The folly of blaming the Eastern U.S. heat wave on global warming

A picture is worth a thousand words:

It isn’t global.

This is weather, not climate. It is caused by a persistent blocking high pressure pattern. In a day or two, that red splotch over the eastern USA will be gone.

Image from Dr. Ryan N. Maue of WeatherBELL

h/t to Joe Bastardi

UPDATE: Dr. Roy Spencer puts it in perspective

June 2012 U.S. Temperatures: Not That Remarkable

July 6th, 2012

I know that many journalists who lived through the recent heat wave in the East think the event somehow validates global warming theory, but I’m sorry: It’s summer. Heat waves happen. Sure, many high temperature records were broken, but records are always being broken.

And the strong thunderstorms that caused widespread power outages? Ditto.

Regarding the “thousands” of broken records, there are not that many high-quality weather observing stations that (1) operated since the record warm years in the 1930s, and (2) have not been influenced by urban heat island effects, so it’s not at all obvious that the heat wave was unprecedented. Even if it was the worst in the last century for the Eastern U.S. (before which we can’t really say anything), there is no way to know if it was mostly human-caused or natural, anyway.

“But, Roy, the heat wave is consistent with climate model predictions!”. Yeah, well, it’s also consistent with natural weather variability. So, take your pick.

For the whole U.S. in June, average temperatures were not that remarkable. Here are the last 40 years from my population-adjusted surface temperature dataset, and NOAA’s USHCN (v2) dataset (both based upon 5 deg lat/lon grid averages; click for large version):

Certainly the U.S drought conditions cannot compare to the 1930s.

I really tire of the media frenzy which occurs when disaster strikes…I’ve stopped answering media inquiries. Mother Nature is dangerous, folks. And with the internet and cell phones, now every time there is a severe weather event, everyone in the world knows about it within the hour. In the 1800s, it might be months before one part of the country found out about disaster in another part of the country. Sheesh.

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David, UK

The only “global” thing in that picture is cooling. Wonder if the MSM will report that? No, I don’t really.

cui bono

To you with your low human science and pedantry it may appear to be merely yet another meteorological ‘blocking high’, of the sort that cause the Russian heatwave two years ago, but to those of the Climate Illuminati is revealed the real transcendental Truth of the anger of the Global Warming god. Amen, and pass the collection tin.
Um, sarc.

geography lady

This is a normal summer for the Mid-Atlantic region. I just noted that National AP (Weah DC) was 102 degrees. But also noted that north of DC in Frederick Co MD that the temps are 95–not a record breaker for here.
Usually the high is located off shore and called a Bermuda High which brings very hot, humid and lots of POx. But the high is on-shore. Haven’t heard of any POx warnings in the local weather/nes media.

History will show that AGW theory will rank with “evil spirits” in terms of logical reasoning.
Maybe if we sacrificed a few virgins all the bad weather will go away?

John K.

I keep hearing about how winter in the southern hemisphere has been colder than normal, and the anamolies in that figure give credence to that idea. Same thing for summer in the British isles. Course, I fully expect that all these incidents will be somehow linked…you know, global warming is causing the ‘insane’ heat in the US while also causing summer to be cool and wet in Britain and winter to be chillier in Australia.

Bill Yarber

And Great Britian is having one of the coolest and wetest summers in 100 years. But don’t let actual data get in the way when saving the Earth is in the balance, not to mention more government research grants.
Bill

Steve

Thankfully it is moving away. We are still so short of water that we are looking at crop failure, possibly total crop failure.

Please can you send all that ‘global warming’ over here to the UK? It hasn’t stopped raining since April 1st. Some April Fool that was!

Gary Pearse

Does put the heatwave in perspective. Maybe UAH is biased somehow, they have the last few months going warmer. Of course this map is for July, which of course is not tallied yet.

