie (THANKS for sharing the clip — that was fun!), it made me laugh. But, as a title, without Gene Wilder standing there in his Einstein costume yelling it, well, it just doesn’t have the same impact. So, GOOD idea, but, too “babyish” …. or something. Your suggested title with, instead, the “sh” word and an exclamation point after it would be PERFECT, but, too coarse (thank You, Lord, our culture hasn’t gotten that vulgar) for a serious, mainstream, book title.

    So, I suggest something blunt:

    1) Reality Bites – (sub title as you wrote it) or

    2) 100% WRONG (subtitle as you wrote it) or

    3) Climate Models Work Great — NOT! (subtitle as you wrote it) or

    4) Fantasyland versus REALITY(subtitle as you wrote it)

    – Thanks for asking for our suggestions. It was fun trying to think of some!

    Your grateful student,

    Janice

  25. Steven Mosher says: “yes but you didnt pull those results for your presentation.”

    My obvious intent was that CMIP-archived models (CMIP3 and CMIP5) are used for model-data comparisons and for the study of regional climate.

    Additionally, it’s odd that you should complain about my use of CMIP5 models on a regional basis. By an strange coincidence the first model-based regional study presented here at WUWT after my post used CMIP5-archived models to study Australia temperatures. See the WUWT post about the press release for Lewis and Karoly 2013:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/27/claim-humans-play-role-in-australias-angry-hot-summer/

    The abstract of Lewis and Karoly (2013) includes:
    “Australian area-average summer temperatures for simulations with natural forcings only were compared to simulations with anthropogenic and natural forcings for the period 1976–2005 and the RCP8.5 high emission simulation (2006–2020) from nine CMIP5 models.”

    Again, Steven, CMIP5-archived models are regularly used for regional purposes.

  26. Hi Janice Moore: Thanks for your comment about the book title and your suggestions. Since doo-doo is wrong and the s-word in also wrong, there is a step in between: crap. “Climate Models are Crap!” has a nice ring to it and it gets the point across.

  27. Steven Mosher says: “doing model evaluation first. might be above your pay grade, but you’ll find that a couple of the models are good”

    The problem with regional climate models, Steven, is that climate models in general still can’t simulate coupled ocean-atmosphere processes or teleconnections. And because coupled ocean-atmosphere processes (ENSO and AMO, for examples) and teleconnections are responsible for much of regional short-term and long-term climate, any detailed evaluation would be a waste of time at this point.

  28. Yes, it’s true that climate models have underestimated the amount of warming and ice melt in the arctic. One problem for Alaska is that many of their homes, bridges and roads were built on what is now “melting permafrost.” Building infrastructure in Alaska is expensive and the number of roads is rather low. Unfortunately, climate change is destroying the infrastructure that they have in Alaska.

  29. CLIMATE MODELS ARE CRAP!

    I love it.

    And, please forgive my sickeningly blunt (to such a fine person as you, that is) manner in telling you what I thought above. Just tired and thoughtless….. and wrong. Thanks for your kind response.

  30. Janice Moore says:
    June 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm
    “What is WITH Mr. Mosher? From the congenial, impeccably polite, warm, honest, way you write, Mr. Tisdale, I think that if Stephen Mosher would just spend a weekend with you walking along the beach, going for pizza, watching “Young Frankenstein” or whatever, he could not possibly talk to you like that ever again. (head shake)]”

    Mosher, an English Major by education, has for quite a while occupied himself with climate models and maybe even ran some himself. As he has invested considerable time and effort he is unwilling to dump all that, is my guess, and thinks they can somehow be made to work. Even though he himself has pointed me to one of their shortcomings – he does actually know about some of the shortcomings.

    My assessment of current climate modeling goes along with rgbatduke’s argument. I think that for very principal reasons the best we can get are the pragmatic weather forecasting models with a time horizon of max. 10 days in the more easily predictable situations. ONLY if solar activity has a major influence would there be an alley along which we can dare very long range forecasts. But that is something the climate models do not even try. The state has no financial or power interest in such research; only in proving the major role of CO2.

    As long as this interest of the state overrides scientific curiosity, climate science will remain a propaganda mill.

  31. Let me help you out here.

    A large northward bulge in the jet stream is to blame, consensus shows. Why that has occurred is more hotly debated. Some Almost every scientist in the whole wide world tie the jet stream’s odd behavior on climate change. (that’d be 97%)
    Others A few of the really stupid scientist are ‘flat earthers’ and don’t make the connections directlyat all, instead seeing random weather or long-term cycles at work. (that’d be 1%) And even more scientists are taking a wait-and-see approach because they see no reason to end the government funded global warming gravy train.(that’d be 2

    We’re in trouble. They know the truth and and they don’t care that we know it because they’re gonna take as much of our money as they can steal.
    cn

  32. Kevin at Oz
    To what extent do “adjustments” influence the BoM temperatures used by Bob above? It seems from posts at WUWT that these are regular occurrences in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA, with older values lowered and later ones increased. The public see this and other manipulations as mere accommodations to suit the AGW failed theory. No wonder, in the face of observations that we are growing increasingly skeptical of alarmists and their failed models.

  33. Janice Moore, blunt is good. I’m a firm believer in it. Always have been. Got me into trouble as a kid, but served me well in a corporate environment (olden days, before PC)–my boss and upper management appreciated it, but other middle management didn’t.

    Thank you.

  34. Good advice, Anthony, and not just for the climate wars. Maybe, by the time I’m 95 years old I’ll have learned to do that! Arrgh.

    Say, I used your name to get this message to you mainly because I’m concerned about Josh. I’ve been praying that all is well with him. Please tell him that he is missed and I hope everything is okay.

    Janice

  35. Anthony Watts says: “speak softly and carry blunt facts”

    I like that.

    Curiously, data trumps models in all sciences except climate science. When the data fails to support the models, the data is adjusted and another modified dataset is introduced to overcome the failing of the models (the pentadal 0-2000m OHC data as an example).

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