Monday, September 1, 2014

Climate Articles From Over the Summer

You may have already seen these, but I was so wrapped up with the challenge that I missed a lot of things over the summer. Recently, I've been working on doing all of those things I didn't do - like mowing the lawn - that I am just now catching up. Here are a couple of articles I found interesting and didn't have a chance to comment on previously.

The, using data from the National Climatic Assessment report released in May, showed changing weather patterns across the U.S. and discussed changes that have occurred and projected changes that will occur for temperature, frost and precipitation. One of the changes noted was the way precipitation patterns are changing and highlights one of the issues of climate change - not all regions will see the same thing. The observed changes in U.S. precipitation is, basically, the haves will have more and the have nots will have even less. If you get lots of rain you will be getting even more, and if you get only a little rain you will be getting even less. You could probably take the total amount of rainfall for the entire U.S. and say the average is about the same, but that would be misleading. If you are experiencing more frequent and more severe flooding, do you really care what the national average is? If you are experiencing more frequent and more severe droughts, do you really care that some other region is getting lots of rain? Climate change is highlighted by regional changes. Here is a map showing the changes in very heavy precipitation for the country. Bad news for most of us. Really bad news for the Northeast and the West Coast.:

PHOTO: A map of rain from the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment (2014)
Source: ABC News

Then there is the issue of temperature. I have had many people say to me that global warming is false because we are having the coolest year on record. This statement is full of all sorts of errors and false arguments, but people believe it any way.So, let's take a look at this statement.

The first problem is that this has not been the coolest year on record (or, ever recorded, or in the last 50 years - depending on who you are talking to). According to the National Climatic Data Center, July 2014 State of the Climate Report,
The contiguous U.S. average temperature for the first seven months of 2014 was 51.3°F, near the 20th century average but also the coldest first seven months of any year since 1993.
It always important to make sure you keep your facts straight and not let what you want govern what is real. The contiguous U.S. is having the coldest year since 1993, that is 21 years. But, there is more to the story than that. The U.S. makes up less than 2% of the planet surface, so what goes on here is only a sample. When we talk about 'global warming' we mean the globe, not the U.S. The global temperature average continues to rise.

But, there is even the issue of talking about the contiguous U.S. this way, because this cool weather has been limited to the eastern half of the country. The western part is experiencing record heat. California has been experiencing a long-term trend of increasing temperature, but this year has been incredible. The temperature didn't just set a record, it smashed the old one.

Source: National Climatic Data Center

This illustrates the point that you cannot take a single datum point, or even a small data set, and expect to make a valid point and this is true for both sides of the aisle. We need to examine the larger picture in order to figure out what is going on. And, keep in mind, our stated goal should always be to figure out what is truly going on. It shouldn't be about which political party, or which celebrity, is right or wrong. It seems too many times people are trying to turn this into a sporting event and are rooting for their 'side', no matter the issue.

So, let's all try to focus on the issue and stick to the science, not the politics.

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