24 Hours of Climate Reality: Gore-a-thon – Hour 12

A new post containing a cartoon from Josh will appear every hour. At the end of the 24 hours, everything will be collated on a single page. Readers are encouraged to post skeptical arguments below, as well as offer comments on what has been seen from the Climate Reality Project so far.


Redefining the new normal. Wait, I thought actual climate scientists defined climatic normals, not ex-politicians

NOAA’s new normals – a step change of plus 0.5 degrees F

Average U.S. temperature increases by 0.5 degrees F

New 1981-2010 ‘normals’ to be released this week

June 29, 2011

Statewide changes in annual "normal temperatures" (1981 - 2010 compared to 1971 - 2000).

Statewide changes in annual “normal temperatures” (1981 – 2010 compared to 1971 – 2000).

Download here. (Credit: NOAA)

According to the 1981-2010 normals to be released by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on July 1, temperatures across the United States were on average, approximately 0.5 degree F warmer than the 1971-2000 time period.

Normals serve as a 30 year baseline average of important climate variables that are used to understand average climate conditions at any location and serve as a consistent point of reference. The new normals update the 30-year averages of climatological variables, including average temperature and precipitation for more than 7,500 locations across the United States. This once-a-decade update will replace the current 1971–2000 normals.

In the continental United States, every state’s annual maximum and minimum temperature increased on average. “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s, so we would expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., NCDC director.

Using standards established by the World Meteorological Organization, the 30-year normals are used to compare current climate conditions with recent history. Local weathercasters traditionally use normals for comparisons with the day’s weather conditions.

In addition to their application in the weather sector, normals are used extensively by electric and gas companies for short- and long-term energy use projections. NOAA’s normals are also used by some states as the standard benchmark by which they determine the statewide rate that utilities are allowed to charge their customers.

The agricultural sector also heavily depends on normals. Farmers rely on normals to help make decisions on both crop selection and planting times. Agribusinesses use normals to monitor “departures from normal conditions” throughout the growing season and to assess past and current crop yields.

NCDC made many improvements and additions to the scientific methodology used to calculate the 1981-2010 normals. They include improved scientific quality control and statistical techniques. Comparisons to previous normals take these new techniques into account. The 1981-2010 normals provide a more comprehensive suite of precipitation and snowfall statistics. In addition, NCDC is providing hourly normals for more than 250 stations at the request of users, such as the energy industry.

Some of the key climate normals include: monthly and daily maximum temperature; monthly and daily minimum temperature; daily and monthly precipitation and snowfall statistics; and daily and monthly heating and cooling degree days. The 1981-2010 climate normals is one of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions. NOAA and its predecessor agencies have been providing updated 30-year normals once every decade since the 1921-1950 normals were released in 1956.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


The interesting thing about baselines, is that by choosing your baseline, you can make an anomaly from that baseline look like just about anything you want it to be. For example, at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, they offer a handy dandy map creator for US Climate Divisions that allows you to choose the baseline period (from a predetermined set they offer), including the new 1981-2010 normals released on July 1st.

Here are some examples I get simply by changing the base period.

Here’s the most current (new) base period of 1981-2010. Doesn’t look so bad does it?


Now if we plot the entire period, look out, we are on fire! Global warming is running amok!

Oh, wait, look at the scale. Looks like about 0.08 to 0.13F warming. The ESRL plotting system arbitrarily assigns a range to the scale, based on data magnitude, but keeps the same color range.

The point of this? Temperature anomalies can be anything you want them to be, and by their nature of forcing a choice of baseline, forces you to cherrypick choose periods in your presentation of the data. The choice is up to the publisher.

Now the next question is, with NOAA/NCDC following standard WMO procedure (Roy Spencer at UAH did a few months back also) for a new 30 year base period, will NASA GISS start using a modern normals baseline for their publicly presented default graphs rather than the cooler and long outdated 1951-1980 for the press releases and graphs they foist on the media? Of course for a variety of reasons, they’ll tell you no. But it is interesting to see the rest of the world moving on while GISS remains stoically static. In case you are wondering, here is the offset difference based on the 1951-1990 vs the 1951-1980 base period used. This will of course change again with a more recent baseline, such as NOAA has adopted. While the slope won’t change the magnitude offset will. More here.

base period comparison

The issue is about public presentation of data. I figure if making such a baseline change is something NOAA does, should not NASA follow in the materials they release to the press?

