2006: warmest year on record in the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:18 PM GMT on January 09, 2007

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The United States recorded its warmest year ever in 2006, according to today's report issued by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The 2006 annual average temperature was 55�F, 2.2�F (1.2�C) above the 20th Century mean and 0.07�F (0.04�C) warmer than the previous warmest year, 1998. The NCDC had estimated that 2006 would be the 3rd warmest year in U.S. history last month, but an unusually warm December pushed 2006 to the top. It was the warmest December on record in the Northeast U.S., and the 4th warmest December for the country as a whole. Only 1939, 1957, and 1933 had warmer Decembers. However, the statistics partially hide the extraordinary warmth that began on December 10 and continued until January 6, when New York City tied their all-time record January high temperature of 72�. During the month ending January 6, the Northeast was 14 �F above average, and the U.S. as a whole was 7� above average.



No cause for alarm?
"No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it," said Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, in a story run by CNN just before New York City's record warmth. The story continued, "The weather is prone to short-term fluctuations, and forecasters said the mild winter does not necessarily mean global warming is upon us. In fact, the Plains have been hit by back-to-back blizzards in the past two weeks." True, the weather across most of the U.S. has finally cooled off this week, and the rest of January should have near average temperatures. And I agree that one warm month of winter in one country in its warmest year in 112 years of record keeping is not evidence of global warming, particularly when there is a moderate El Nino episode going on. An El Nino can lead to significantly warmer winters in the U.S.--exceptional December warmth has also occurred in 1877, 1939, and 1957, all of which were moderate or strong El Nino years. I've plotted up a comparison of temperatures in December of 1957 vs 2006 (Figure 1), and one can see that the unusual warmth of December 2006 does have historical precedent. Taking a look at average U.S. December temperatures for all years in the historical record (Figure 2), we see that these temperatures do show quite a bit of noise, and there is no evidence of dramatic warming in the past 30 years.


Figure 1. Comparison of the departure of average temperature from normal for December 1957 (the the second warmest December on record in the U.S.) and December 2006. Image credit: NOAA.

Figure 2. Average December temperatures for the U.S. from 1895 to 2006. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

Rolling thirteens with the weather dice
Take a look at the trend December temperatures in Figure 2. It shows that the average temperature has warmed a little more than 1� F in the past century. It may not seem like much, but that is enough to significantly load the dice in favor of warmer winters. Six of the ten warmest U.S. winters on record have occurred in the past 15 years. Month long spells where winter is seemingly absent--as also occurred in January 2006, the warmest January in U.S. history--have become more common. Keep in mind that the weather of January of 2006--which blew away the previous record for warmest January by a huge margin (2� F)--occurred during a La Nina year, not an El Nino. What concerns me most is that the warming trend is not isolated to the U.S. The 1� F rise in temperatures the past century has occurred world-wide, thanks to global warming, and the temperature increase has been much higher in the Arctic--something the climate models have predicted would occur as a telltale sign of the human-caused addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. In the past, an exceptionally warm winter month in the U.S., like December 1957 (Figure 3), was offset by much cooler weather elsewhere, such as we see in Alaska, Greenland, and northern Siberia. However, December 2006 had no such offsetting cool temperatures--it was more than 1� C above average over almost all the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere north of 40� north latitude (Figure 4). Colorado, whose three blizzards have been widely cited as evidence that winter has been severe elsewhere, still recorded temperatures about 1� C above normal in December 2006.


Figure 3. Global departure of temperature from average for December 1957, the second warmest December on record in the U.S. Note that the exceptionally warm temperatures over the U.S. are offset by much cooler weather elsewhere, such as in Alaska, Greenland, and northern Siberia.

Figure 4. Global departure of temperature from average for December 2006. Note that the almost the entire globe north of 40� north latitude was more than 1� C above average, with large areas more than 6� C (11� F) above average.

All this unusual heat in the northern high latitudes is going to significantly slow down the formation of ice over the Arctic Ocean this winter. Furthermore, the lack of the usual snows across the Arctic may allow the snowpack to melt much earlier than normal in spring, resulting in more record warmth in the Arctic this summer. Arctic sea ice coverage, already down 20% in the past 20 years, is likely to continue to shrink in 2007. As sea ice melts in response to rising temperatures, it creates a positive feedback loop: melting ice means more of the dark ocean is exposed, allowing it to absorb more of the sun's energy, further increasing air temperatures, ocean temperatures, and ice melt. The observed changes in the ice cover (Figure 5) indicate that this feedback is now starting to take hold, and the weather dice will continue to get more loaded towards rolling higher numbers in 2007. I do think we're due for a cold winter next year--part of the warmth of the past two winters is probably due to the normal random fluctuations in the weather, and Nature has been rolling twelves more often than snake eyes of late. However, we're not going to see snake eyes too much more. December's weather in the Northeast U.S. may have been a case of the weather dice coming up thirteen--weather not seen on the planet since before the Ice Age began, 118,000 years ago. The weather dice will start rolling an increasing number of thirteens in coming years, and an ice-free Arctic Ocean in summertime by 2040 is a very real possibility, as indicated by computer modelling studies published in the Journal of Geophysical Research last month. This possibility is cause for alarm, and I, for one, had a lot of trouble enjoying the phenomenally warm weather of the past month here in Michigan.


