Is this year what we can expect?

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:38 PM GMT on August 03, 2011

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Is this year what we can expect?

In recent weeks a question I have been asked often, “is this year, the last couple of years, like what we can expect in the future?” The question is often asked quietly, perhaps by a planner, say, someone worried about water in their city. The question follows from not only a perception that the weather is getting “weird,”, but also some small aspect of experience in their job. For example, a water manager recently said they were seeing their local river showing a distinct change to sporadically high flow in the winter, smaller spring flows, and extremely small flow late in the summer. Is this what I should expect in the future? The short answer is yes.

This question of expectation has rolled around in my head for years. I am a gardener with aspirations for small farmer. Over the last 30 years, I have definitely pushed my planting earlier in the year. When I was in Maryland, I felt wet, cool Mays were becoming the “norm,” with my tomatoes sitting in sodden soil. At the same time I would recall plots I had seen in some recent presentation that showed modeled shifts in the warm-cold patterns suggesting springtime cooling in northeastern North America. These are the sorts of casual correlations that lead people to think are we seeing a new “normal.”

In 2008 I wrote a blog about the changes in the hardiness zones that are reported on the back of seed packages. These are the maps that tell us the last frost date, and there were big changes between 1990 and 2006. These changes in the seed packets caught the attention of a lot of people. Recently, NOAA published the “new normal.” This normal relies on the definition of climate as a 30 year average. (AMS Glossary) What was done - at the completion of the decade NOAA recalculated a 30 year average. That is, 1981-2010 rather than 1971-2000. This average changed a lot, with notable warming of nighttime minima. There was some regional reduction of summertime maxima; that is, cooling. All in all, the average temperature went up, with most of the increase in nighttime minimum, a fact that is consistent with both model simulations and fundamental physics. This also came with another update of those hardiness zones.

When trying to interpret climate information and determining how has climate changed and how will it change, the combination of observations, fundamental physics, and models provide three sources of information. The combination of this information and the determination of the quality of that information is subject to interpretation. In the case of determining whether or not we are already experiencing the climate of warming world and how that change will be realized in the next decades it depends on how we use the models.

In my previous entry on heat waves, I implied how to use these pieces of information together. There are fundamental physics in the relationship between temperature and moisture in the air; hot air holds more water; warm water evaporates more quickly. The question of the model is - how well does the model represent the movement of that moisture? For the heat wave example, it is important how well do the models represent persistent high pressure systems over North America in the summer? Are these high pressure systems represented well by the models for the right reasons? The answer to the model question has a range of answers. The model does represent these systems, but if you are an expert in summertime persistent high pressure systems, then you can provide a long list of inadequacies. How can we glean information about the quality of the model? If we look at weather models, then we were able to predict the heat wave – even with the inadequacies that the expert or skeptic can list. Returning to the climate model, do we see like events in the current climate, and do these events change as the planet warms? The answer is yes. Then can we use this to guide our development of plans to adapt to climate change? The answer is yes, if we can connect the model back to data and the fundamental physics. This does become a matter of interpretation – how strong or weak is that connection?

The more I work with planners the more I hear the need for interpretive information, expert guidance, advisories about climate and climate change. People start with the notion that they want digital data from climate models that looks like current weather data. Once presented with 1) the logistical challenges of using that data, 2) the complex nature of the uncertainties associated with that data, and 3) the relative importance of climate to other parts of their decision package – once presented with these facts, they move to the need for advice. This makes sense - most of us want a narrative weather forecast, rather than model output. And the models play the same role in the use of weather forecasts as they do in climate projection. The models guide our thinking, with the ultimate forecast based on that guidance refined by observations and fundamental physics.

