USA's record warm March 2012 not caused by "global warming"

The usual suspects in the blogs and media have been bloviating about the record warmth of March and spinning it to redline for maximum fear factor, with the “loaded climate dice” theme. For example we have Andrew Freedman of Climate Central and his post, Global Warming May Have Fueled March Heat Wave Odds.

Scary big red maps aside, a quiet look at the data tells an entirely different story.

At least NCDC had the good sense in their report to avoid linking a weather pattern to AGW:

A persistent weather pattern during the month led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Dr. Martin Hoerling on NOAA says much the same thing, attributing much to “randomness” and citing a similar event in March 1910 as seen below in the NCDC data plot:

It is difficult to make credible claims that March 2012 was AGW driven when looking at March 1910 when global CO2 was well below Dr. James Hansen’s posited “safe” 350 PPM level.

Hoerling also says that pulling an AGW signal out of this has “…statistical challenges in estimating how such a shift in distributions would alter extreme event odds, especially of the intensity observed in March 2012 whose magnitude was likely on the order of 4 – 6 standard deviations.”

Dr. Roy Spencer writes that the southerly wind component was the cause, and even shoots down the “yes but” before it gets out of the gate.

New Evidence Our Record Warm March was Not from Global Warming

by Dr. Roy Spencer

As part of my exploration of different surface temperature datasets, I’m examining the relationship between average U.S. temperatures and other weather variables in NOAA’s Integrated Surface Hourly (ISH) dataset. (I think I might have mistakenly called it “International” before, instead of “Integrated” Surface Hourly).

Anyway , one of the things that popped out of my analysis is related to our record warm March this year (2012). Connecting such an event to “global warming” would require either lazy thinking, jumping to conclusions, or evidence that the warmth was not caused by persistent southerly flow over an unusually large area for that time of year.

The U.S. is a pretty small place (about 2% of the Earth), and so a single high or low pressure area can cover most of the country. For example, if unusually persistent southerly flow sets up all month over most of the country, there will be unusual warmth. In that case we are talking about “weather”, not “climate change”.

Why do I say that? Because one of the basic concepts you learn in meteorology is “mass continuity”. If there is persistent and widespread southerly flow over the U.S., there must be (by mass continuity) the same amount of northerly flow elsewhere at the same latitude.

That means that our unusual warmth is matched by unusual coolness someplace else.

Well, guess what? It turns out that our record warm March was ALSO a record for southerly flow, averaged over the U.S. This is shown in the next plot, which comes from about 250 weather stations distributed across the Lower 48 (click for large version; heavy line is trailing 12 month average):

Weather records are broken on occasion, even without global warming. And here we see evidence that our March warmth was simply a chance fluctuation in weather patterns.

If you claim, “Well, maybe global warming caused the extra southerly flow!”, you then are also claiming (through mass continuity) that global warming ALSO caused extra northerly flow (with below normal temperatures) somewhere else.

And no matter what anyone has told you, global warming cannot cause colder than normal weather. It’s not in the physics. The fact that warming has been greatest in the Arctic means that the equator-to-pole temperature contrast has been reduced, which would mean less storminess and less North-South exchange of air masses — not more.

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If it’s warm, it must be climate change. If it’s cold, I guess it’s climate change too.

“The fact that warming has been greatest in the Arctic means that the equator-to-pole temperature contrast has been reduced, which would mean less storminess and less North-South exchange of air masses — not more.”
….a fact that the legions of cut-and-paste armchair greens just can’t seem to get their head around. Cold Poles give us weather, some of it very ugly, as Joplin illustrated in 2011.

Rhys Jaggar

Pretty simple question: was there anywhere in the N. Hemisphere which had a really cold March?
Not the UK for sure – we had very mild/warm weather. April’s another story…..

Kelvin Vaughan

Hot air dosen’t only rise it also moves across the surface of the earth.

[snip – put some descriptions with links – naked link bombing not encouraged here – Anthony]

Spaewife

The NAO was in a strong positive phase for most of the winter which contributed to the weather patterns seen across Eastern USA and Northern Europe.

Brian D

I guess as we keep pointing out things like this in the record, in 5 yrs under a new dataset, it will be GONE!
Interesting note, though, I was able to find in the annual US record a flat trend from 1932-1997 sometime last year. Now i can go back to 1920. Even back to 1918 it’s only 0.02F/decade. 1895 to 1997 is only 0.07F. The entire record is 0.12F, and I’m pretty sure it used to be 0.14F or 0.16F.