Robbie

Shall we wait and see what the UAH Global Temperature Update will do for July? Shall we?
http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_June_2012.png
And then we will see what July will be for a month globally. A cool one or a warm one. If it gets a little bit higher than June, 2012 will be the third or fourth warmest year on record.
And what about the rapid decline of Arctic Sea Ice this year:
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
If it was really that cold on Earth as you people claim we would not be seeing such rapid ice loss.
Well I guess you are right Mr. Watts. Pictures can say more than a thousand words.
REPLY: Clinging to your graphs and religion Mr. Kuipers? – Anthony

John

Same thing happened in Russia a couple of years ago and it was also blamed on global warming.

Michael Schaefer

misterjohnqpublic says:
July 7, 2012 at 10:36 am
Maybe if we sacrificed a few virgins all the bad weather will go away?
———————————————————————————————————————
Send them to me. I will take care of them – umm, the weather, that is…

Crispin in Waterloo

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has taken advantage of the first real summer (37 C in Waterloo) we have had in years to schedule a rabidly pro-AGW show that includes some lout claiming that ‘ocean acidity is up 33% because of global warming’.
And you thought no one was keeping track!

cui bono

Robbie says (July 7, 2012 at 10:59 am)
——-
Take a look at Aqua 5, normally a good precursor of UAH figures. It rose high in early June (to above 2011 levels) but has now fallen back.
http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/execute.csh?amsutemps+002
But I wouldn’t want to trump your ‘1 month = climate’ with my ‘2 weeks = climate’. 🙂

Resourceguy

It is a perfect world and perfect debate stance when you can follow heat waves from region to region and call them global warming without revisiting the prior cases as you move along. At least that is the current scheme until something else comes along to topple it. That something will be a further span to 20 or 25 years of flat or declining GLOBAL measures of ocean temps and sea level non-rise. We will also see extreme attempts to deflect attention from the PDO, AMO, and solar cycle decline effects.

Mike Clark

Hey Robbie!! You got the balls to come back next month and give us your prognostication?

Chipotle

Be aware that that map is not an equal-area projection. Along the equator it is cooler than average, and that is underemphasized by this map (remember Mexico is bigger than greenland), and the warmer areas, being away from the equator, are overemphasized.
OT: It really bugs me that the ice area maps (actually, any “area” map) never seem to be an equal-area projection.

KR

It is, in my opinion, an error to attribute any single event, whether it’s a derecho, a heat wave, or a hurricane, to climate change. That’s weather.
On the other hand, as the statistics of weather shift, that’s climate change. And what we’re seeing are the weather statistics moving (see http://tinyurl.com/cgnaj79 for a discussion and data) to hotter and higher energy events.
It’s just like lung cancer – any individual case might be from a genetic issue, accidental exposure to toxins or radiation, or just plain bad luck. But the changing statistics of increasing lung cancer (which was in the past extremely rare) are almost wholly attributable to smoking rates.
So no, this particular heat wave cannot be directly attributed to climate change. But we’re certainly going to see a lot more more of them, with fewer cold events, as climate averages change and the weather dice get loaded more and more heavily to the hot side…

mike about town

Robbie said: “If it gets a little bit higher than June, 2012 will be the third or fourth warmest year on record.”
If this happens, and it could, why should we care? We have been coming out of the Little Ice Age for 150+ years. Is it surprising if the general trend is upwards? What is problematic for you and your buddies is that for 15 years we have been basically flat. If CO2 was such a strong catalyst then the past 15 years should have led to inescapable warming…..they have not.
For fun, let’s remember this quote by Gavin Schmidt from 2007. The first enumerated points were questions put to Dr. Schmidt and his response follows. Basically, if this year (“year 5” of his points) doesn’t exceed the warmest year on record in all 4/5 indices, the condition has been met for Gavin to question Anthropogenic Global Warming….how much you wanna bet he finds a way to NOT question it?
“(1) If 1998 is not exceeded in all global temperature indices by 2013, you’ll be worried about state of understanding
(2) In general, any year’s global temperature that is “on trend” should be exceeded within 5 years (when size of trend exceeds “weather noise&#8221
(3) Any ten-year period or more with no increasing trend in global average temperature is reason for worry about state of understandings
I am curious as to whether there are other simple variables that can be looked at unambiguously in terms of their behaviour over coming years that might allow for such explicit quantitative tests of understanding?
[Response: 1) yes, 2) probably, I’d need to do some checking, 3) No. There is no iron rule of climate that says that any ten year period must have a positive trend. The expectation of any particular time period depends on the forcings that are going on. If there is a big volcanic event, then the expectation is that there will be a cooling, if GHGs are increasing, then we expect a warming etc. The point of any comparison is to compare the modelled expectation with reality – right now, the modelled expectation is for trends in the range of 0.2 to 0.3 deg/decade and so that’s the target. In any other period it depends on what the forcings are. – gavin]”

