Coal Creek Redux

Guest post by Richard Keen, Ph.D.

To paraphrase Led Zeppelin, “It’s been cooling, I ain’t fooing…”

December was a chilly month across much of the U.S., and at my site (the NWS co-op station for Coal Creek Canyon, Colorado, NW of Denver at an elevation 8950 feet, or 720 millibars, December was the coldest December (and the coldest month of any name) in 27 years of record.  The average of 16.5 was 0.8 degrees colder than December 1983.  Over the entire record, nine months averaged colder than 20F; of these, five occurred during 1983-1990, none during 1991-2005, and four during 2007-2009.  It appears that he warm spell of the 1990’s and early 2000’s has ended.

Here’s a chart of the past decade of annual temperatures

updating my post from a year ago.  The recent cooling trend continues, with 2009 coming in at 38.9F, colder than 2008 and a full 3 degrees F colder than 2003.  The “Tipping Point” in 2003-2004 is clear on the updated graph.

The longer record at my location

(Click to see animation)

shows the Tipping Point more dramatically through the miracle of animation.  The added trend line is from a special “best fit Hockey Stick” code I found in some downloaded e-mails last month, although I had to alter the code to change the angle of the blade.

After last January’s post, someone commented on “Watts Up With That?” that (s)he “didn’t really think [Anthony Watts] couldn’t scrape up any less significant data”.  I was heartbroken with the thought that my 10,059 daily max and min temperatures could be the least significant atmospheric observations ever made.  So allow me to put the record from my particular station in perspective.

The site is about 60 miles from the geographic center of Colorado, and a couple of thousand feet higher than the average elevation of the state.  The aerial photo of the site (marked by the red asterisk) looks to the northwest.

Following is a table of correlation between Coal Creek Canyon annual means and measurements of annual temperatures for the entire state of Colorado.

Correlation R between Coal Creek Canyon       and:

0.92 NCDC Statewide Divisional average

0.89 GHCN and Hadley gridded temperatures (the two were so similar they were averaged together)

0.91 NCAR-NCEP Reanalysis gridded temperatures

0.95 Average of all three

These correlations are much better than those of any Bristlecones with that other Hockey Stick.  Although there’s bristlecones a short hike from my house

I leave them alone.  With a correlation R = 0.95. the Coal Creek station is pretty representative of the entire state of Colorado.  Colorado, in turn, is in the Rocky Mountain and intermountain West, a region projected by the IPCC to have the greatest warming in the “lower 48” states – about 4C, or 7F, over this century.

According to the IPCC models, greenhouse gas warming should be greatest over continental interiors and in the middle troposphere, so Coal Creek Canyon is an ideal “global warming” monitoring site.  How, then, is the projected 0.7F per decade warming coming along?

Since 1985, the overall trend has been +0.3F per decade, about half of the IPCC projection.  Since 2000, the trend has been -3F per decade – four times greater than the IPCC projection, and in the opposite direction!

This is an example of how one station’s data can be significant for assessing climate change, but only if the station is carefully installed and maintained, is in a location relatively free of non-climatic influences, has records that are diligently kept, and, above all, does not have its records mysteriously altered.  It would be instructive to see records from other observers who have quality records of long duration.

Richard Keen, Ph.D.

Coal Creek Canyon, Colorado

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Henry chance

Should we be using tree rings from bristle cones instead of thermometers to be consistant?

El Abuelo

-3ºf …
WOW!
No coment!

Yeah, it sucks. When I was hired they said I’d be able to bike through most of the winter here, but the roads have been covered with global warming for weeks.

John W.

Clearly your data is faulty. It needs to be “homogenized” with the Mojave Desert in order to more accurately represent model predictions. [/sarcasm]
Seriously, thanks for a good post. If we could get together a lot more data like yours, we could possibly construct an accurate picture of wht’s been happening.

Thanks Richard. I’m down the road in Littleton and I enjoy biking up Deer Creek Canyon. But not much chance this winter. Seems like 4 out of every 5 days have been below the December average high of 43-44. Often by a lot. I liked the winter of 98 much better. On many weekends I could bike on Saturday and ski on Sunday.

Mack28

The Climate is Weather? The Times quotes a Chinese observer blaming the Big Freeze on Global Warming. Who would have guessed that! More CO2 needed.

Robinson

So, Watt’s the analysis? Is it the PDO, multi-decadal, solar influence, a combination (of course, it must be)… what? All we know at the moment is it isn’t Carbon!