Figure 5. Percent change in coverage of Arctic sea ice in Decembers from 1979-2006, compared to the 1979-2000 average. The Polar Ice Cap has shrunk by about 15% in December, and 20% in summer, over the past 20 years. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Check out the realclimate.org post on this winter's anomalous warmth.

I'll be back Thursday afternoon or Friday with a look at the status of El Nino. Will it still be around during hurricane season?

Jeff Masters

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249. pottery
9:14 AM AST on January 10, 2007
Drilling in the Alaskan Arctic to go ahead ????This is not good news. I also heard a news broadcast today that says that colonisation of the moon is up and running, and that this will "create great opportunities and beneifits for Industry...." This is the motivation ???????????
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248. Patrap
7:13 AM CST on January 10, 2007
Live feed..Brest,FranceLink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
247. Patrap
6:51 AM CST on January 10, 2007
10day GFSx model shows some snow after the weekend..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
246. prowlergirl83
12:46 PM GMT on January 10, 2007
Any of you weather experts forecasting any snow in the future for the East Coast. I love all this warmth we have been having but my kids are screaming snow. Drastic change the last couple days for sure.
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245. EricNielsen
10:25 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
"There's no realisation of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover."

"The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet is speeding up, satellite measurements show."
- BBC, 2006

"Dr. Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that 'the lock has broken' on the Amazon ecosystem. She adds: The Amazon is 'headed in a terrible direction.' " -- CNN, 2006

It begins with the melting of ice and snow. As the Arctic grows bare - the Greenland ice cap is shrinking far faster than had been expected - dark ground emerges and absorbs heat. That melts more snow and softens peat bogs, which release methane. As oceans warm, algae are dying and so absorbing less heat-causing carbon dioxide.

To the south, drought already is drying out the great tropical forests of the Amazon. "The forests will melt away just like the snow," Lovelock says.

Even the northern forests, those dark cool beauties of pines and firs, suffer. They absorb heat and shelter bears, lynxes and wolves through harsh winters. But recent studies show the boreal forests are drying and dying and inducing more warming.

link
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244. EricNielsen
10:22 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Exxons New Position On Global Warming, Same As Its Old Position On Global Warming
link
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243. EricNielsen
10:22 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Bush lifts Alaska drilling ban.

President Bush lifted the drilling ban Tuesday for Alaskas Bristol Bay, clearing the way for the Interior Department to open the fish-rich waters to oil and natural gas development.


link
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242. Caffinehog
7:28 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Oh, lets say you wanted to use this to stop a hurricaine. You'd probably want to cool an area of AT LEAST 200km by 200km. (About 125 miles by 125 miles... a hurricaine's eye is often around 50 miles across or less.)

So let's say you wanted to cool the water to a depth of 25m, to be sure the water was cold. And let's say that you knew 48 hours ahead of time where the eye was going. And let's say you wanted to cool the water from 30C to 25C.

You would need to harness 1.4-1.5% of the entire power of the Gulf Stream to do it.
Now that would probably have some climatalogical effects, don't you think?

Oh, and these numbers assume that the cold water remains at the surface, and doesn't get carried away by a current.

And then, if the hurricaine changes course....
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
241. Caffinehog
6:29 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
By the way... feel free to quote my calculations any time you wish. Or do them yourself if you are so inclined.


Note:
I did get some info on density vs. depth and temperature at some other sites not referenced, which is how I calculated the depth that water could be pulled up from... but CB actually wins on that count.
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240. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:26 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
lets finish the game.
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239. Caffinehog
6:22 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
*silence*


.....


The numbers speak.