Joseph Adam-Smith

I really do wish we could have Global Warming in the UK. The weather is cold and, to put it mildly, wet!

@ Robbie
And then we will see what July will be for a month globally. A cool one or a warm one. If it gets a little bit higher than June, 2012 will be the third or fourth warmest year on record.
At the end of June the UAH YTD temp is 0.146C above the 1981-2010 average.
I suggest we all panic now.

NetDr

When it is hot it is climate change.
when it is cold it is weather.
Se how easy it is ?

Paul K2

Yet, much of the NH mid-latitude land areas are rising at a rate of over one deg F (over 0.6 deg C) per decade. See Figure 3 of the 2012 GRL paper by Judah Cohen. Draft here:
http://web.mit.edu/jlcohen/www/papers/Cohenetal_GRL12.pdf
By 2100, most (over 70%) of the summer days in the Midwest will exceed 90 deg F, unless we reduce AGW.
Extreme hot weather similar to the last week’s excessive heat wave will occur every other summer week in the future!
http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/climate-change-illinois.pdf

polistra

Quick analogy based on what I happen to be doing at the moment:
Let’s say you’re trying to cook an omelet. You mix the eggs and pour them in a pan. You put the pan on a thing that’s labeled as a “warmer”.
Ten minutes later, 1/3 of the egg is fried, and 2/3 is frozen.
What have you done to the eggs on average? Have you cooked them? No, you haven’t done anything to the eggs on average. The question is completely meaningless.

Ray

Yep… summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere… makes sense!

Paul K2

One picture is worth a thousand words… Especially when it tells the story of how AGW is going to hit our states hard with extreme hot weather.
This is the report for Pennsylvania (my home state getting hit hard by AGW) by the Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/Exec-Summary_Climate-Change-in-Pennsylvania.pdf
See Figure 1 showing the state’s temperatures before 1990, compared to the state temperatures by the end of this century. More heat waves are coming…
REPLY: The Union of Concerned Scientists? An NGO turned fearmongering moneymaker that requires only a credit card to be a member with no qualifiactions whatsoever? THATS’s your evidence? GUFFAW, ROTFL! Sure, whatever you say. Kenji says otherwise. – Anthony

John F. Hultquist

On the site of Joanne Nova for the posting listed as
http://joannenova.com.au/2012/07/weather-from-before-coal-fired-power-stations-shock-not-perfect/
There is a nice chart:
http://joannenova.com.au//globalwarming/graphs/akasofu/akasofu_graph_little_ice-age.gif
A small green arrow and red dot show our current state of affairs. To the right of that red dot is the future in dashed lines.
I’ve used the link to Jo’s site because the article there is so very interesting. However, the chart is also on WUWT here:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/20/dr-syun-akasofu-on-ipccs-forecast-accuracy/
In the current post and comments:
Robbie says:
July 7, 2012 at 10:59 am
Shall we wait and see . . . ~ . . . Shall we?

I think we should. Meanwhile, I trust Robbie will cut CO2 emissions to near zero – you do have to breathe. I, on the other hand, intend to use my car and air conditioner insofar as I agree with Roy Spencer, namely “It’s summer.” I did grow up before air conditioning and remember summer nights when it was too hot to sleep. That had the advantage that one did not find it unpleasant to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night, unlike in winter when the thunder mug was the better choice.

