Record -50°F confirmed for Maine; is this inconsistent with global warming?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:41 PM GMT on February 13, 2009

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The lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Maine, a -50°F reading taken on January 16, has been confirmed as real, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Weather Service this week. The new record occurred at 7:15 a.m. Jan. 16 at a remote river gauge in Big Black River (see USGS image at right), about four miles from the Canadian border. It ties the record set in 1933 for New England's lowest temperature, set at Bloomfield, Vermont. The old Maine record was -48°F, set in 1925 at Van Buren. All-time state records are difficult to break. The last time a state record low was set occurred January 5, 1999, when Congerville, Illinois recorded -36°F. Only one state record high temperature has been set in the past the decade--the 120°F temperature measured in Usta, South Dakota on July 15, 2006.

All-time record lows are inconsistent with global warming, right?
An impressive cold wave hit the northern and eastern portions of the U.S. January 11-18, with 17 states reporting record daily lows. In addition to the coldest temperature ever measured in Maine, one station, Waterloo, Iowa, tied its 1962 record for all-time coldest temperature, when the mercury hit -34°F on January 16. If global warming is occurring, we should not expect to see very many all-time city or state records being set. The nation's January-December average temperature has increased at a rate of 0.12°F per decade since 1895, and at a faster rate of 0.41°F per decade during the last 50 years. This 2°F rise in temperature has undoubtedly allowed more high temperature than low temperature records to be broken. However, this is a low enough amount of warming that there should still be a few cold temperature records being set, since the weather is so highly variable.

The statistics support this position. The Waterloo, Iowa mark was only the second time this decade that an all-time record cold temperature has been set at a major U.S. city. The cities I consider are the 303 cities author Chris Burt tracks in his excellent Extreme Weather book. The cites chosen were selected based primarily on their length of weather records (all the records go back to at least 1948, with most going back to the 1800s), and include all the largest cities in the U.S. The only other all-time coldest temperature record set at these cities this decade was the -44°F recorded in Grand Forks, North Dakota on 1/30/2004. By contrast, 49 all-time high temperature marks have been set this decade (Figure 1).

Perhaps a better judge of the impact of global warming on extreme temperatures, though, is to look at record warmest and coldest months. Month-long records are more reflective of the climate than an extreme event lasting just a few days. No all-time coldest month records were at any U.S. cities during January 2009, and it was not even close. Despite the cold blast of Jan. 11-18, the month of January finished out above average in temperature for the lower 48 states. So far this decade, no U.S. major city has set an all-time coldest month record. The last time a coldest month record was set occurred in January, 1994 when Caribou Maine and Bayfield, Wisconsin recorded their coldest month. By contrast, there have been 61 all-time warmest month records set in those same 303 cities between 2000 and 2008 (Figure 1). The summer of 2007 alone saw 42 all-time high (or warmest month ever) records. Just one record was set in the summer of 2008.


Figure 1. Minimum and maximum temperatures records for the U.S. for 303 major stations. The image has been updated through January 2009 to include the one record low set that month. The original version of this image was for 2007, and I modified it to update it for four changes made in the 2008 data. The numbers for the decade of the 2000s are correct, but there are four (out of 606) records that need to be subtracted off some of the earlier decades. Note the the 1930s were the most extreme decade for total number of records set, but the 1920s were the least extreme. U.S. weather has a high degree of variability from decade to decade. Image credit: Chris Burt, Extreme Weather.

Are the pattern of U.S. temperature records due to the Urban Heat Island effect?
There have been 110 all-time high temperature or all-time warmest month records set at the 303 major U.S. cities this decade, and only two such low temperature records set. Is this disparity due to global warming, or the Urban Heat Island effect? The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect occurs when development of former natural areas into pavement and buildings allows more heat to be trapped in cities, particularly at night. During the day, the UHI effect often leads to a slight cooling, since it can increase the amount of turbulence, allowing cooler air to get mixed down to the surface. For example, Moreno-Garcia (1994) found that Barcelona, Spain was 0.2°C cooler for daily maxima and 2.9°C warmer for minima than a nearby rural station.

However, temperature records are typically taken in parks and airports removed from the main heat-trapping areas of cities, and are not as strongly affected as one might expect. There are several reasons for this. One is that when tall buildings are present, they tend to block the view to the sky, meaning that not as much heat can escape upwards. In addition, the presence of moist vegetation keeps the atmosphere moister in park-like areas (which include the grassy fields near airports where temperature measurements are taken). This extra moisture helps cool the atmosphere on a local scale of tens of meters, due to latent heat effects (the energy required to convert liquid water to water vapor). Peterson (2003) found that "Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures." The study used satellite-based night-light detection to identify urban areas. Recent research by Spronken-Smith and Oke (1998) concluded that there was a marked park cool island effect within the Urban Heat Island. They found that parks in typical cities in the U.S. have temperatures 1 - 2°C cooler than the surrounding city--and sometimes more than 5°C cooler. While the Urban Heat Island effect probably has contributed to some of the reduction in record low temperatures in the U.S. in the past decade, research by Parker (2004, 2006) and Peterson (2003) theorizes that Urban Heat Island effect is a factor ten or more less important than rising temperatures due to global warming.