Mack28
boxman

A bit off topic but here is another Climategate documentary that aired on Finnish state television not long ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unKZhr3JMhA
This is not the same documentary that watts posted about earlier.

Invariant

Anthony,
Cold weather all over the world:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/weather/article6975869.ece
http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?prev=no&hl=en&u=http://www.abcnyheter.no/node/102625
We love skiing in Norway – HURRA!
Kind Regards,
Invariant

pyromancer76

Ah! a breath of clear, Colorado fresh air, without the pollution of homogenization, uhi, or improper siting. Thanks, Richard Keen. Also, neat graphs.

DavidE

It’s a travesty that you had to hide the decline but I suppose you couldn’t take the risk of some CAGWer doing a Santer on you. 😉
DaveE.

And I bought property here in Denver based on the IPCC advice that it would soon be beachfront. (/sarcasm)
If I really believed the IPCC alarmism, the most prudent investments would be guns and ammo.

DavidE

I managed to avoid the spam bin, HURRAH!
There must have been some trick to that. 😉
DaveE.

Adam from Kansas

Why is the cooling trend at Coal Creek significantly more than the rest of the U.S.? And is this neccesarily a sign of things to come in the rest of the country?

Gary Hladik

So if this site correlates well with the rest of Colorado’s stations, then the state as a whole must be cooling. As a reward, perhaps the state should be exempted from all CO2 emission restrictions.
In fact, I think we should exempt any state whose “official” temperatures start to decline.
Nothing like a little incentive… 🙂

Peter Carroll

Those data points look like they need the Darwin adjustment.

Don B

As much as I like Dr. Keen’s analysis, another example being his 2008 Global Warming Quiz,
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Globalwarmingquiz.pdfs analysis
I like his wry, dry style. He could be a wonderful dinner guest. (Would you drive to Estes Park for food?)

DirkH

Colorado? This guy is in the pockets of Big Shale!

Stefan of Perth

It looks like we must have gone overboard with the fluorescent light bulbs and stuff…

Invariant

Global warming has forced the heat to penetrate somewhere in the atmosphere, thus pushing the cold out there down to us!
I guess this soon will be found at http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

DonS

Powder River, let ’em run boys!!!!!!!! It’s all downhill from here.
Thanks, Dr Keen. Thanks, Anthony.

Joe Crawford

I guess if Coal Creek is teleconnected to the average temperature for Colorado, then the Fraser-Tabernash site (about 20 miles west of you ?) must have been teleconnected to Alaska before it closed down.

Bill Parsons

It would be instructive to see records from other observers who have quality records of long duration.
I keep wondering whether coop observers would be willing to just start sending copies of all observations to a neutral party from now on. Might pay to have copies of records if they are getting trashed and distorted.
It is, as Dr. Keen notes, his (and other station-keepers’) work that’s being undermined.

Peter Dunford

I suppose we will soon get GISS’s announcement that December was the, what, the seventh? Hows that sound? Lets go with seventh warmest December on record. Go GISS!

AdderW

From The Times
January 5, 2010
There’s probably more to come.
The big freeze seems to defy all the logic of a warming world, but this is just part and parcel of the wild fluctuations in weather that can happen naturally.

-Funny how that works, when it is getting colder, it is a part of a natural wild fluctuation but not so when it is getting warmer, then it is a “lethal man-made global heating to scorching levels all but natural” event.

StevenJames

Was the record adjusted for the nearby warming from Denver Bronco fans as they watched their 6 – 0 team end the season 2 – 8?

DavidE (15:15:06) : I managed to avoid the spam bin, HURRAH!
There must have been some trick to that. 😉

Well, I noticed when discussing Climategate that the word F-R-A-U-D got me tossed in the bin. WordPress has an odd assortment of words it’s ‘hinky’ about… You can add to the built in list, but not reduce it. (Wonder what legal sites do on WordPress? 😉

Theo Goodwin

Your data is identical to my data and the data of my friends. The data was gathered in a triangle that stretches from St. Louis to Richmond to Orlando. The folks in Florida are suffering the most unusual winters. December was January like and January is more like January in south Georgia. All the plants in the yard were killed last year and will be killed again tonight. No fun.