And you can bet that moving that much water is going to have a massive impact on the currents.
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
238. Caffinehog
5:09 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
I did some calculations: Assuming a gulf stream current of 2m/s, (which is as strong as it ever gets,) you could pump up water from as far down as about 1100M before gravity wins. Water at that depth is about 6-7C. We'll assume it's 5C to be generous. If you assume that the temperature at the surface starts at 30C, you would need about 20% of the total water at the surface to come from below in order for the temperature to drop to 25C... which could still support a hurricaine.
On the continental shelf, the depth is about 150M, and the temp is about 17C. To get the water to 25C, you'd need 62% of it to come from the depths!
Even if you got water at 0C, it would still take about 17% to get the temp to 25c. (This is why the icebergs won't work! - although they'd absorb more heat than 0C water.)
(When doing temp. averages remember to use kelvin!)
(temp profiles - Link)

CB is right that the tunnels would create some advection, but you're going to need a whole lot of tunnels to have any kind of impact on the temperature.
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236. Wishcasterboy
5:45 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Not enough.
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234. weatherboykris
5:07 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
you make up new ideas to add on to the tunnels as you go along.If the tunnels need a new feature so that you're arguement can make sense,you make one up on the spot.And then you act like everyone else are idiots.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
232. weatherboykris
5:01 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Your irrational.Hi hurricanealley,if your new here nice to meet you.goodnight
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
230. hurricanealley
4:57 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
hello
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227. weatherboykris
4:49 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Im' done with this,back to real weather.THe next couple weeks look cold, huh STL?
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
224. weatherboykris
4:37 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Cyclonebuster,I've read the past few pages and here's what I think:
1.You keep on adding new functions and designs to the tunnels whenever the arguement is against you.
2.You really haven't shown any scientific reason the tunnels will work.
3.You often act as though you're being discriminated agaisnt whenever people disagree with you.
4.Here's what I think:If you could write a comprehensive report on the designs of the tunnels,their functions,the scientific principles involved and their benefits,then people would take you more seriously.Right now, all you seem to do is add new ideas and functions whenever it benefits your side of the arguement.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
222. HurricaneMyles
4:40 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Believe what you like, but you are being totally irrational about the whole thing.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
218. HurricaneMyles
4:31 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
OK, buster. Whatever you say. One fact is that if they were 100% sure they worked then they would have already built a small scale model to test so that they could reap the benifits. Because thats not happened Im positive they arent as sure as you say they are.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
217. Patrap
10:31 PM CST on January 09, 2007
Start Here CB 7
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216. Caffinehog
4:32 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
I think someone here is suffering from Tunnel Vision.
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
214. Patrap
10:29 PM CST on January 09, 2007
Here Cb..about 12 yrs ago I got started marking Spots for ya in the GOM near Venice at the Mouth of the Miss River.They behind me!..LOL/
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
213. HurricaneMyles
4:28 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Excactly, so you will be warming the depths.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
211. Patrap
10:23 PM CST on January 09, 2007
as long as you believe it yerself Pat...or Cb.Im happy.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
210. HurricaneMyles
4:22 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
He's saying that 1D models cant model advection even if it was caused by the tunnels. He's not saying that they would cause it.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
209. Patrap
10:22 PM CST on January 09, 2007
Konichi Wa!..LOL!. A Kamikaze Font
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
208. Patrap
10:20 PM CST on January 09, 2007
The problems abound..this is our engineering limit now..And you propose a Million more of a larger design?..Its not a reality Im afraid.8
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
207. lightning10
4:17 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Nice cool weather is on the way for my area. Last time the snow level got to 1,500 feet I got ice pellets. Things could get interesting.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
206. HurricaneMyles
4:19 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Buster, you're contradicting yourself, and Emanuel. You are saying cold water is going to mix with warm water at the surface, cooling it; but saying warm water at the ocean depth will not mix with the cold water and warm it. Or are you saying Emanuel is wrong?
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
204. Skyepony (Mod)
4:19 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
Interesting as well was the

Southern Hemisphere Trends in Extent



Since the late '80s it starts doing a short chopper up & down, like the Artic before it started this downhill slide look around 2000. I wish it went back farther as that might suggest if it was a sign of things to come or not.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 210 Comments: 39128
202. HurricaneMyles
4:18 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
He doesnt ever say your tunnels work.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
200. Patrap
10:15 PM CST on January 09, 2007
Thats why the North Sea and GOM..have only so large a Platform to Place a structure on.The transportation engineering is pushed to the Limit just to Build and position land Built structures in seas.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129452
199. HurricaneMyles
4:12 AM GMT on January 10, 2007
BTW, this is straight from one of your email convo's.

" Since you are effectively
mixing heat in ocean columns, you would be warming water at depth in
proportion to the surface cooling, and one should explore the
consequences of this. "

Emanuel already told you that the amount you cool the surface temp is how much the temp of the ocean depths will raise, which caffinehog already explain the consequences of.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827

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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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