Paul K2

Typo correction- My comment above should read: “Yet, much of the summer NH mid-latitude land areas are rising at a rate of over one deg F (over 0.6 deg C) per decade.
Just looking at JJA average trend for the NH land area from 20-90N latitudes shows 0.7 deg F per decade rise average, but much of the land area where people live in the NH has average temperatures climbing over 1.0 deg F per decade (see the map in Figure 3 in the Cohen paper).

Paul K2–sorry, but the UCS is not a group of scientists, just a politically leftist advocacy group.

John F. Hultquist

While I was writing the comment @12:22 a new comment came through. From Paul K2 with the home state of Pennsylvania. I think I should mention that the State that I found too hot to sleep in many years ago – before catastrophic-AGW religion was invented, was – ready? . . . .
Pennsylvania!

Jimbo

It’s just the weather and not the climate. By the way is Britain’s drought (caused by climate change) over yet after 3 months of wet, wet, wet?

Saturday July 7,2012
IT WILL RAIN ‘TIL SEPTEMBER
BRITAIN is facing its “worst ever” summer with cold wet weather ruining family holidays and blighting the Olympics, forecasters warned last night.
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/331299/It-will-rain-til-September

James

I wouldn’t get too worried about the heat and lack of rain. Only two months ago the BBC was telling us Brits that due to global warming droughts are the future, now they are reporting with the aid of the UEA that floods are the future.
The UK Met office are in on the fraud too. They predicted April, May and June would be dry and the reservoirs would not be replenished by Summer rain. Since then we have had nothing but rain and floods.

Paul K2

REPLY: The Union of Concerned Scientists? An NGO turned fearmongering moneymaker that requires only a credit card to be a member with no qualifiactions whatsoever? THATS’s your evidence? GUFFAW, ROTFL! Sure, whatever you say. Kenji says otherwise. – Anthony
Anthony, have you bothered to read the Cohen (2012) paper I linked to that was published in the GRL entitled “Asymmetric seasonal temperature trends”? There is much there you might like; but most of the analysis contradicts your conjectures in this post.
Here is the Abstract for your perusal:
Current consensus on global climate change predicts warming trends driven by anthropogenic forcing, with maximum temperature changes projected in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) high latitudes during winter. Yet, global temperature trends show little warming over the most recent decade or so. For longer time periods appropriate to the assessment of trends, however, global temperatures have experienced significant warming for all seasons except winter, when cooling trends exist instead across large stretches of eastern North America and northern Eurasia. Hence, the most recent lapse in global warming is a seasonal phenomenon, prevalent only in boreal winter.
Additionally, we show that the largest regional contributor to global temperature trends over the past two decades is land surface temperature in the NH extratropics. Therefore, proposed mechanisms explaining the fluctuations in global annual temperature trends should address this apparent seasonal asymmetry.
As for the Union of Concerned Scientist maps, there are many projections of what extrapolated AGW warming trends for NH land areas like the US mainland out there. The displays on that site convey the information quickly, accurately, and easy to understand.

Sun Spot

The U.S. and Canada should be preparing for a repeat of the “Dirty Thirties”. Being prepared for this type of cyclical weather pattern would be prudent social planning. It may get allot hotter and drier just like the 30’s
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl
(notice wikipedia renamed the dirty 30’s ROFL)

Frank K.

“The is weather, not climate. It is caused by a persistent blocking high pressure pattern. In a day or two, that red splotch over the eastern USA will be gone.”
Yes – our CAGW climate scientists forget that “weather is not cimate” unless it’s winter and somewhere there is a new low temperature record.
But remember that these scientist/advocates are merely opportunists, fund-raising off of others’ misery (e.g. the western wild fires).

Paul K2

John F. Hultquist: Most homes in Pennsylvania didn’t have AC thirty years ago. None of my family had AC in their homes. We really didn’t need it much. That is likely why you had trouble sleeping. Now, most of my extended family there has AC.

