A Few Things Ill Considered

[Update: it seems clear that records were broken after all as has been pointed out in the comments. So we are only left with Fox’s reaction and youtube fog-pee videos. And let’s face it, Fox’s reaction was pretty predictable…]

The recent cold snap was indeed remarkable and the media was buzzing about it for days.  But it was not remarkable for the extreme cold, which in fact set no records, it was remarkable because it has become so unusual.

Unlike the recent heat waves in the US, Australia, Russia and Europe, this cold snap did not, repeat did not set any all time monthly or daily minimum records.  Rather it was merely colder than it has been for 20 years.  What’s more, according to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, and his climate historian Christopher C. Burt, cold snaps like this past week’s used to occur every couple of years in the 1800’s and prior to the 1996 cold snap, events like this occurred every 5-10 years.  Quoting:

Not an Historic Cold Wave:

As notable as this week’s cold wave was–bringing the coldest air seen since 1996 or 1994 over much of the nation–the event failed to set any monthly or all-time record low minimum temperature records at airports and cooperative observing stations monitored by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. As wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt summed it up for me, “The only significant thing about the cold wave is how long it has been since a cold wave of this force has hit for some portions of the country–18 years, to be specific. Prior to 1996, cold waves of this intensity occurred pretty much every 5-10 years. In the 19th century, they occurred every year or two (since 1835). Something that, unlike the cold wave, is a[sic] truly unprecedented is the dry spell in California and Oregon, which is causing unprecedented winter wildfires in Northern California. Part of the reason that this week’s cold wave did not set any all-time or monthly cold records is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in a warming climate.

So what is remarkable is that this level of cold has become remarkable.  That and the childish guffaws from Fox News about 150 years of scientific research being refuted by a weekend of cold weather.  Oh yes, and YouTube videos of peeing fog. Otherwise this is just what scientists refer to as “winter”.

 

Comments

  1. #1 Rick
    January 11, 2014

    … this cold snap did not, repeat did not set any … daily minimum records.

    This seems not to be true:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/01/07/weather-polar-vortex-cold/4354945/

  2. #2 coby
    January 11, 2014

    There is a little ambiguity in that article, at least in the description of the graphic. It seems it could mean just record low since two decades ago. For the moment I would trust Wunderground over any USA Today or Weather Channel report, but we should keep an eye on this…

    Thanks for the link!

  3. #3 makeinu
    January 11, 2014

    There’s ambiguity in the actual article as well. The header on the graphic says:

    Temperatures in some areas have not been this low since the arctic outbreaks of January 1997, February 1996 and January of 1994.

    Which jibes with the wunderground article quoted above, but the actual USA Today article rattles off a lot of records that were broken without stating when those records were set.

    Can’t say if they’re right or wrong without going back to their source, which they at least bother citing, if not linking.

    USA Today usually has pretty lazy journalism. No change there.

  4. #4 Rick
    January 11, 2014

    Wunderground agrees that January 7th 2014 was a new daily low record at Dulles Airport:
    http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KIAD/2014/1/7/DailyHistory.html

    Also, Wunderground, on their Record extremes page, shows 179 daily NCDC Records (U.S. Only) set on January 6th. Asking for the 7th gives no results (it should show at least Dulles), so it seems that the January 7th data has not been updated for that page yet.

  5. #5 coby
    January 11, 2014

    I did the search as well. A lot of the results returned are ties, but there certainly are some saying new records. I would expect Jeff Masters to have something to say about that eventually…

  6. #6 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    January 12, 2014

    Coby,
    Just curious, do you have the link to Fox News refuting 150 years of global warming based on the cold snap? I did a quick google, but couldn’t find it.

    I’ve got some Fox believers friends of mine I’d like to show it to.

    Thanks,

  7. #7 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    January 12, 2014

    “… this cold snap did not, repeat did not set any … daily minimum records.”