Anomalies – any way you want them:


Josh put a lot of work into these, so if you like the work, drop by the tip jar. Unlike Gore’s CRP, he won’t spam you asking for more. Buy him a beer, he’s worked a long time bringing us enjoyment with only some “attaboys” sent his way.

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John Marshall
September 15, 2011 4:22 am

Another 12. You can have too much of a good thing.

Charlie A
September 15, 2011 4:25 am

Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., NCDC director, says “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s, so we would expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,”
Now the 1990’s are included in both the old and new normals, so the change in normals is simply the difference between the 1970’s and the 2000s. (Or more specifically 1971-1980 vs 2001-2010).
So why are the new normals only 0.5F higher than the 1.5F higher implied by Karl’s statement?

September 15, 2011 4:34 am

Excellent presentation!
It all depends on how it is presented. An elephant can appear huge, or so very small.
Gore can appear to be very knowledgeable and on closer examination be shown to be quite the opposite. Perceptions?

September 15, 2011 4:38 am

Surely the right title is “Bore-a-thon?” Its just rehashing all the questionable Greenstrife publicity slogans…

charles nelson
September 15, 2011 4:42 am

I am amazed by the co-ordinated power of this movement. All over the world
Warmist organizations have been beating the drum since dawn…watching the ABC
here in Australia was a bit like watching the Catholic Church over the Easter Weekend,
ritual repetition, solemnity, sermons, all the sophistication they could muster…one last assertion or Act of Faith that might turn public opinion back to the Scare…it seems to me like the media we thought we had influenced with our rational opposition to the hoax was all the time shoulder to shoulder with the Warmists…now tell me where the money is? !

September 15, 2011 4:44 am

Great interactive map on the site, showing New York spot coming up in 24 hours. So Gore is now a mathematician, 12+24=24.

September 15, 2011 4:54 am

“New normal!”
George Orwell never thought of that!

Viv Evans
September 15, 2011 4:56 am

John Marshall says, September 15, 2011 at 4:22 am:
Another 12. You can have too much of a good thing.
One can never have enough Josh Cartoons!

September 15, 2011 4:57 am

This is analogous to using only the summer temperatures as “normal “temperature indicators for the entire year.It gives one the wrong picture of what is the normal temperature and what the temperatures are likely to be later. I noticed a similar period 1986-2006 being used by CLEMER in a report which claimed Europe’s oceans were changing at an unprecedented rate and then the post 2007 era of record cold weather set in.

September 15, 2011 5:20 am

30 year graphs or normals are fine for historical record , but they are useless for telling you what the normal really is and what one can expect today or in the future. Just look at the last graph. If one looked at the trend of the period 1910-1940 and used that as the normal , you would be completely wrong about what the normal that followed 1940-1970. A proper normal should be at least 60 years minimum to pick up not only warming periods but also cooler periods . We are headed for a similar situation today when the normal of the last 30 years will not be a fair indicator of the normal of today or the next 30 years.

September 15, 2011 5:49 am

Charlie A says:
So why are the new normals only 0.5F higher than the 1.5F higher implied by Karl’s statement?
Simple arithmetic:
70’s – 0
80’s – 0.5
90’s – 1.0
00’s – 1.5
Average 70’s,80’s,90s = (0 + 0.5 + 1.0) /3 = 0.5
Average 80’s,90’s,00s = (0.5 + 1.0 + 1.5) /3 = 1.0
Difference in average = 0.5

bill johnston
September 15, 2011 6:11 am

For once I am glad I only have DSL for my computer. Due to that, I can’t stream the video. Ergo, I don’t get to watch. Pity!

September 15, 2011 6:48 am

What would happen with a 60 year baseline. It looks like the various ocean cycles are more in the 60 year range than the 30. Aren’t we just baselining against peaks and valleys?

September 15, 2011 7:05 am

It all depends on what the 30 year baseline or normlal are used for . In Uk we saw that based on the normals of the past 30 years they predicted that there would be no more snow in UK .They ignored the fact that there was a cold spell 1962-1987 with lots of wintry weather.

September 15, 2011 8:12 am

So, Forrest Gump would not be right if he said,
“Normal is as normal does”?

Dave in Canmore
September 15, 2011 8:58 am

One of my pet peeves is when the weathercast says ” it’s X degrees above/below normal today.” Natural variation means some days will be above the arithmetic mean and some days will be below. But those variations are usually within historical ranges. The claim that there is something abnormal is a huge diservice to understanding the weather.
It’s a misuse of language that subtly and perhaps unintentionally prepares the mind for the “everything is abnormal” meme that the Gores of this world spread.

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