Other data shows the USA wasn’t even close to a record.
By Anthony Watts
In a report generating substantial media attention this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claimed January 2020 was the hottest January on record. In reality, the claim relies on substantial speculation, dubious reporting methods, and a large, very suspicious, extremely warm reported heat patch covering most of Russia.
The January 2020 Climate Assessment Report, released by NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI), was accompanied by a map showing a giant red menace of extraordinary asserted warmth extending from the Russian border with Poland well into Siberia. Yet, the asserted hot spot appears nowhere else.
Figure 1: Map of temperature departure provided by NOAA/NCEII. Note the huge red spot over Russia.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Alaska was abnormally cold, and the contiguous United States wasn’t even close to a record.
While the media attempt to spin the NOAA announcement as more “proof” of a climate crisis, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, January is the coldest month of the year for much of the Northern Hemisphere. You likely won’t find many people complaining that a particular January was warmer than usual. This is especially the case in Russia and Siberia.
January in Moscow is typically the coldest month of the year. Daytime high temperatures average 20°F, with average lows of 9°F. In Siberia, it is even worse. The Siberian city of Oymyakon, Russia, reached 88°F below zero (-66.67°C) in January 2018. The big red Russian “hot spot” in NOAA’s January temperature map simply shows Russia remained very, very cold, but not as excruciatingly cold as usual.
Yet, the Russian temperature data was the primary driver behind the asserted global January temperature record. This begs the question, why would Russia – and Russia alone – have such an unusual, giant red spot of unusual warmth compared to the rest of the world? Is Russia trying to influence and interfere with global climate data along with American elections?
Hardly, and the answer may be very simple and have little to do with climate change. In 2008, I identified a possible source for similarly odd reported warmth during the preceding Russian winter: Russian central-heating steam pipes.
Now before you say, “How could that possibly affect global temperature?” let’s take a closer look.
Figure 2: Steam generation plant and steam distribution pipes for central heating in the Russian village of Oymyakon Image credit: Amos Chapple via Radio Free Europe
In most of Russia, and especially in Siberia, a central power plant pipes steam via overhead pipes within towns and villages. The steam goes to radiators in homes to provide warmth during the brutally cold winters. The waste heat from these heating systems is dispersed throughout the town. Official temperatures are also measured in these same towns, meaning that waste heat raises the reported temperature above what it would normally be.
When you have much of the Russian nation using this inefficient central heating scheme, dumping huge amount of waste heat into the local atmosphere, you end up with a nationwide temperature anomaly – which might well explain the great temperature “red spot” over Russia and Siberia that appears almost every winter.
A similar effect happens in Barrow, Alaska, a town that is dependent on heating to survive the winter, just like towns in northern Russia. Science has found that Barrow has become its own Urban Heat Island (UHI) during winter. In a peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Climatology, “The Urban Heat Island in Winter at Barrow, Alaska,” researchers found Barrow’s urban heat island to create local temperatures an average of 3.96°F warmer that would otherwise be the case. Notably, this artificial heat signal was largest during the winter, when the indoor heating requirements for the town were greatest to compensate the cold, outside air.
It appears that the “warmest ever” January might simply have been influenced by Russian temperature data warmed up by waste heat. Maybe the U.S. House of Representatives will start an inquiry into Russian collusion to interfere with global temperature data and climate change legislation – but don’t hold your breath.
Anthony Watts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former television meteorologist and Senior Fellow for Environment and Climate for The Heartland Institute. He operates the most viewed website on climate in the world, WattsUpWithThat.com