Monday, March 22, 2010

Not Funny, But Inaccurate

A day after a HISTORIC vote when HISTORY was made for all of HISTORY, it may seem odd to talk about climate change. But whenever a guy takes a cheap shot at the only individual to have been elected president but denied the office by the Supreme Court, it shouldn't be ignored.

And so it is that this fellow Ken Connor, head of the Center for a Just Society on February 19 snarked

It was all laughs for Al Gore last November when he hit the media circuit to promote his new book and educate the ignorant masses about the imminent threat of catastrophic climate change. He had the rapt attention of the politicians and the pundits and the celebrities. He’d won an Academy Award! The former Vice-President and presidential hopeful had built a new career as the voice of the Green Movement, and business was booming. What a difference three months makes.

In the face of the embarrassing Climategate scandal and an unprecedented winter season that has for the first time ever delivered measurable snowfall to all 50 states, Al Gore’s absence from the public stage has been conspicuous. Perhaps he’s taken a page from Punxsutawney Phil’s playbook and is hibernating in hopes of a sunnier forecast come April.

Perhaps Punxsutawney Phil won't have to wait until April "in hopes of a sunnier forecast." The website reports these temperatures (fahrenheit, in degrees) for Philadelphia, Pa. for the week of 3/14-3/20: 3/14,50; 3/15, 46; 3/16, 62; 3/17, 66; 3/18, 69; 3/19, 71; 3/20, 74. (and Sunday, March 21 was well above 70 degrees.) The blogger notes

The week's weather was, as you would expect, much above average overall. Temperatures in Philadelphia averaged 8.6 degrees above where we should be for mid March (remember our average high should be in the lower and middle 50's, not the lower and middle 70's!), with the average temperatures between Thursday and Saturday running over twelve degrees above where we should be. Our monthly departure in temperatures is 5.5 degrees above -- if we held that departure from average through the end of the month we would have the 6th warmest March on record.

And for the benefit of the groundhog or Ken Connor looking for that "sunnier forecast"- most of those days came with bright sunshine- and without the fierce, cold winds common in the Philadelphia region in March. (It is not uncommon for the very coldest, in wind-chill terms, day of the season to arrive in March.)

Notwithstanding the misunderstanding of climate deniers this past winter: Snow today in Arizona! Global warming is a hoax!, a week's time in one portion of the country is weather, not climate, and tells us little about long-term warming trends. This, however, does:

this year NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) is reporting that combined land and ocean temperatures in January 2010 were the 4th warmest on record since 1880. The combined ocean and land global temperature was 38.08 degrees last month. That's +1.08 degrees Fahrenheit.

NOAA partially attributes the warming to the current El Nino in the Pacific. The warm month globally continues the trend of 2009, which was the 5th warmest year on record globally.

Even Roy Spencer, a skeptic of the human origin of global warming, reviews University of Alabama-Huntsville satellite data and concedes

February was second warmest in the 32-year record, behind Feb 1998 which was itself the second warmest of all months.

(These records show January as the warmest record in this 32-year period.)

NOAA further observes

There has not been one cooler than average year globally in a quarter of a century, since 1984.

Globally 9 of the past 10 years are in the top 10 warmest years on record. In fact, the past 9 years in a row are among the top 10 warmest years on record since 1880. This is remarkable and statistically highly unlikely in a system that is showing only natural variability.

Ken Connor is not unique in ridiculing Al Gore, of course. But he does remind us that before someone criticizes the guy who supported Gulf War I, opposed Gulf War II, made a fortune in the stock market, recognized before anyone in Congress the potential of the Internet, and spoke of climate change decades ago, he ought to have a few facts.

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