This entry started with the question I hear more and more – is this year what we can expect more of in the future? I have a mantra which is that on average the surface of the Earth will warm, ice will melt, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. What we are seeing here is weather changing in a warming, more energy laden, environment. The extraordinary extremes that we have seen in the last year and are seeing this year are quite solidly connected to both fundamental physics and the guidance from climate and weather models. Hence, my answer, as I walk around my garden, thinking how to get better tomatoes next year, thinking about my irrigation system in my doddering retirement, is yes, what we are seeing this year tells me about what to expect in a future that is relevant to me - not something far off.

r

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1320. aquak9
900 comments in 6 minutes? If someone can spam like this, it will ruin all the blogs. It looks like a test for a DNS to see if it will work.

And this is EXACTLY why Admin needs to have a real live human monitoring the blog. But in all honesty? WU makes only a fraction of a fraction of it's profits from any of us on the blogs. Membership fees mean nothing when hundreds of thousands of dollars are being brought in from advertising, every month.

Don't believe me? Check into the cost of advertising on WU. I already have.
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you mean like a blog flash mob?

Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 730
900 comments in 6 minutes? If someone can spam like this, it will ruin all the blogs. It looks like a test for a DNS to see if it will work. And if the other trolls learn how to do this? What if someone does this on Dr. Master's blog when a hurricane is bearing down? What if lots of spammer trolls do this and coordinate?

I've seen some bad things, but this is the worst. I don't blog but lurk. It will be a shame cause this will shut the blogs down if a lot of trolls start doing it.
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11 13:53 E 7 10.00 Mostly Cloudy FEW050 SCT200 BKN250 96 69 29.88 1010.7
11 12:53 SE 12 G 17 10.00 Mostly Cloudy FEW040 SCT200 BKN300 95 72 95 83 29.88 1010.7
11 11:53 SE 10 G 18 10.00 Mostly Cloudy FEW040 SCT200 BKN300 92 73 29.89 1010.9
11 10:53 S 14 10.00 Mostly Cloudy FEW150 BKN250 90 73 29.88 1010.6
11 09:53 S 12 10.00 Fair CLR 87 73 29.87 1010.3

Looks like the streak will end today for DFW at 40. Outflow boundary currently passing through and should drop temps into the 80's.


Addendum: I mention this because I had been paying attention to this record in particular (family in Dallas, so I keep an eye on their weather).
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Quoting Neapolitan:
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.?

Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 730
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Clean up on aisles 5 through 14! Bring your mop bucket!

On the plus side, he's only been a member since yesterday and has nearly 1,000 comments. Don't tell Taz... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
Clean up on aisles 5 through 14! Bring your mop bucket!
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.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
Quoting JBastardi:


The point of the story was that the thermometers in the temperature stations are being exposed to direct sunlight, which was causing an artificial temperature increase of up to ten degrees in many of the stations. The same thing is happening in US temperature stations placed next to jet engine exhaust, a/c exhaust, on cement or asphalt, etc. The improper placement increases the heat measured by stations. Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable. You see, in the world of climate "science," the laws of physics are suspended.

I don't think I ever said that, nor have I ever read that. However, NOAA has long accounted for--and probably even overcompensated for--any bias. And even the much ballyhooed BEST project verified the extant thermometer readings. (Remember BEST? Up until the initial findings were released to the public, it was a denialist's dream. The funniest part was when Watts swore that no matter what the results, he would abide by them--but as soon as those results contradicted his ideological fantasy, he immediately pivoted and denounced the entire project.)

Watts can keep beating this horse all he wants, of course. It's silly and wasteful to be doing so. But he can do what he wishes.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
Quoting JBastardi:


The point of the story was that the thermometers in the temperature stations are being exposed to direct sunlight, which was causing an artificial temperature increase of up to ten degrees in many of the stations. The same thing is happening in US temperature stations placed next to jet engine exhaust, a/c exhaust, on cement or asphalt, etc. The improper placement increases the heat measured by stations. Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable. You see, in the world of climate "science," the laws of physics are suspended.
I know what you were getting at.I was just trying to make a point that ice in Greenland and Antarctica must not be melting like the North pole ice cap or we would be in deep water.
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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\"Some bloggers on this site would have you believe that the improper placement has no effect or a cooling effect, which is laughable.\"

Who specifically says that? And where have the posted that?
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.