Our current weather: A test for forecast models – December shaping up to be one of the coldest on record in the USA

It has often been said that “Weather is not climate”, but ultimately it provides the only meaningful way to verify climate models. Did the climate models predict the cold, snowy weather which has been seen across much of the US?

According to NOAA, October was the third coldest on record in the US, with almost every state showing temperatures from one to ten degrees below normal.  Some Parts of Colorado received record snowfall during October, starting the first week of the month.

Image from HPRCC – University of Nebraska at Lincoln

With a few days left, it appears that December is headed for a repeat, with temperatures ranging from one to fifteen degrees below normal.  (Note that the color scale is different from October, now the greens show more negative departure, even South Texas is at -6F)

Image from HPRCC – University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Temperatures for the rest of the month are forecast by NCEP to be below normal for almost the entire country, so it is unlikely that the map will change much before New Years Day.

NCEP two week forecast

So let’s compare the complete Autumn temperatures vs. the forecasts from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.  In August, CPC forecast that most of the US would have above normal temperatures from October through December, and perhaps more importantly did did not predict that any areas would have below normal temperatures.

NOAA CPC Autumn Forecast

As you can see below, their prediction was largely reversed from what has happened.  Most of the country has seen below normal temperatures during the same period.

Image from HPRCC – University of Nebraska at Lincoln

So my question is – if the climate models can’t reliably predict the next three months, what basis do they have to claim their ability to forecast 100 years out?  It is well known in the weather modeling community that beyond about three days, the models tend to break down due to chaos.

We have all heard lots of predictions of warmer winters, less snow, animal populations moving north, drought, dying ski resorts, etc.  But did anyone in the climate modeling community forecast the cold, snowy start to winter which has occurred. If not, it would appear that their models are not mature enough to base policy decisions on.

On the other side of the pond, The Met Office forecast 2010 to be the warmest year ever, as they last did in 2007.   On cue, the weather turned bitter cold immediately after the forecast and it appears that the unusally cold weather will continue at least through mid-January.  As in 2007, the Met office 2010 forecast is not getting off to a good start:



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“it would appear that their models are not mature enough to base policy decisions on.”
Understatement of the decade.


Here in SW BC, it has been cold but very dry; for quite long stretches. It is normally? wet most of the time. This “dry spell” goes back about 14 months. Last year was somewhat colder, with a bit more precip in the form of snow. This year is a tad warmer, but very dry with little precip of any kind. My records go back about 32 years, (16 of good quality records) and precip for these past 12-14 months have been well below “normal”.
Looks like we will be getting some snow in a day or two however.


“it would appear that the modelers are not mature enough to base policy decisions on.”
There. I “fixed” it for you. LOL!

Pamela Gray

There predictions are based on what is typical of El Nino conditions (I recognize the map). They do not take into consideration the AO, which they should.


Hide the decline!!!

Pamela Gray

Type two quick and I end up with to many errors related too, it, it’s, there, their, and they’re. And I call myself a teacher.


For the remainder of the Winter watch the AO. The ENSO numbers earlier in the autumn pointed towards a “mild” winter for the NH in general and NAmerica in particular. However, a negative AO has allowed colder than normal air masses to drive equatorward beginnign in ealry Autumn. It looked like El Nino would have a final say as rather mild weather dominated both NAmerica and Europ ealry on. Yet, for the last 5 weeks colder than normal air masses have begun the settle in for the duration (Joe Bastardi hit it right, again).
If El Nino begins to weaken significantly, things could get interesting. If La Nina builds again in late 2010 (like it should witha negative PDO), and a negative AO remains, 2011 could turn out be very very cold compared to the late 90s early 2000s.


Don’t the CO2-forced climate models also predict that the warming will be greater the closer you get to the poles? It seems not only is it colder than normal, the anomaly is colder as you go farther north.

photon without a Higgs

There has been clear cooling since 2005. No argument there. So that is climate.
I can say that ‘computer predictions are not climate’. Especially since they are always wrong. I’ll stick with the data in the real world showing a cooling earth.

photon without a Higgs

JonesII (18:46:55) :
Hide the decline!!!
It’s a travesty!

david m

I know i shouldn’t say this about the brutally cold weather you’re experiencing at the moment, but i will say it all the same…..Let Er Rip .. And by the way temperature is now sitting on a balmy 23 c in Sydney.