AdderW

From The Times
January 2, 2010
Weather eye: The Sun may have had the strangest weather of last year
The strangest weather of last year was possibly not on Earth, but on the Sun. Every 11 years or so the Sun goes through a cycle of sunspots — actually magnetic storms erupting across its surface. The number of sunspots reached its minimum in 2007 and should have increased soon afterwards, but the Sun has remained strangely quiet since then. Scientists have been baffled as weeks and sometimes months have gone by without a single sunspot, in what is thought to be the deepest solar minimum for almost 100 years.
This lack of solar activity means that cosmic rays reaching Earth from space have increased and the planet’s ionosphere in the upper atmosphere has sunk in height, giving less drag on satellites and making collisions between them and space junk more likely. The solar minimum could also be cooling the climate on Earth because of slightly dimished solar irradiance. In fact, the quiet spell on the Sun may be masking some of the warming effects of greenhouse gases, according to recent research by two US solar scientists. The solar minimum, their study suggests, accounts for the somewhat flat temperature trend of the past decade. But even if this solar minimum is offsetting global warming, scientists stress that the overall effect is relatively slight and certainly will not last.
The Sun has gone into long quiet spells before. From 1645 to 1715 few sunspots were seen during a period called the Little Ice Age, when short summers and savage winters often plagued Northern Europe. Scotland was hit particularly hard as harvests were ruined in cold, miserable summers, which led to famine, death, migration and huge depopulation. But whether the quiet Sun was entirely to blame for it remains highly uncertain.

DavidE

E.M.Smith (15:39:26) :
My comments are generally innocuous but for some reason, I & several others have been routinely tossed in the spam bin.
Whatever the issue was, it seems to have been fixed to have been replaced with another bug where I get the message Transferring data from stats.wordpress,com permanently displayed & have to terminate the page load. 😀
DaveE.

spangled drongo

Would have expected December to be even lower.
http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

royfomr

Excellent post Richard but scary, real scary!
Studies like yours are the ones that really do matter. Weather kills, climate doesn’t!
Over here in the UK, the conceit of deluded government, fooled and made ignorant by an environmental agenda supported by wilful abandonment of duty by academia and the Met office have set the scene for widespread manslaughter.
The local authorities, here in Scotland, are desperately trying to replenish gritting stocks for main roads. Fife Region, after only a fortnight actually ran out.
Side streets and pavements are left to look after themselves. This is not a trivial task as I discovered when I was told by a local DIY store that sand, salt and gritt was unavailable. The government had bought it all up!
Old and young alike, are breaking bones after slipping on untreated pavements.
The shock, for the elderly, has already claimed lives.
Already heavy gas usage industry has been asked to reduce consumption. This is remarkable. The recession and low level of heavy industry in the UK means that this usage was historically low anyway. Just how bad at doing their job are our public planners?
Thanks to domestic fuel prices being hyper-inflated by planet saving activism, the poor will be struggling to keep their houses liveable. Those on pre-paid metering will just be cut off. Their pipes will freeze then burst.
Gas prices may well be at a seven year low but consumer prices have never been higher!
I’ve always been unhappy about the rise of the “who can I sue” culture in this country but it has its place.
Car damaged?
Pipes burst?
Bones broken?
Grannie frozen?
Business bankrupted?
Who are you gonna sue?
Local Government? National Government? Academia? The Met office?
All of the above?

Robinson

I suppose we will soon get GISS’s announcement that December was the, what, the seventh? Hows that sound? Lets go with seventh warmest December on record. Go GISS!

Interesting. I wonder how they’ll spin/adjust it? Anything other than coldest for 25 years will just look silly.

DavidE

AdderW (15:42:06) :
The most frightening thing about the current arguments is that the Sun which couldn’t possibly be the cause of warming is now trotted out as the cause of cooling.
Strange how cooling is always natural but warming is our fault
DaveE.

DirkH

Where’s the troll spin in this thread? Hello? All busy?
[ I suspect they are reading the in house legal memos post Copenhagan. 😉 -mod ]

photon without a Higgs

Mack28 (14:54:10) :
The Times quotes a Chinese observer blaming the Big Freeze on Global Warming.
Do you have a link?

photon without a Higgs

Mack28 (14:54:10) :
I see you already posted it later.

kadaka

E.M.Smith (15:39:26) :
Well, I noticed when discussing Climategate that the word F-R-A-U-D got me tossed in the bin. WordPress has an odd assortment of words it’s ‘hinky’ about… You can add to the built in list, but not reduce it. (Wonder what legal sites do on WordPress? 😉

Test: Put single letter in italics so word is “broken up” to filter but looks acceptable (works on Intense Debate sites).
Result: fraud

TH

As a soccer player I have given up on outdoor soccer in Colorado. The last few spring and fall seasons have been ruined by cold and snow. (Fortunately we have a number of indoor facilities nearby.) Colorado winters have become much longer and colder in recent years. We used to play outdoors all winter long.