    Ann Arbor MI, January 7
    ———————————
    Previous record -8, 1887
    Current record -15F, 2014 (wunderground)

    Detroit MI, January 7
    —————————–
    Previous record -5F, 1942
    Current record -14F, 2014 (wunderground)

    For the moment I would trust weather underground over, say, some blog on the internet.

    Well, that’s two. How many are required to disprove a claim?

  8. #8 The Invisible Man
    January 12, 2014

    Record lows were indeed broken.

    From the Chicago NOAA office;
    000
    SXUS73 KLOT 062255
    RERORD

    RECORD EVENT REPORT
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHICAGO IL
    0455 PM CST MON JAN 06 2014

    …RECORD LOW MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES SET AT CHICAGO-OHARE
    IL TODAY…

    A RECORD LOW TEMPERATURE OF -16 WAS SET AT CHICAGO-OHARE IL TODAY.
    THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF -14 SET IN 1884 AND TIED IN 1988. THIS
    WAS THE COLDEST TEMPERATURE IN CHICAGO SINCE BACK ON JANUARY 16 2009
    WHEN THE LOW TEMPERATURE WAS -18.

    A RECORD LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE OF -2 WAS ALSO SET. THIS BROKE THE
    OLD RECORD OF -1 SET IN 1912. THE LAST TIME CHICAGO SAW A SUBZERO
    DAILY HIGH WAS ON JANUARY 15 2009 WHEN THE HIGH REACHED -1. THIS
    RECORD LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE WILL NOT BECOME OFFICIAL UNTIL
    MIDNIGHT…BUT TEMPERATURES ARE LIKELY TO REMAIN WELL BELOW -2
    THROUGH MIDNIGHT.

  9. #9 Chris
    January 13, 2014

    I think the confusion over whether or not a record was set is perhaps just some bad phrasing. Yes daily records were set, but as quoted “the event failed to set any monthly or all-time record low minimum temperature records at airports and cooperative observing stations monitored by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.” Unlike daily records at a specific location which depends on which day a cold or hot air mass hits your area. Those records are being set all the time. But it’s much harder to break the monthly records, and that is what he is referring to. The recent heat waves have set monthly high temp records, this cold wave set any monthly low temp records. We’ve been spoiled by all this warm weather and don’t remember how cold it used to get.

  10. #10 Pan Outeast
    Czech Republic
    January 14, 2014

    I can haz cold please? Central Europe speaking here… Every day so far this year has equalled or exceeded average highs for January so far. All but 2 days have exceeded normal January highs by several degrees. I’ve had one skiing holiday cancelled already due to a complete lack of snow (not just not enough snow, but no snow at all and daytime temps not dropping below freezing in the mountains where we’d planned to ski). Only weather, but still – this side of the pond it’s the least wintry winter I’ve known. Meanwhile UK is having some pretty crazy storms (certainly not unprecedented, but very unusual) but at least on my recent visit the temps were not particularly low. My point being only that the incredible cold is on your side of the pond, while over here we’re not getting that at all. We’re all prone to misjudging weather and climate based on how things are where we live, of course – over here the talk is of how this winter is a clear sign of global warming :)

  11. #11 Wow
    January 14, 2014

    “Record lows were indeed broken.!”

    And many more record highs.

    Indeed, the number of record highs are 3x as many as there are record lows.

    So what is the CLIMATE doing?

  12. #12 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    January 14, 2014

    Ok, who are you and what have you done with wow?

  13. #13 Wow
    January 14, 2014

    Still taking a lot of words to say nothing, Pauline?

  14. #14 oldebabe
    January 18, 2014

    Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S…

  15. #15 mandas
    January 19, 2014

    “…Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S…

    I think a better way to phrase that is that there is a very minor section of the US population that realises that there is more to the world than just the US – but only a very small percentage. Most of them couldn’t even point to Canada on a map.

  16. #16 Wow
    January 20, 2014

    “…Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S…”

    Oh, no, I don’t think this is true.

    But if it’s exceptionally warm in the USA and cold in, say, Vladivostock, then it’s Russia that is the entire earth.

    Flag of convenience, you might say.

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