Rabbit

How long was the European cold spell (Deaths in Ukraine, etc)?

Larry Hamlin

Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. has a similar analysis pointing out that the UAH global average March temperature was only +0.11 degrees C above the 30 year long average and more significantly the March 2012 global average temperature was -0.4 degrees C cooler than the UAH global average March temperature of 2010. The claim that this 2012 March temperature in the Midwest is consistent with what is expected with increased bouts of warm weather occurring because of on going global temperature increases is both illogical (March 2012 global average temperature is significantly cooler than occurred in 2010) as well as pure climate alarmist conjecture lacking any valid scientific link whatsoever.

Bill H

if you extraopolate the records back to mid 1800’s it shows a cylical pattern of which we have reachd the apex of and are currently on the way down… while this is intersting stuff, it is localized weather caused by loclaized events.. the base cylical trend is unchanged.
if you look above the 1900 area is the apex of the last cycle…

GaryS

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I live in a “red” state and indeed had a warm March. But it’s been very cool these April evenings. Got down to 42 last few nights. It takes more than one warm month to make me panic. ‘Sides, I love a good warm March!

Michael Penny

“The fact that warming has been greatest in the Arctic means that the equator-to-pole temperature contrast has been reduced, which would mean less storminess and less North-South exchange of air masses — not more.”
That is exactly what I have been saying for years, and I had only one meteorology course in college.

hengistmcstone

[SNIP – this poster (fake name, fake email) is banned due to trying to incite a race issue with his gravatar, which is a policy violation. Don’t post here again until you remove that gravatar. – Anthony]

Jimbo

There has been a distinct shift in the modus operandi of Warmists. You see when we pointed to cold events they said it’s just the weather. Yet they are increasingly doing the same thing. Maybe it has something to do with the temperature standstill.

geologyjim

Rhys Jaggar says:
(April 16, 2012 at 11:46 am)
Pretty simple question: was there anywhere in the N. Hemisphere which had a really cold March?
= = = =
The folks in Alaska had a pretty miserable-cold March, on top of February, January, and December, IIRC. New record for snowfall in Anchorage and other coastal locations

Matt Skaggs

“…statistical challenges in estimating how such a shift in distributions would alter extreme event odds…”
The “shifted distribution” meme is very popular over at Realclimate, and often presented as an established fact. Never mind that there is exactly nil evidence that any distributions have shifted. We have been warmer than average for a few decades perhaps, but well within the late Holocene “distribution.” Weather records occasionally fall as they always have. Analyses of extreme weather is necessarily post hoc (just try predicting it even a month out!), so the discussion of the associated statistics is more numerology than science.

Galane

The BS just doesn’t stop. As ice cap melts, militaries vie for Arctic edge http://news.yahoo.com/ice-cap-melts-militaries-vie-arctic-edge-072343565.html
Um, if they’re preparing for military action in an ice-free Arctic region, why are they doing exercises ON the ice? If the Arctic all melts, it seems a bit pointless eh?

populartechnology

Looks like a 100 year cycle.

Theodore White

[snip – Astrology, especially extra BS astrology trying to predict weather, is not a topic we discuss here – take your lame attempt at traffic generation elsewhere – Anthony]

Werner Brozek

It was so hot that both ABC News and NBC ran excellent stories that connected the heat wave to global warming.
WOW! One very warm month in one country is connected to global warming. But when it is pointed out that RSS shows no GLOBAL warming for 15 years, we are told 17 years is needed to be sure. To expand on Larry Hamlin says: April 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm, I will compare the global March anomalies for GISS, RSS and UAH and rank them to their respective global average anomalies. Respectively, the March numbers for these three are 0.46, 0.075 and 0.108. If these March numbers maintained this average for the whole year, the ranking would be 12th, 18th and 11th respectively. Improvement needed.

Lets be clear “Global warming” cannot “cause” warmer weather. It cannot because “global warming” does not exist as a physical entity. “Global warming” DESCRIBES long term STATISTICS of weather. Weather exists. Look outside. That is the weather at time x. When you collect a bunch of weather data and then compute statistics, you are computing or summarizing data. You are not observing, you are ‘mathing’. That summary does not exist as an observable. It is math about a collection of observables.
That math, the long term average, doesnt cause weather. It cant. Its an abstraction.
The problem is purely and soley linguistic. Global warming, which is just statistics, has been used so often in descriptions that people begin to think it is a thing. Its not.
That said, in a world that is warming, you can expect more marches like the one we had.
The warm march is of course tied to the levels of GHGs. If they were higher, the temp would be higher. if they were lower the temp would be lower.

