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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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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Im ready for hurricane season!! fire up the storms could a depression form in the next few days anywherer???
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Yea?!?!?! well....my cleavage was more impressive than your halo....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting presslord:
I was innocent...'til I met Orca....he corrupted me...


I might point out...I am wearing a halo... you were wearing a dress. Whom corrupted whom?

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Quoting IKE:
WOW....



I'll second that! Winds are analyzed at 93 kts, pressure at 965 mbs. That is quite a storm out there.

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I was innocent...'til I met Orca....he corrupted me...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
BTW... when did having your mind and body being corrupted... become a bad thing?
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Quoting KEHCharleston:

Hmmm...tkeith are you another one of those innocent minds that has been corrupted? Perhaps we should start a club.
"innocent and unseeking" I think were his discription of us on here...I've been neither for 40 years...
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Quoting KEHCharleston:
Quoting Ron5244:

..It is not Jeff's job to corrupt the innocent minds of people flocking here simply for concrete and factual weather updates..

I suspect he has confused a blog with a tutorial. In any case, I sort of liked the idea of having my innocent mind corrupted.
Cannot say more than that. I am still practicing giving up the stir stick for Lent.

Hmmm true.. I haven't been corrupted to much lately.... mind you.. I have had my mind shut down a few times... Presslord in a dress.. Presslord in a Bikini...RTLSNK as Cupid.... RTLSNK as a Genie... Mind shut down for self preservation of sanity.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


There is always the early bird who catches the worm :)

I am still having trouble with the other remark??
Quoting presslord:
poor innocent tkeith...

Hmmm...tkeith are you another one of those innocent minds that has been corrupted? Perhaps we should start a club.
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Quoting tkeith:
I didn't think troll season opened til June...oh well what do I know.


There is always the early bird who catches the worm :)

I am still having trouble with the other remark??
Quoting presslord:
poor innocent tkeith...
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Quoting Ron5244:

..It is not Jeff's job to corrupt the innocent minds of people flocking here simply for concrete and factual weather updates..
Quoting Orcasystems:
Who is this Moron?
I may not agree with everything Jeff says, but I have to admit.. I would not trash his ideas either.

This has to be that idi*t from yesterday.. pag*** something or other.

I suspect he has confused a blog with a tutorial. In any case, I sort of liked the idea of having my innocent mind corrupted.
Cannot say more than that. I am still practicing giving up the stir stick for Lent.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Who is this Moron?
I may not agree with everything Jeff says, but I have to admit.. I would not trash his ideas either.

This has to be that idi*t from yesterday.. pang*** something or other.
I didn't think troll season opened til June...oh well what do I know.
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Quoting Ron5244:


Well, my friend. We all can favor each argument in favor of right or left. However, this is NOT the source for biased left information. It is not Jeff's job to corrupt the innocent minds of people flocking here simply for concrete and factual weather updates. If Jeff wants to continuing to do so, he should just create himself a nice political blog.

You know, I really wish this blog turned anit-GW just for a few minutes. I'd laugh to see you arguging with extremly biased left wing politics, and I'd laugh even harder at how you would completly change your stance on whether or not this is Jeff's time and place to compose such a BS article.

As for you, Cotillion, that's Rush's JOB. His actual OCCUPATION is to be partistain. Jeff's however is to inform us with weather updates. Not BIASED LEFT WING information.


Who is this Moron?
I may not agree with everything Jeff says, but I have to admit.. I would not trash his ideas either.

This has to be that idi*t from yesterday.. pang*** something or other.
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Quoting IKE:


105/90 today woot!
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Quoting Ron5244:


Any "real" citations? Oh I get it, the citations of the liberal pro-GW sites are REAL. But the right wing arguements have to be FAKE! Gotcha. Don't you see all the bias in that? Well, I believe you just provided me with a rather fine example. You. You paint such an ugly biased picture for your left wingin' party mates.

And tkeith, my blood pressure is just beautiful! Thanks for addressing that though. Witnessing such stupitidy does do some damage! ; )

How about your blood pressure, old man?
whoah! calm down man! this is not a battle. Try to be LESS rude next time.
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Quoting presslord:
poor innocent tkeith...


Now I have to read back.. those words just don't fit together.
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I wish had a powerful cat 5 hurricane with my name...with a pressure of 500mb...and then goes out to sea.
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
820. IKE
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.


I hear ya.....
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819. Skyepony (Mod)
Cotillion~ I wonder how long they went around about that. The extratropical crowd would have a good argument since atleast one of those storms was totally warm core when it passed just south of Greenland.

WE paraded the SST maps earlier today:)

Tampaspin~ The ones Pat & I posted were the same.. the keys threw you again. Mine looked way hotter for all the red but notice the temp keys & they read pretty much the same.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 226 Comments: 39434
tkeith....you are a way better man than I.....your restraint is an inspiration....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting IKE:


I'm looking forward to the season. Always enjoyed following systems.....plenty of crow in the freezer........
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.
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816. IKE
WOW....

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815. IKE
Quoting Cotillion:
Soon enough, it'll be time to dust up the SST and shear maps...

'and on the 14th week before hurricane season (said quickly, keep the tune in mind...), my true forecaster said to me... a list of the season's names on my computer screen...'


