Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warmer Still

The Farmers' Almanac boasted

Last year, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the winter would exhibit a split personality, with harsh conditions for the eastern half of the U.S., and milder weather to the west. That prediction came through, as residents of the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, especially, got pounded with many heavy storms throughout the season. 

Hopefully, the editors won't be offended by a cursory analysis, based on information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, of its prediction for the meterological winter, which concluded with the end of February.      The Farmers' Almanac had forecasted

 “clime and punishment,” a season of unusually cold and stormy weather. For some parts of the country, that means a frigid climate; while for others, it will mean lots of rain and snow.

The upcoming winter looks to be cold to very cold for the Northern Plains, parts of the Northern Rockies, and the western Great Lakes. In contrast, above-normal temperatures are expected across most of the southern and eastern U.S. Near-normal temperatures are expected in the Midwest and Far West, and in southern 

A very active storm track will bring much heavier-than-normal precipitation from the Southern Plains through Tennessee into Ohio, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Because of above normal temperatures, much of the precipitation will likely be rain or mixed precipitation, although, during February, some potent East Coast storms could leave heavy snow, albeit of a wet and slushy consistency.

An active Pacific Storm track will guide storm systems into the Pacific Northwest, giving it a wetter-than-normal winter.

Drier-than-normal weather will occur in the Southwest and Southeast corners of the nation.

The southwest and the southeast did in fact experience drier weather than usual.      However, so did the northern plains and the Northeast.       As best as can be determined from the NOAA summary, the Pacific Northwest was somewhat (though not dramatically) drier than usual, contrary to the FA's expectation of "a wetter-than-normal winter."     The Northeast averaged well below normal precipitation totals in February, despite the prediction that "during February, some potent East Coast storms could leave heavy snow, albeit of a wet and slushy consistency."

The FA's prediction of above-mormal temperatures in most of the southern and eastern U.S.A.  proved accurate, with Trenton, NJ experiencing its warmest winter of record.         Alas, most of the region expected "to be cold to very cold" also experienced above-normal temperatures.

Overall, the Farmers' Almanac predicted "a season of unusually cold and stormy weather," including a "frigid climate" in some places and "lots of rain and snow elsewhere."   However, this was "the fourth warmest winter on record for the contiguous United States" and "drier than average" for the continental U.S.

Probably few people predicted this winter accurately, and the Farmer's Almanac has never claimed clairvoyance.     Neither does the generally warm winter- the fourth warmest on record in the nation- provide much additional confirmation that the world is warming, given that the United States is not the world, and its 48 states on the mainland don't include the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or the Gulf of Mexico.

But global land and water temperatures for February were the 22nd warmest since records were first kept in 1880, wherein 111 of 133 were cooler than that in 2012.       The period of December-February also was the 22nd warmest of its kind.      February marked the 324th consecutive month in which the global land and sea temperatures were higher than the average for that month in the 20th century.      Not since February, 1985, more than a quarter of a century ago, has there been a month not warmer than average.    

Records continue to be set for warm days far more than cold days (graph from Capital Climate, explanation from Joe Romm).      New evidence demonstrates the warmest years ever recorded were 2005 and 2010.   And the earth continues to get warmer.

Monthly ratio of daily high temperature to low temperature records set in the U.S. for every month of 2011 and the first half of March, seasonal ratio for summer and fall 2011, winter 2011-2012 to date, and annual ratio for 2011 and 2012, data from NOAA.

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