Ian W

Robbie says:
July 7, 2012 at 10:59 am
Shall we wait and see what the UAH Global Temperature Update will do for July? Shall we?

As you may have noticed Mr. Kuipers the atmosphere is extremely dry in the areas where it is the temperatures are high so the atmospheric enthalpy is also extremely low. Therefore the actual amount of heat energy required to raise the atmospheric temperatures to their current levels is very low. So it actually proves very little. But then you really knew that anyway.

cui bono

Joseph Adam-Smith says (July 7, 2012 at 11:32 am)
I really do wish we could have Global Warming in the UK. The weather is cold and, to put it mildly, wet!
—-
And yet where I am (Hampshire) we still have a hosepipe ban. The local water company enforces it by sending scuba divers down into my garden to make sure I’m not watering it.

Jimbo

Robbie,.
How many years is climate according to the IPCC or the WMO??? Don’t bother it’s 30 years.
It’s just the weather and not the climate.

Just for some reference or some balance: the coolest spring I’ve experienced here in Eastern Oz was in 1999. The coolest summer was in 2012 (after a hot spring). The highest heat was in 2004, but it was brief. All records for sustained heat (ie mean monthly max) were set between 1910 and 1920 in my region. Only August set its record outside that decade – in 1946!
I’d like to blame America’s Big Heat on something – but I don’t know much about what was happening in 1936. I’m told it was preceded by a horror winter. Go figure.

Don

I was recently conversing by phone with a highly educated American friend who lives in Oxford, UK. We of course touched on the weather. He vociferated about the exceptionally cold, wet, unpleasant weather there this summer. When I did the same regarding the exceptionally hot and dry weather here in Colorado, his immediate response was, “And they say Global Warming isn’t happening!”
Is there something in the water over there?

Smits

Of course this heatwave is weather. What else could it be? And of course it’s climate as well. It is scarcely credible that you would think the two are mutually exclusive. Perhaps you could explain in more detail what you could possibly mean by “weather, not climate”.

Lester Via

It seems to me that an atmosphere containing greenhouse gases should moderate surface temperature extremes, both peak highs and peak lows, while increasing the daily average. This seems apparent to me because desert areas with their lower humidity levels generally have daily temperature extremes that are both higher and lower than more humid areas at the same latitude. It’s certainly most apparent on the moon.
Is there something wrong with my logic? If not, why do climate alarmists blame most weather extremes on anthropogenic CO2. Or maybe they just choose to be dishonest and remain silent when journalists make incorrect assumptions. This doesn’t make sense to me either unless the vast majority of all journalists chose their profession because they have no aptitude whatsoever for math and science and are unable to distinguish fact from fiction in such matters. I have had one conservative newspaper editor privately agree with me that the latter case is true.

vigilantfish

James says:
July 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm
I wouldn’t get too worried about the heat and lack of rain. Only two months ago the BBC was telling us Brits that due to global warming droughts are the future, now they are reporting with the aid of the UEA that floods are the future.
The UK Met office are in on the fraud too. They predicted April, May and June would be dry and the reservoirs would not be replenished by Summer rain. Since then we have had nothing but rain and floods.
—————–
Are you Brits allowed to use your watering hoses yet? Or are you still officially in a drought?
The UK MET Office deserves a medal for predicting the exact opposite weather to what happens. If they predict rain perhaps you might get some decent weather for the London Olympics!