Pamela Gray (18:48:01) :
And I call myself a teacher.
Only when someone calls you “teacher” have you earned the right to call yourself “teacher”, teacher: )

Mike Bryant

I have decided that NOAA and the Met Office need a new motto:
“Not even God can sink the ship of CAGW.”

Roger Carr

Pamela Gray (18:48:01) : Type two quick and I end up with to many errors…
To many errors add >i>too many errors and the bats will leave the belfry too, miss Pamela…

Lazarus Long

“Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”
-Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love
Robert A. Heinlein

Roger Carr

Whereas I only mess up my html tags…


gtrip (19:05:56) :
Only when someone calls you “teacher” have you earned the right to call yourself “teacher”, teacher: )

This is to be remembered when you think of all of those who have called Al Gore a great teacher on environmental issues.


Al Gore impersonation:
“The entire state of Florida is experiencing temperatures this December that are significantly above normal.”


October was cold, December is cold…
Anyone else notice how November was so blazingly hot it made for the warmest last quarter of the year in decades? Why that may have been the hottest last quarter since records began!

John Blake

“If it’s cold, it’s weather; if it’s warm, it’s climate.” Certain sources have indeed correctly predicted –“forecast” is a vexed term– an excessively cold Continental U.S. Autumn 2009 (October – December vs. solstice dates), but these are uniformly cyclical projections rather than modelers’ inherently simplistic linear extrapolations.
No-one acquainted with Lorenz’s Chaos Theory, whereby sensitive dependence on initial conditions (the “butterfly effect”) entails non-random but indeterminate fluctuations focusing on “strange attractors”, would ever presume to “model” complex systems, defined as those with three or more mutually interacting variables. Climate Cultists’ foolish assertions to the contrary display not mere naivete but willful blindness to mathematical reality, a deluded self-importance concomitant with radically skewed Arguments from Authority by Stipulation: AGW is true because we Ascended Masters say it is.
Blacklisting, deceit, massive Luddite fraud has typified GIGO effusions by Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann et al. since 1988 if not before. Given this putrescent provenance, we predict that no-one even marginally complicit in Hockey Team excretions will ever publish anything again.


the first person/entity to predict the weather reliabily, even in the 24-48 hour period…….. never mind, too many variables.
could have made lots of money.

Jeff L

Here in the foothills west of Denver, I am a snow spotter for the NWS. 77 inches of snow so far this season at my location. This is the snowiest start to the snow year since I have been recording data in this spot (last 13 years). As interesting though is the snow has been focused east of the continental divide. We have actually had more snow at my spotter location than at Vail (71 “), Keystone (49″) or Breckenridge (73”)
See link:
This is a very unusual pattern as the west slope is usually significantly wetter than the east. If time permits, I am going to look into past analogs & implications on what may be the drivers.

Leo G

Interesting how the most northern tip of the lower 48 shows above average warming. What a weird wacky thing climate is!


CRU climate scientist:
“It’s a travesty that we cannot account for this unexpected cooling. Quick, we need to use Mike’s Nature trick to hide the decline. Oh wait! The tree ring data is going in the opposite direction of the actual temperatures. Homogenize, homogenize!
And please, tell Connolly to erase any reference to this cold weather in Wikipedia as soon as they appear. The last thing we need is let the public know we’re entering another little ice age.”

Paul Vaughan

INGSOC (18:42:27) “Here in SW BC, it has been cold but very dry; for quite long stretches. […] This “dry spell” goes back about 14 months.”
You must’ve been away in November! And how about the 3 week interval exactly 1 year ago?
QBO & ENSO flipped signs and things changed ~mid-2009. You may have noticed that the mountain ranges of western N. America seem to have had warm (west) & cool (east) pools of air (relatively speaking, on average) since about June. This isn’t a pattern that has been common (for such extended periods of time) in recent memory. The recent cool is partly fog / temperature inversion related — the temp goes up (noticeably in just a few steps (walking)) as soon as you emerge from the fog / lower elevation ponded-cool-air going uphill at night, beginning just after dusk. Check today’s Strait of Georgia winds for a revelation (conditions conducive to snowy-peak cold-air-drainage dusk-to-mid-morning). In winter, ENSO/PDO/ALPI/NPI & “arctic outflow” (AO/NAO/NAM) play a big role in temp / precip relations on the coast. The temp / precip relations of the rest of the year literally flip upside-down with the winter dynamic. I don’t buy into a notion of winter “normal” – there are distinct states and the “averages” (“normals”) mask this.
I saw ice while kayaking in salt water today. (Without giving the answer away) I’d be curious to see if anyone here knows how this happens with such high temperatures (near-zero C). Last year when I reported ice in a coastal inlet, many questioned my honesty. It seems people have a hard time imagining how it happens.