I'm looking forward to the season. Always enjoyed following systems.....plenty of crow in the freezer........
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cott...I think it's about that here...and, frankly, I find it kinda chilly.....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
#808

I keep it under control by not getting too worked up over the little things...

Thanks for askin...
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Soon enough, it'll be time to dust up the SST and shear maps...

'and on the 14th week before hurricane season (said quickly, keep the tune in mind...), my true forecaster said to me... a list of the season's names on my computer screen...'
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811. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Hey Ike I've been doing ya job for past few months counting down till Hurricane season.
Good Lord, its getting close already.


Yeah, I see you on here. Won't be long now til the season starts.
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Quoting IKE:
103 days....
7 hours....
14 minutes...and the Atlantic tropical season starts.


Hey Ike I've been doing ya job for past few months counting down till Hurricane season.
Good Lord, its getting close already.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
809. IKE
60 degrees outside...clouds increasing.
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Quoting rwdobson:
I went to the other page too. You still haven't explained why Nature and other peer-reviewed journals are "biased" but websites without any real citations are "good science".


Any "real" citations? Oh I get it, the citations of the liberal pro-GW sites are REAL. But the right wing arguements have to be FAKE! Gotcha. Don't you see all the bias in that? Well, I believe you just provided me with a rather fine example. You. You paint such an ugly biased picture for your left wingin' party mates.

And tkeith, my blood pressure is just beautiful! Thanks for addressing that though. Witnessing such stupitidy does do some damage! ; )

How about your blood pressure, old man?
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Hello sir!

And how is life and weather in the Panhandle?

And Press, if you have any weather above 10C (Or around 50F, let's say), if you could pass along in my general direction, it would be greatly appreciated...
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806. IKE
Quoting presslord:
Ike!! Good ole bud.....sir.....


LOL....I wonder whatever happened to him....can't even remember his screen-name now.

Winter returns to the Florida panhandle...Friday Night
Clear. Lows 27 to 32.
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Ike!! Good ole bud.....sir.....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
804. IKE
Quoting Cotillion:


Ike, may we have the pleasure of a dual-countdown once June 1st has been and gone?

To the end of the hurricane season and the start of the football season?

Two events that not many a man can argue at the joyous connotations of...


Yo bud...lol.......
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poor innocent tkeith...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting IKE:
103 days....
7 hours....
13 minutes...and the Atlantic tropical season starts.


Ike, may we have the pleasure of a dual-countdown once June 1st has been and gone?

To the end of the hurricane season and the start of the football season?

Two events that not many a man can argue at the joyous connotations of...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
801. IKE
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By the way, the "co2 is only a small fraction of the atmosphere, so it can't be important" argument is a crock. What is significant is the increase in CO2 concentration, and the resulting increase in IR absorption. Doesn't really matter what the actual concentration number is.
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799. IKE
103 days....
7 hours....
14 minutes...and the Atlantic tropical season starts.
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I went to the other page too. You still haven't explained why Nature and other peer-reviewed journals are "biased" but websites without any real citations are "good science".
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#794

I haven't been innocent or unseeking in 40 years...lol. But I appriciate your concern.

From the tone of your comments probably wouldn't hurt to check your blood pressure.

See, I'm concerned about you too.
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Quoting presslord:
There are actually only about a dozen people on the planet who can use the word 'pedantic' correctly in a sentence.....


I hope I qualify then... ;)

Same goes for semi colons actually. Even some very well established authors and writers have admitted that they are unsure on their correct usage.

Ah, from meteorology to global warming to politics to grammar and semantics...

What a wide array of issues we have tonight. ;)
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There are actually only about a dozen people on the planet who can use the word 'pedantic' correctly in a sentence.....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting rwdobson:
"Not BIASED LEFT WING information."

Yes, citing Nature and other refereed journals, that is such biased left wing information.

Dr. Masters cites actual scientific journals. You cite a webpage called "gorerrors". Who's being partisan here?



Oops! Guess you must have missed that first link, huh? It really is a good read foe those who are willing. Gorerrors was there for some of us colorful people who enjoy a brighter, less dull site (as the one above). See, I think of these things! Oh yeah, and regardless of how "partistian" it may be, at least the inoformation is there for people seeking it. Apparently so, we have meteoroligst that try to force feed it to innocent and unseeking readers. Now that's just not right. Hey! Maybe its...LEFT! =]
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Quoting Skyepony:
The Jauary global recaps are now out..



The sea ice graph I was ranting about yesterday didn't get updated today..


Nice graph, Skye.

Though, I do have to be extremely pedantic... the extratropical systems affecting us weren't tropical in the truest sense. In fact, not tropical at all aside the name.

It should be red not orange.

Yes.. okay, perhaps I am just in one of those moods :)
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That extra-tropical low is certainly an impressive system.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
Quoting Ron5244:
Oh and, Cotillion...

We can say good-bye to those successful centre-right and right wing politics. Our new president will be absoultely SURE to tear this beautiful country to shreds under his left-wing administration.


If you start getting riots in the streets from trade unions, nuclear disarmament being on the agenda, and tax exceeding 40% - then I'll entertain your thoughts about a left wing government.
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Vort...there oughta be plenty of Treasury debt available to buy....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492

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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.

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