Is the Urban Heat Island effect partially responsible for global warming?
Global warming is affecting the entire Earth, including rural areas far from cities, and the 70% of the world covered by ocean. Thus, the Urban Heat Island effect--if not corrected for--can cause only a small impact on the global temperature figures. Since the Urban Heat Island is corrected for, the impact on the observed global warming signal should be negligible. For instance, NASA uses satellite-derived night light observations to classify stations as rural and urban and corrects the urban stations so that they match the trends from the rural stations before gridding the data. Other techniques (such as correcting for population growth) have also been used. Despite these corrections, and the fact that the Urban Heat Island effect impacts only a relatively small portion of the globe, global warming skeptics have persistently used the Urban Heat Island effect to attack the validity of global warming. There are no published peer-reviewed scientific studies that support these attacks.

References
Parker, D.E., 2004, "Large-Scale Warming is not Urban", Nature 432, 290, doi:10.1038/432290a, 2004.

Parker, D.E., 2006, "A Demonstration that Large-Scale Warming is not Urban", J. Climate 19, pp2882-2986, 2006.

Peterson, T.C., "Assessment of urban versus rural in situ surface temperatures in the contiguous United States: No difference found", Journal of Climate, 16, 2941-2959, 2003.

Spronken-Smith, R. A., and T. R. Oke, 1998: "The thermal regime of urban parks in two cities with different summer climates. Int. J. Remote Sens., 19, 20852104.

The surface temperature record and the urban heat island, realclimate.org post, 2004.

My next post will be sometime Tue-Thu.

Jeff Masters

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Maine is not the only state that has been hit with cold weather. In Hawaii has been two days of below 65 degree weather (63 degrees at 3:00 am).
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a frisky 55 degrees here in SWFLA
Cold Front WAVES
high of 59 on Friday? Come on. Look for water temps to stay near 60 for this little surf event. Spring has not sprung yet. All we want to do is catch some two foot surf, a couple waist high lines, feel the glide.
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884. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Disturbance Summary (0730z 18FEB)
==========================================
An area of convection (94S) located at 8.1S 72.3E or 50 NM south-southwest of Diego Garcia. Recent animated multispectral satellite imagery shows pronounced cyclonic turning about a poorly defined low level circulation center. Water vapor imagery indicates that the convection is shallow and sheared to the west. An old 1335z Quikscat image reveals strong cross-equatorial westerlies to the north of a weak circulation, with Diego Garcia located in an area of strong speed convergence. Diego Garcia is reporting sustained surface westerlies of 15 knots, gusting to 22 knots and center sea level pressure near 1007 MB.

Maximum sustained winds near the center is 15-20 knots with a minimum sea level pressure of 1007 MB. Because the convection has yet to consolidate, and the low level circulation center remains broad and ill-defined in visible imagery, the potential for this disturbance to form into a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is POOR.
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883. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Wellington
EXTRATROPICAL LOW, FORMER INNIS
18:00 PM NZT February 18 2009
=======================================

At 6:00 AM UTC, Extratropical Low, Former Tropical Cyclone Innis (998 hPa) located at 29.0S 160.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 35 knots. The low is reported as moving south at 20 knots.

Gale force winds
----------------------
180 miles from the center of low in southeast through northeast.
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"The only other all-time coldest temperature record set at these cities this decade was the -44°F recorded in Grand Forks, North Dakota on 1/30/2004. By contrast, 49 all-time high temperature marks have been set this decade."

Temperatures are recorded outside urban areas because that's how they were recorded before urbanization. How could you compare and show a trend between temps above paved highway baking in the sun to hundred years of temps in a grassy field? Very easily albeit invalid. Here's an analogy I've posted elsewhere.

Here's a secret about global warming you won't hear in MSM. In 1990s National Weather Service modernized and automated its weather observers under ASOS (Automated Surface Observation Station). The new thermometers have a warm bias and we hear 1998 was warmest year on record and this decade the warmest decade on record. In classic fashion NWS says the new temps are more accurate and old thermometers had a cold bias. Does it really matter when you compare apples to oranges? So pre-1990s was really warmer than recorded but we compare the accurate temps with the cold-biased temps and declare global warming. Global warming is a hoax on many levels.
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If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
lol
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Tornadoes and Southerners going through a divorce have a lot in common. In either case, you know someone is going to lose a trailer.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


I suspected this might happen. Still, isn't it unusual for El Nino or La Nina to rapidly develop during the spring months? Don't the events usually reach their peak during the winter?


As i stated above some of the NCEP models i viewed earlier today are actually showing a fully developed NINO come this cane season.

Andrew came during a NINO year.
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Quoting hurricane23:
Evening!

Thought i'd post todays ENSO Update as it hints at a possible NINO forming in late spring.

Something to moniter in the coming months. Adrian


I suspected this might happen. Still, isn't it unusual for El Nino or La Nina to rapidly develop during the spring months? Don't the events usually reach their peak during the winter?
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876. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Skyepony: Innis is a boy's name
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Evening!