Hoerling actually talks of a “weak overall contribution of GHG warming to the magnitude of the March 2012 heatwave”. That is not the same as the absolutist claim in your headline. Unfortunately your headline suggests WUWT cannot reflect the highly nuanced question of attribution.
REPLY: Race baiting gravatar removed – post allowed- Anthony

More Soylent Green!

@Steven Mosher says:
April 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Perhaps you can get on ABC News as a dissenting voice? They really hyped this nonsense and nary a contrary opinion was offered.

Dr. Dave

For entertainment purposes I suggest going to Dr. Spencer’s blog and read the comments to this same article. At least one familiar WUWT troll is schooling everyone on the “Anthropocene climate.” If nothing else it is amusing…until it becomes tedious.

Brian D

Minnesota’s Top Ten March averages(F). 1901 -2000 avg is 26.1.
1) 2012 – 41.2
2) 1910 – 40.6
3) 1946 – 36.4
4) 1973 – 36.0
2000 – 36.0
6) 2010 – 35.3
7) 1945 – 34.9
8) 1918 – 34.4
9) 1968 – 34.0
10) 1938 – 33.6
1981 – 33.6
As I look at this, what would disturb me if I believed in AGW is the lack of 80’s to present records in the top ten not being dominant. Yes, there is a sprinkling, but at least the bottom half of this record should be all from current decades, shouldn’t it? Hmmm…. lets see, maybe AGW isn’t quite strong enough yet to dominate the higher end of the records in March. Maybe it’s sneaking up in the next 10 and will be dominant in that set.
12) 1977 – 33.2
1987 – 33.2
14) 1902 – 32.7
15) 1905 – 32.5
1985 – 32.5
17) 1961 – 32.0
18) 1942 – 31.9
2007 – 31.9
20) 1911 – 31.5
Hmmm… data’s a *itch, isn’t it?!

Re: vukcevic says: April 16, 2012 at 11:51 am
Anthony apologies, I get out foxed by the new narrow text window, so here it is again:
The CET March shows also high but not as high as in the US. CET March was exceeded twice around 1990, and few more times from 1930 to 1970.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CET-March.htm
( I hope this one is OK)

Kasuha

Rhys Jaggar says:
April 16, 2012 at 11:46 am
Pretty simple question: was there anywhere in the N. Hemisphere which had a really cold March?
_______________________
Check the map:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/04/uah-global-temperature-anomaly-up-in-march-at-0-11c/
[Note: Global temps are what matter. March up, April down. ~dbs, mod.]

Roger

Eastern Australia had one of the coldest summers on record, Russia and Europe nearly froze over this winter. I am surprised any decent meteorologist would even contemplate putting up a post like this. Excuse the sarcasm

kbray in california

Galane says:
April 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm
The BS just doesn’t stop. As ice cap melts, militaries vie for Arctic edge
————————————————————————
That article mentions fighting over the natural resources in the Arctic like oil….
But even if ALL the ice melts in the summer, a drilling rig in the Arctic would be crushed and destroyed by the seasonal winter ice and drifting floes, not to mention trying to get the oil to pump at 80 below zero… have fun with that…
Sorry, but we’ll never ever see a balmy Arctic that’s livable… not in our lifetime anyway.
Who is writing this garbage anyway?

Roger

From Mother nature ( It seems Schmidt may be coming to grips reality, just maybe)
“Dealing with the future always involves dealing with uncertainty — and this is as true with climate as it is with the economy,” Schmidt writes in a post at RealClimate.org. “Science has led to a great deal of well-supported concern that increasing emissions of CO2 (in particular) are posing a substantial risk to human society.”
Among those who study climate, issues such as the existence of the greenhouse effect, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the past century, their human origin, and warming over the 20th century are no longer subject to fundamental debate, he writes.
The claims in the letter are too vague to be clear, Schmidt told LiveScience in an email, but “If any of signatories are ever in New York, I would be happy to discuss with them the science that gets done at GISS.”

Ally E.

Way I see it, the AGW crowd had to pounce on a warm month. Any warm month. Anywhere, any sign. They’re desperate.

D. J. Hawkins

Steven Mosher says:
April 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

That said, in a world that is warming, you can expect more marches like the one we had.
The warm march is of course tied to the levels of GHGs. If they were higher, the temp would be higher. if they were lower the temp would be lower.