Tom in Florida

frankr (19:20:30) : “Al Gore impersonation:“The entire state of Florida is experiencing temperatures this December that are significantly above normal.”
The “normal” temps for my part of Florida this time of year (about 70 miles south of Tampa on the Gulf coast) range from lower 50’s to lower 80’s for daytime highs and from lower 40’s to upper 60’s for overnight lows. Haven’t experienced anything “significantly” outside that range for more that a day or two at a time in over 19 years. Methinks the climate has been pretty steady.

Yes. “Weather is not climate.”
But promoters of AGW are going to have a hard time selling the public that cold weather is evidence of global warming!
May the spotlight of public scrutiny melt the dirty Climategate iceberg and expose the other scientific frauds directed by NASA, DOE, NAS, etc.
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel


Apparently the Met office hasn’t yet gotten the prediction racket down pat. As any good shyster can tell you it’s important that a prediction concern events far enough into the future that no one will remember or care when they fail, but close enough in time to make people demand action. A perfect example is the Greenland ice sheet disappearlng by 2020. Or the Arctic summer ice sheet melting by 2018.

Roger Carr

Pamela Gray (18:48:01) : Type two quick and I end up with to many errors…
Your wry humour in this entry is finally comprehended, m’am. Colour me slow; and humbled.

Northern Plains Reader

So the CPC outlook for my part of Montana was a 40 percent chance of above normal temperatures…a 34 percent chance of normal temperatures…and a 26 percent chance of below normal temperatures (Oct-Dec). Observed will be around 2 degrees below normal.
Was this outlook useful? Probably not. There are so many things that affect climate numbers for Montana over a three month period (AO, NAO, PNA, MJO, Sudden Stratospheric Warming, etc) most of which are not predicable beyond 14 days.
The CPC outlook was done in mid-September and those that put the outlook together know uncertainity of what they are doing. Hence, the 40%/34%/27% numbers.

Gary from Chicagoland

“It is well known in the weather modeling community that beyond about three days, the models tend to break down due to chaos.”
Wow, that sure is an understatement. Yesterday, the NWS predicted Chicagoland would receive about 2-3 inches of fresh snow, but instead about a foot of snow covered us. It was beautiful, but the 24 hour weather prediction missed the target times two. Here is the map of snowfall 12/26/09:
A few more comments gleamed from
What has become obvious is that there are strong natural variations that are not yet understood, nor adequately accounted for in the computer climate models. The current global computer models have over-estimated global warming. There has been lots of speculation about what is causing the present pattern – changes in solar activity, changes in ocean circulation, or changes in clouds and wind and dust patterns. Whatever it is, it is not adequately factored into any CO2 Global Warming computer models. One of the most fundamental rules of computer modeling is that: if you don’t understand something and you can’t explain it, you can’t model it. A computer model is a mathematical description of a physical process, written in a human readable programming language, which a compiler can translate to a computer readable language. If CO2 global warming theorists cannot fully describe the climate change process in words, then computer programmers certainly cannot describe it mathematically in computer languages. Antonio Zichichi, stated “…models used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are incoherent and invalid from a scientific point of view” Who is Antonio Zichichi? President of the World Federation of Scientists, President of the Enrico Fermi Centre, discovery of Nuclear Antimatter.
What about those IPCC computer models gloom and doom global temperature predictions? They may allow for taxation of CO2 emissions while
the IPCC leadership rakes in billions of personal wealth. Sounds like conflict of interest? We get the snowjob, and they get the dough!


He’s predicting some significant storms for the next 2-3 days.

I am living in North Central Florida and I have worn a thick jacket for all of Dec 1-2 days here and there I switched to a light coat. Very cold this year..Brrr


Here is a better picture of the last 30 days before they start playing with the color bar , it is funny they play with the color bar to make it look like it really isnt as cold as it really is look at this picture for the last 30 days . http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/maps/current/index.php?action=update_daterange&daterange=30d

Steve Keohane

Roger Carr (19:56:21) Thank you for making that clear, at first glance, I thought a red beverage may have been involved.