Thought i'd post todays ENSO Update as it hints at a possible NINO forming in late spring.

NOTE: Some NCEP models i viewed earlier today actually showed a fully developed NINO in the not to distant future. Adrian
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looks like a superstorm,just over water...
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That Extra-Tropical feature in the Atlantic has gusts up to upper end Category 3 strength and pressure of 952 MB, Reminds me of a Nor'easter.
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872. Skyepony (Mod)
Hades~ yeah it's a shame. The way it played out they had heavy rains just offshore. If only everything had been shifted a little west.

So was Innis a boy or a girl?
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871. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Skyepony: Innis was forecasted by Nadi to head a little towards Brisbane.. but it decided to head south instead.
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870. Skyepony (Mod)
Innis, a fleating wish by many an Australian. Quick in every sense.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37452
Another look at the storm, from a Model's perspective :)
I wish I knew how to post this, but here's the link.
Weather Model - North Atlantic Surface Pressure and Wind
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865. Skyepony

That's a perty-looking storm out there... of course it's not necessarily a good thing for all those fishermen...
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867. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Wellington, New Zealand
Gale Warning for Former Tropical Cyclone Innis
0:00 AM UTC February 18 2009
======================================

At 0:00 AM UTC, Extratropical Low, Former Tropical Cyclone Innis (996 hPa) located at 26.0S 161.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 35 knots. The low is reported as moving south at 20 knots.

Gale force winds
----------------------
180 miles from the center of low in southeast semicircle

60 miles from the center of low in northwest semi-circle.
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866. Skyepony (Mod)
Great web cam shot. What a sunset.
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865. Skyepony (Mod)
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What do you guys think about the chances of the storm before Kyle to be included in the hurricane database?
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Mt Redoubt seem to be behaving like a lady for now.
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862. Skyepony (Mod)
Innis

click for loop

the monster off the east coast is more impressive.
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.
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857. Good point cchsdude. The trolls are out.
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I remember Ida's predecessor who could forget she put our house in disrepair for nearly four years. One of only a handful of times we lost power and the only hurricane I've ever lived through. (or at least a teste of what a hurricane is like for she was only a TS by me)
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Quoting tkeith:
LOL...I was serious pangean, I wont send it unless you ask.


Again, I don't swing that way. Also, seems pretty creepy to be trying to pick up guys in a weather blog. My tolerance level is generally pretty high but I think that I'll just leave you boys to do your thing. Again, nothing wrong with it, just not for me. Night all.
Just been reading back on the comments throughout the day and there is one thing that I want to say. If you don't like a certain member's words or actions, then that is why the Wunderground administration added the "Ignore User" function under each comment posted. It will make things much easier for you so that you and everyone else can enjoy the blog.
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Quoting tkeith:
At least you wont have to deal with the "I" named storm this year Ike...At least I hope you dont...you know what I mean...lol.


Ida? Ida replaced the monster Hurricane Isabel.
My god that was a monster.

In responce to Ike's picture, WoW! Impressive Extra-Tropical System, almost looks like its taking on tropical characteristics.
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Quoting presslord:
Re: post #846.....I'm really flattered by your little crush on me...


Yeah, 10-years olds are always imagining crushes. BTW - I don't swing that way. There are, however, blogs out there for people with your proclivities and whaleboy seems to be fascinated with your cleavage. Just to be clear, I have nothing against alternate life styes.
Quoting tkeith:
LOL...I was serious pangean, I wont send it unless you ask.


Aww, now your just teasing him.. be good or he will come back as his alter ego.
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Quoting presslord:
tkeith....that's the most beautiful thing I've ever read.....
LOL...I was serious pangean, I wont send it unless you ask.
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tkeith....that's the most beautiful thing I've ever read.....
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press...ck mail
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Could I be mistaken for a teenager?!
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849. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
World Meteorological Organization meeting is usually around April or May
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Re: post #846.....I'm really flattered by your little crush on me...
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Quoting pangean:


There's emotional maturity and physical maturity. And true, in either case you won't be mistaken for teenagers.


I wish :(
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Quoting presslord:
neither me...nor orca....are likely to be mistaken for teenagers....


There's emotional maturity and physical maturity. And true, in either case you won't be mistaken for teenagers.
838 doubt it next to nothing forms in Feb-Apr in the atlantic
try to entertain yourself with other oceanic storms, ex-tropical lows, and tropical waves for the next few months
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***pangean****
That's the name I was trying to remember. That's "ITS" other handle on here.
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tkeith....please send it to me....please....
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"mental midget, innocent, unseeking"...I did get a good fart poem in my WU mail...I'll send it to you if you want.
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neither me...nor orca....are likely to be mistaken for teenagers....
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When does the WMO release retired names for the Atlantic this year should be interesting, I wonder if the won't retire Hanna just because Haiti's unprepared like with Gordon in 94
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I see everyone is stimulated today.Chavez an Castro move over ,here comes America.Global warming and free health care and everything free as far as eye can see.Change we can believe in!!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.