So your explanation for 1910 would be…?
Hint: If you say natural variability, then how is 2012 NOT also natural variability?

mike_g

Forgive me if I missed it above, but in 2010 and 2011, any time somebody mentioned how cold the US was, we were quickly reminded that the US only represented 2% of the earth’s surface. Those reminders have been conspicuously absent lately.

Justthinkin

You know,I am really disappointed with this. We had a “relatively” nice March here in Northern Alberta,and April goes to heck! I know my tulips were sure not impressed with April so far. (and where’s all the usual bs about the Arctic Ocean ice[“sea” ice is redundant] melting,seeing as it is spring??).

polistra

The only meaningful “global temperature” is the temperature at the center of the liquid core. Everything on the surface is local and logically unmixable.
Last week I pulled out the regional records to see what’s happening. As always, it’s quite different by region. East and some of the center are record warm and appear to be part of a short warming trend. West is getting cooler, and appears to be on a cooling trend. Other areas are notably warm this March but don’t look like a trend.
http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2012/04/warming-nope-one-month-in-one-area.html

rogerkni

The GISS anomalies so far this year (Jan.-March) are 0.36, 0.40, and 0.46, yielding an average of 0.407. The average for all of last year was 0.51.
As La Niña ends, the anomaly should rise–but there’s a lag before it does, so the next two months shouldn’t rise above 0.50, or not by much.

Peter

From the NOAA assessment: “…the GHG warming signal fails to explain the extreme magnitude of the heatwave event, which achieved daily departures of +20°C, or about 20-fold greater than the estimated background warming signal. …. The weak overall contribution of GHG warming to the magnitude of the March 2012 heatwave notwithstanding, a signal of about +1°C warming appreciably increased the odds of a record March heatwave occurring. Such a signal corresponds approximately to a 0.5 standardized shift of the probability distribution toward warmer conditions. …. Our current estimate of the impact of GHG forcing is that it likely contributed on the order of 5% to 10% of the magnitude of the heat wave during 12-23 March. And the probability of heatwaves is growing as GHG-induced warming continues to progress.”
In other words, you can’t say that global warming caused a +20deg C heatwave, but you can say that it is responsible for part of the strength of that heatwave. (Tamino essentially said that in his blog as well)

George E. Smith;

So looking at the first graph of Contiguous U.S., Temperature, March, I was intrigued by the 9 point binomial filter which got rid of a lot of the “noise” (AKA DATA).
That immediately begs the question: “What nine point binomial filter ? ” Does anybody have a formula for this filter and also, what the steady state frequency response of this filter is; or more importantly what is the impulse, or step function response of this filter, since the input “signal” to the filter is a rather transient rich signal, so it would be interesting to know what kinds of overshoots and ringing are produced by this filter; and what is the theoretical basis for employing such a process to remove information from the real data ??
Other than that, the red line looks like a rather poor approximation to the data, which to me looks essentially flat up to 1970 followed by a somewhat steep rise to about 1990, corresponding to the recently departed warm period, and then into the current going basically nowhere since that 1990-2000 time frame.
But then I’m just a physicist, and not a peer reviewed multipublished real climate scientist; like presumably the authors of the red line are.

Bruce Cobb

Steven Mosher says:
April 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm
The warm march is of course tied to the levels of GHGs. If they were higher, the temp would be higher. if they were lower the temp would be lower.
Of course nothing. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Nothing in the temperature record, other than a very loose correlation requiring tons of cherry-picking points to it.

Peter says:
“In other words, you can’t say that global warming caused a +20deg C heatwave, but you can say that it is responsible for part of the strength of that heatwave.”
You can say that. However, it is evidence-free conjecture. But thanx for your opinion.
. . .
Bruce Cobb, exactly right. These folks have no clue about how the scientific method works. AGW may or may not be true. But at this point it is a conjecture, not a hypothesis.

Peter

Bruce Cobb-
So do you think the NOAA assessment is wrong?