Alan S. Blue

Dr. Keen:
Something I’ve been somewhat concerned about with the usage of the surface station measurements aligns with your work here.
Would it be possible to perform a formal calibration of the Coal Creek surface station measurement to the temperatures reported via satellite? I’d be interested in the strictly local calibration, as well as how well that single measurement might serve as a proxy for the state-wide satellite measurement.

Jack in Oregon

OT New Jersey Nuke plant has been throttled back because of Ice build up in the river nearby.
…Officials said the power plant in Salem County had to shut down one generator and reduce power in another at about 8 a.m. Saturday due to floating ice on the river.
Ice was accumulating on rotating screens used to take water to a non-radioactive part of the plant.
Plant officials told Eyewitness News that it is the first time that they had to take this unusual step because of ice….
http://cbs3.com/local/nuclear.power.plant.2.1404207.html
So it appears that NG and Coal are the only safe sources of baseload power. If it gets really cold, the N class plants will have icing issues. A long winter could tests things.

Andrew30

DirkH (16:06:14) :
Re: “Where’s the troll spin in this thread?”
Notice for Skeptical Scientists and other Critical Thinkers.
Since the start of the scientific method blackout at CRU in 1986 there have been other cutbacks. Due to the shortage of trained pro-AGW realclimate.com rebuttalists, we have introduced a self-serve rebuttal system.
To use this new self-serve system simply go to the rebuttal site indicated below and cut and paste the rebuttal that most closely matches the topic of your informed statement into the next available comment window.
For a more immediate rebuttal paste it into the same window as your informed comment.
For a more scientific realclimate.com rebuttal you may choose to add the phrase “Oh Yea!” at the beginning and the phrase “So There!!!!!!” at the end.
scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php
Realclimate/CRU thanks you for you support during these trying times.

photon without a Higgs

Where’s the troll spin in this thread? Hello? All busy?
[ I suspect they are reading the in house legal memos post Copenhagan. 😉 -mod ]

They are huddled up under the bridge because it’s so cold and warming their hands ’round a fire of coal in an oil barrel. They moved the temp station in the area next to the fire.

hotrod

Gary Hladik (15:19:28) :
So if this site correlates well with the rest of Colorado’s stations, then the state as a whole must be cooling. As a reward, perhaps the state should be exempted from all CO2 emission restrictions.
In fact, I think we should exempt any state whose “official” temperatures start to decline.
Nothing like a little incentive… 🙂

If you look at the official National Weather Service numbers for Heating degree days in Colorado and Cooling Degree Days you see some clear evidence of a cooling trend.
Cooling degree days (Jan 1 to Jan 1)
2009 ….. TOTAL FM JAN 1 533 DPTR FM NORMAL -163
2008 …. TOTAL FM JAN 1 825 DPTR FM NORMAL +129
2007 …. TOTAL FM JAN 1 963 DPTR FM NORMAL +267
2006 …. SEASONAL TOTAL: 961 DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL: +265
2005 …. SEASONAL TOTAL: 927 DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL: +231
(cooling started in 2008 for summer temperatures)
Heating degree days
2009 ….. TOTAL FM JUL 1 2854 DPTR FM NORMAL +260 (July 1 – Jan 3 2010)
2008 ….. TOTAL FM JUL 1 5616 DPTR FM NORMAL -512 (full heating season)
2007 ….. TOTAL FM JUL 1 6056 DPTR FM NORMAL -72
2006 ….. TOTAL FM JUL 1 6208 DPTR FM NORMAL +80
2005 ….. Seasonal Total: 5876 Departure from Normal: -252
(high variability in heating degree days with sharp increase in heating demand this fall and winter)
As you can see this was an unusually cool summer (-163 cooling degree days from normal) and so far a cool winter season with heating degree days running +260 and we have not even seen the coolest part of the season yet. We are expecting single digit lows the next two days and Dr. Keen should see sub zero F temps up where he lives given normal lapse rates. Although sometimes cool air pools down here in the metro area and is not deep enough to effect the upper reaches of Coal Creek Canyon.
When I used to live up there sometimes you would drive down the hill and see a sudden temperature drop as you drove into the pool of cold air as you neared Rocky Flats as H72 leveled off on the high ground above the metro area. The Denver basin is well known for temperature inversions in winter with a cold pool of air that sloshes up and down the Platte River valley each day. Settling near Greeley in the early morning, then sliding up into the Denver metro area as day time heating pulls air up the river valley. It then sinks back toward Greeley every evening after sunset. This is yet another good reason NOT to smear temperature data from one site to another nearby site. In this part of the country, you can see 30 deg F temperature differences between locations only 2 miles apart if their elevations straddle an inversion layer.
http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=bou
Note that for the state numbers that it appears the cooling started around 2007 based on cooling degree days but the Heating Degree Days show much more variability in winter temps with 2005 and 2008 being very warm winters. Massive temperature differences can occur near the front range due to chinook winds here in Denver with the western metro area 20-30 degrees warmer than the official reporting sites on the eastern edge of the Denver area, and this might account for that high variability. (yet another reason not to smear temperature data!)
It is not uncommon to see a sharp temperature gradient as you move out from the front range due to westerly down slope winds, with above freezing temperatures on the western edge of the metro area, below freezing temps on the eastern edge and near zero readings just a few miles farther east out on the plains.
We had a cool winter in 2006 and a very cool winter season so far in the 2009-2010 heating season. It would take a very warm spring to recover these numbers to near normal if late January and the first 2 weeks of February are typical. Our coldest period of the year frequently falls from mid January to mid Feb which is why it is often referred to as “Stock Show weather” locally, as that is about the time the National Western Stock show comes to town each year.
Larry