Hold up. I noticed something important.
Pennsylvania, see the lower-left spot of warming, stands right out. Where are they getting their readings?
See map of Pennsylvania. It looks like the spot is at Altoona, not much else around. What could be causing warming at Altoona?
What is at Altoona? Penn State Altoona. That’s right, Michael Mann’s Penn State, Altoona campus.
What do they offer there? A B.A. in Environmental Studies. (Go ahead and click, enjoy the picture.)
Example of the faculty for the program:
Marieta Staneva
Senior Lecturer in Geography
Specialist on the impact of global warming


Steve Keohane

I kept 3 monthly forecasts for Oct-Jan at the beginning of Oct. All showed continual above avg. temps for the winter in the US, especially along the northern plains states. Here is what was posted 10/09 for Jan-Mar of 2010: http://i38.tinypic.com/359jy2v.jpg

Frank K.

I noticed that your forecast was dated August 2009. NOAA produces long range climate forecasts every month – check out their prediction for Nov-Dec-Jan 2009-10 from September 17:
In addition to having above normal temperatures for the central-western US, they actually were predicting ** below normal ** temperatures for the southeast! Is it chilly in Florida?


Can we call global warmists….global cooling deniers now?

Frank K.

Following up on my previous post, you can also get plots of NOAA’s predictions for US temperatures for the period Oct-Dec 2009 from forecasts made in:
Jan 2009:
Feb 2009:
Mar 2009:
Apr 2009:
May 2009:
Jun 2009:

Notice that all of these forecasts were predicting average to above normal temperatures for the central-western US – nothing below normal!
Clearly, climate forecasts with “short” lead times of 3 – 12 months are really not skillful at the present time. Which is too bad – these forecasts would really be useful if they had any predictive ability. Sadly, it appears that the major of climate funding is going towards the AGW-oriented junk science projects (like the IPCC TAR 5) rather than trying to improve long range temperature and precipitation forecasts…

John F. Hultquist

Pamela Gray (18:48:01) : errors ???
Oh no! Everyone enjoys finding errors in other’s writing, especially students finding such in the teacher’s work. So by putting them therein you provide enjoyment for others. Don’t phret.

John F. Hultquist

Jeff L (19:45:02) : “This is a very unusual pattern…”
Just a guess but see if you have had winds out of the east and upslope.

tim stevens

I think it’s safe to assume that if the AGW crowd instituted cap-n-trade (or something worse), the revelation of below running-average temperatures in the near future would be taken as proof they were right and cap-n-trade was the right prescription.

Robert S

“It has often been said that “Weather is not climate”, but ultimately it provides the only meaningful way to verify climate models.”

Steve Goddard

Frank K,
It is true that CPC shows Florida cold in their Nov-Jan forecast, but it will be another five weeks before that forecast can be evaluated. August was the most recent Oct-Dec forecast.

photon without a Higgs

maxx (20:43:26) :
Can we call global warmists….global cooling deniers now?
Good idea. I think some have been doing that already.


One major reasons models fail to match reality is that errors in initial conditions propagate in a compounding fashion with successive iterations of the data. In the absence of unphysical constraints and “plug” quantitative adjustments, the whole enterprise quickly runs off the rails. I am not contending the models are entirely useless, merely that they are by definition simulations of reality. The models generally are very poor as to outlier events and step changes that occur in natural variability precisely because model runaway from error compounding must be dampened somehow. Otherwise no good data will ever derive from the model runs.


Even if this blog post has a point, I’ll play devil’s advocate and underline the fact that a correct climate model *could* predict a general long term trend and fail to give us correct medium term predictions.
I believe the main effect of Climategate, since the warmers are undeterred, has been to give too much confidence to the “skeptics”, so that some comments here have become a bit too optimistic, self-reliant and sketchy.
We need to stay on guard and question our assumptions.

Frank K.

Steve Goddard (21:08:59) :
“It is true that CPC shows Florida cold in their Nov-Jan forecast, but it will be another five weeks before that forecast can be evaluated. August was the most recent Oct-Dec forecast.”
Thanks Steve – I did think about that, but of course we’re nearly 2/3rds of the way through the forecast period. I suppose it could turn colder, but it would have to be a lot colder to markedly influence the three month average. And the short range forecast shown above for the next week doesn’t indicate an imminent cold snap…