Interstellar Bill

Steven Mosher says: April 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm
That said, in a world that is warming, you can expect more Marches like the one we had.
The warm March is of course tied to the levels of GHGs. If they were higher, the temp would be higher. if they were lower the temp would be lower.
———————————————————————————————————————-
I love that ‘of course’, as if his case were already proved.
Ah, the callow arrogance of Warmistas, prayerfully chanting the approved mantras and expecting us to bow down before them and surrender.
In truth, there is yet to be a shred of true proof that this is ‘a world that is warming’,
just Alarmist cherry-picking, as if a few decades of earlier springs somewhere was any big deal.
Mosher and the rest of the alarmists assume that because CO2 is everywhere, its alleged warming effects will be a delta T that is everywhere added to current temps.
Because the alleged warming by CO2 depends upon water-vapor leftovers and cloud altitudes, it is always and only local, and strongly fluctuating at that. Its global sum is nothing but a planetary statistic, not a causal agency.
There is not a micro-shred of proof that CO2 has today any kind of uniform ‘forcing’ action that everywhere adds a ‘global delta T’ to every temperature, 24/7. In fact, when thus clearly expressed, the absurdity of this idea is glaringly manifest, the IPCC’s fancy forcing formulae notwithstanding.

renewable guy

1951 to 1980 baseline. James Hansen is comparing the world regions anomalies to 2003 to 2011. I have read over this several times and get something new out of it each time.
1 sigma events occur 33% above and below a mean (or central point)
2 sigma events occur 2.3% above and below
3 sigma events occur .13% above and below
if you look at fig 3 up in the rt hand corner are the percentages of the points lieing in the sigma ranges.
sigma
………-3. -2…-1 ….0 …. +1…+2..+3
1955 0… 2… 45…32…. 20…1…..0
2010 0….1….15….18….34…18.. 13
The 3 sigma percentages below should be 0 or 1% at most. Instead we have data that shows extreme weather events up to 100 times more than normal.
2003…….6%
2004…….3%
2005…….5%
2006…….5%
2007…….5%
2008…….4%
2009…….6%
2010……11%
2011……..8%
The near normal distribution expected is close to what 1955 is. If you go back and look at 1965, and 1975 you will see similar numbers provided by Dr. James Hansen. +3 sigma is the very hot category. The sigmas are decreasing and the + sigmas are increasing all through the last decade which is the hottest decade in instrumental temperature history.

Jeef

Those commenting on Arctic oil need to think a little. Drill during Summer months then complete the wellheads with a subsea tie back via pipeline laid in Summer. Hey presto! No need to worry about temperature under the ice.

Bruce Cobb

@ Peter, Of course Noaa’s assessment is wrong. What else would you expect, though? They are part of the CAGW system, a hub on the wheel of the soon-to-be trainwreck of the most destructive ideology since the days of Hitler.

Michael Larkin

Interstellar Bill said:
“Mosher and the rest of the alarmists assume that because CO2 is everywhere, its alleged warming effects will be a delta T that is everywhere added to current temps.”
Mosher isn’t, AFAIK, an alarmist – he’s a lukewarmer, and say what you will, scathing in his disapproval of the behaviour of the Climategate gang. Read his and Tom Fuller’s book “The CRUtape letters”, linked to on WUWT’s home page. Overall, I rate him as reasonably fair-minded and definitely scientifically literate. Some of the lukewarmers are, you know.

renewable guy

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2071http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2071
The link above shows record sea surface tempertures (SST) down in the Gulf of Mexico are at record levels. He ties that in with spate of tornados that came across the midwest in the United States. Those same record SST were the ones that helped to fuel the March heat wave. In one sense it was a naturally occuring event and yet in another, the AGW warmed Gulf helped to make it a record breaking event. If the Gulf of Mexico maintains its record SST all through the summer, this will fuel the thunderstorms of the midwest for the rest of the summer. Which will include more tornado formation and possibly hurricane fueling.
In general as I understand AGW I think the Gulf Of Mexico will in general be warmer throughout this century and the record breaking SST will increase.
This is tied to human emissions. Even after we dramatically decrease our emissions the earth will continue warming for 40 or 50 years, possibly plateau before it actually starts to cool. The oceans lag the atmosphere and will heat up for centuries based on the CO2 we have in the atmosphere.

John M

Renewable guy…
Business a little slow lately?

renewable guy

John M says:
April 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm
Renewable guy…
Business a little slow lately?
##############################
I’m a supporter, not a commercial business. Interesting article about solar prices coming down. The world installed 27 GW last year.
http://www.enn.com/green_building/article/44269?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EnvironmentalNewsNetwork+%28Environmental+News+Network%29

Mike

Did you happen to notice the 2.2F/century trend for March? And then there is this:
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL051000.shtml
Not proof, but evidence.
REPLY: Did you happen to notice the endpoints? – Anthony