Paul K2

Its peculiar that so many readers here seem to deny that much of the middle part of the US mainland has had some extremely hot weather recently. Most people who live there seem to be asking “What’s UP with this extremely hot weather?” and “When will it end?”
Well, what’s up might be that we have changed the meteorological system. I am happy to see that WUWT has finally recognized that the Arctic ice pack is melting off severely every summer, including this summer (WUWT expects ice extent to fall below 4.5 million sq km this year). This is a nice baby step in the correct direction.
Now lets try a bigger step. NH weather systems are driven by the jet stream. The jet stream is driven by the pressure differential between the arctic and the mid-latitudes. Now what happens when the Arctic isn’t as cool, and the pressure of the mid-troposphere rises?
The pressure differential changes, and the jet stream slows, which means that it is more susceptible to blocking patterns. In short, Arctic amplification warms the arctic, which changes the jet stream and changes weather patterns in the NH.
Here is a nice video by Dr. Jennifer Francis, a meteorologist from Rutgers, explaining how this happens:

So yes, the climate scientists predict climate changes. And now the meteorologists are predicting weather pattern shifts base on observed climatic changes, such as the loss of the Arctic ice pack and reduced snow cover.
My friends and family are sorry to hear, that these kinds of heat waves are here to stay, and with more on the way in the coming years.

R.S.Brown

Many folks, including reporters here in Ohio will remember the “Drought
of 1988”. We had high temps and low precipitation. It was bad news for
the people, the crops, and the critters alike.
This week we’ve beaten several of the daily temperature “records”
set that summer… except now the NWS/NOAA has become even
more reliant on temperature records taken at airports.
That was weather then, just as this is weather now.

Kelvin Vaughan

Joseph Adam-Smith says:
July 7, 2012 at 11:32 am
I really do wish we could have Global Warming in the UK. The weather is cold and, to put it mildly, wet!
Been like that most of the 65 years of my life, despite the idiots prophesying ice ages and global warming and the end of the world.

Nick

Anthony, I’ve enjoyed following your site for months as a layperson trying to get a better handle on various points of view. I tend to be skeptical by nature, though I lack any scientific training, so sometimes the hand waving of the commenters blurs things. It seems that saying it is colder in the UK so climate change isn’t happening is just the same as saying all the new high temps in the US means there is climate change happening.
I’m hoping you can remind me of your point of view, which I believe is that the earth is in a warming trend but you are quite skeptical that the causes are induced by man vs. naturally occurring events, such as sunspot activity? I’m sure your view is much more nuanced, but I’d love to hear (and see on the home page) how you think about the trend. I’m also curious to learn more about your current view on where things might be going per the very interesting posts by you and others here.

Don says:
July 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm
“Is there something in the water over there?”
Maybe. At a dinner a week ago I was seated next to a nice man from Nottingham, UK. He was very pleasant, well educated, extremely polite, and he spoke in a very quiet voice. Throughout the dinner we discussed his job, which was quite technical. His company is a U.S. government subcontractor for NASA.
Then someone mentioned “global warming”, and it was like The Wolfman, where hair suddenly sprouts from his face and hands, fangs appear, and he starts growling and ripping out of his clothing with saliva flying.
He instantly launched into a loud rant about the oceans “acidifying by 30% practically overnight!” and other extreme climate alarmist talking points. I was astonished, because he was scientifically literate.
I made the [deliberate] mistake of asking him, if “carbon” causes global warming, then why has the planet not warmed for 15 years? I am not exxagerating when I say he lost it. He jumped from one crazy talking point to the next in a loud voice, and I couldn’t get a word in. People were watching from other tables. I ended up just listening and smiling, which made him crazier. He announced that he had to leave, and did.
I’m still amazed recalling it. I had heard of people losing it like that, but this was my first personal experience. Maybe there is something in the water. LSD?

Gunga Din


Regarding the “thousands” of broken records, there are not that many high-quality weather observing stations that (1) operated since the record warm years in the 1930s, and (2) have not been influenced by urban heat island effects, so it’s not at all obvious that the heat wave was unprecedented. Even if it was the worst in the last century for the Eastern U.S. (before which we can’t really say anything), there is no way to know if it was mostly human-caused or natural, anyway.”
And the past records themselves have been changed at times. Here’s the record highs from 2 list obtained from the NWS. One was in 2007 and the other in 2012. Can anyone explain to me how the record high set in 1966 can be lower than the previous record set in 1907?
The list from 2007:23-Mar 81 1907
The list from 2012: Mar-23 76 1966