Joe Crawford

re: TH (16:29:46) :

As a soccer player I have given up on outdoor soccer in Colorado. The last few spring and fall seasons have been ruined by cold and snow. (Fortunately we have a number of indoor facilities nearby.) Colorado winters have become much longer and colder in recent years. We used to play outdoors all winter long.

Hal & Charlie (KHOW?) use to brag about the avg. of 37-39 days a year you couldn’t play golf in Denver. It sounds like they might have to up that number by a few days this winter.

photon without a Higgs

The recent cooling trend continues, with 2009 coming in at 38.9F, colder than 2008 and a full 3 degrees F colder than 2003. The “Tipping Point” in 2003-2004 is clear on the updated graph.
There has also been longer winters for 4 years in a row now in the Huancavelica region of the Andes Mountains of Peru.
But, for the fourth year running, the cold came early.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/03/peru-mountain-farmers-winter-cold

Much as I hate the cold we’re experiencing in Colorado, I’m praying that we’ll get a patch that’s cold enough to kill the pine borrer beatles. They’re making a real mess of things.

John Sims

I met an acquaintance today in the village shop, and she said that our harsh winters (in UK) were due to global warming. I replied along the lines of “Huh?”, to which she replied that Greenland ice melts and affects (desalinates) the gulf stream which stops working so well and so makes things colder. (Let’s forget for the moment that the gulf stream has little effect upon North America or Siberia etc.) When I got home, I looked for some reference to this tale, and found this: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/global-warming-may-lead-to-colder-winters-in-britain-406084.html. Of course, the usual “could”s and “may”s were sparsely embedded (as in “The sea level could rise by 25 feet within twenty years due to AGW”).
Now I’ve read somewhere that a release of gigantic amount of fresh water from North America some several thousands of years ago did affect the gulf stream. However, I doubt very much whether the much smaller quantity of melted Greenland ice has had other than a miniscule effect on today’s gulf stream.
Does anyone with more knowledge than I care to contribute their thoughts on this subject?

pat

anthony,
what do u make of this:
Australian: Samantha Maiden: Labor seizes on temperature figures as evidence of global warming
Environment Minister Peter Garrett said today the finding that Australia’s annual mean temperature for 2009 was 0.9C above the 1961-90 average exposed Tony Abbott’s false climate change claim that global warming has stopped…
“2009 ends Australia’s warmest decade on record, with a decadal mean temperature anomaly of +0.48C (above the 1961-90 average),” the Bureau of Meterology said…
In a statement, the bureau also noted that the World Meteorological Organisation stated that 2009 is expected to be the globe’s fifth warmest year on record (about 0.44C above the 1961-90 average)
“A cooler-than-average global mean temperature has not been recorded since 1985, with the last decade also being the globe’s warmest on record. Increasing global mean temperatures derived from instrumental measurements are consistent with other independent indicators of climate change, such as reductions in sea-ice and snow cover, and record high global sea levels,” it said.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/labor-seizes-on-temperature-figures-as-evidence-of-global-warming/story-e6frg6xf-1225816209762
so far i see no comments – any comments would be appreciated as this is going to be used for the ETS.