Is the number one metric actually worth anything?

By: hcubed , 8:49 PM GMT on February 12, 2012

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There are those who observe weather.

There are those who study weather.

And there are those who count weather events, to try and prove some point – about how bad it is, and how much worse it’s gonna get.

The latest “count” involves Januaries, and how the latest one (2012) came in at number four on “the list”.

Which started a search – where was this elusive list?

Went to the source (NCDC) and looked at their database.

Downloaded to excel, sorted, and I present the 118 Januaries since records began (sorted by temps).

1 2006 39.7
2 1953 37.2
3 1990 37.2
4 2012 36.3
5 1934 35.9
6 1998 35.6
7 1914 35.3
8 1923 35.3
9 1986 35.2
10 2002 35.2
11 1921 35.1
12 1933 35.1
13 1900 34.9
14 1939 34.8
15 1989 34.4
16 1999 34.4
17 2000 34.2
18 1992 34.1
19 1931 33.8
20 1906 33.7
21 1967 33.7
22 1995 33.7
23 1983 33.6
24 2005 33.6
25 1911 33.5
26 1908 33.2
27 2003 33.2
28 1941 33.1
29 1909 33.0
30 1975 33.0
31 1981 33.0
32 1938 32.9
33 1944 32.9
34 1952 32.8
35 1928 32.7
36 1919 32.6
37 1947 32.6
38 1901 32.5
39 1958 32.5
40 1965 32.4
41 1896 32.3
42 1927 32.3
43 1932 32.3
44 1964 32.3
45 1935 32.2
46 1946 32.2
47 1987 32.0
48 2001 31.8
49 1903 31.7
50 1956 31.7
51 1980 31.7
52 2007 31.7
53 1954 31.6
54 1974 31.6
55 1907 31.5
56 1898 31.4
57 1950 31.3
58 1913 31.2
59 1945 31.2
60 2009 31.2
61 1926 31.1
62 1951 31.1
63 2010 30.9
64 1902 30.8
65 1993 30.8
66 2008 30.8
67 1942 30.6
68 2004 30.6
69 1899 30.5
70 1910 30.5
71 1972 30.5
72 1976 30.5
73 1997 30.5
74 1961 30.4
75 1955 30.3
76 1973 30.3
77 1996 30.3
78 1943 30.2
79 1959 30.2
80 1960 30.2
81 1971 30.0
82 1920 29.9
83 1994 29.9
84 2011 29.9
85 1925 29.8
86 1969 29.8
87 1991 29.8
88 1968 29.5
89 1984 29.3
90 1915 29.2
91 1917 29.1
92 1916 28.9
93 1897 28.8
94 1948 28.7
95 1904 28.3
96 1988 28.3
97 1936 28.1
98 1957 27.9
99 1905 27.8
100 1970 27.8
101 1922 27.6
102 1962 27.6
103 1895 27.5
104 1929 27.1
105 1966 27.1
106 1924 27.0
107 1949 27.0
108 1985 26.8
109 1982 26.6
110 1978 26.4
111 1937 25.6
112 1912 25.5
113 1963 25.1
114 1918 24.6
115 1940 24.5
116 1930 24.3
117 1977 23.7
118 1979 22.6

Looking at the list, we see that the spread of temps go from a low of 22.6 in 1979, to a high of 39.7 in 2006.

If you were to use that count, you’d say that we’ve seen a 17.1 degree rise in the past 27 years, for a linear rise of .63 degrees per year.

And suggest that this meteoric rise could continue.

Which just hasn’t happened.

As a matter of record, let’s see what happened since 2006.

2006 – 39.7 – Current number one.
2007 – 31.7 – Came in at number 52
2008 – 30.8 – Came in at number 66
2009 – 31.2 – Came in at number 60
2010 – 30.9 – Came in at number 63
2011 – 29.9 – Came in at number 84
2012 – 36.3 – Came in at number four.

Wow. With ever-increasing global temperatures, it took 6 years for a year to get back into the top 10.

By the way, did we hear about how January of 2011 came in at number 84? Just curious.

***UPDATE - a quick look at the archive shows that, on Feb 18th 2011, Dr Masters did devote a single paragraph on the 2011 January standing:

"...For the contiguous U.S., January temperatures were the 37th coldest in the 116-year record, and it was the coldest January since 1994, according to the National Climatic Data Center..."

Not the 84th warmest, but rather the 37th coolest. I guess the closer we get to number one on either end, the worse it sounds.

The second part, the "coldest since 1994" needs a clarification, too - there is a three-way tie for that space:

81 1971 30.0
82 1920 29.9
83 1994 29.9
84 2011 29.9

85 1925 29.8
86 1969 29.8
87 1991 29.8

So yes, 2011 was the coldest since 1994 (tied) which was a tie with 1920. And close to those "records", we can see that 1971 was only 0.1 degree warmer, and that 1925, 1969, and 1994 were 0.1 degree colder.

Six different years that were within +/- 0.1 degree.

"...Despite the heavy snows in the Northeast U.S., January was the 9th driest January since 1895. This was largely due to the fact that the Desert Southwest was very dry, with New Mexico recording its driest January, and Arizona and Nevada their second driest..."

So the counters rejoice - they did find a number in the top 10 after all.

How’s the temps of the current decade doing? We’ll use the strict definition of a decade – the last 10 years.

From Jan 2003 – Jan 2012, there are currently 2 of them in the top 10 (2006, #1 and 2012, #4).

Doesn’t seem too severe, especially when you consider that there was a time in history when EVERY January of the (then) current decade was in the top 10.

Naturally, it would be the period of 1894 – 1904 (the beginning of the record). If that’s a basis of how severe a decade is, then nothing to date has matched it.

Ok, maybe that’s too much.

How about a time-line of how the number one January changed over the years?

Since the first “top 10” couldn’t have happened until there were 10 years, we’ll start in 1904.

The first “winner” of the coveted #1 of the top ten was 1900. Came in at a blistering 34.9, and currently resides at number 13.

The new number one took over in 1914 (with 35.3), and now resides at number 7.

And then came 1923. Tied with 1914 at 35.3 (and now resides at number 8 on the list).

Next up was 1934. A clear leader – beating the old number one by a mere 0.6 degrees (35.9). 1934 now resides at number 5.

It took another 19 years for a new leader to arrive – 1953. It’s “score” of 37.2 now resides at number 2.

Next up was a tie. 1990 was only able to match 1953 (and took 37 years to get there.)

It wasn’t until 2006 that our current leader took over (16 years later). The new record stands at 39.7.

So over a 118 year period, there have only been 7 “number one Januaries” (with 2 of them being ties) - and only one of the number ones appeared in the last decade.

Shouldn’t we be seeing a new number one every year?

Seems to be creating a new number one about every 19.1 years.

Using that metric, don’t expect the new Jan record until 2025.

I’ll have to look into Feb, so we can see what it’s history is.

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4. hcubed
2:13 PM GMT on February 15, 2012
Quoting SayNoToTea:
I'm just curious, seeing that it's global warming, why would you just look at US data and not include a global average?


Because I'm basing this entry on Dr. Masters recent posting stating that, in the U.S., January 2012 was the 4th warmest ever (well, since records began).

Made me wonder where the rest of the years fell.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
3. SayNoToTea
10:28 PM GMT on February 14, 2012
Why thanks for the show of support Key. (cough, cough) Now might you try answering the question rather than baffle me with your BS?
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 80 Comments: 235
1. SayNoToTea
10:00 PM GMT on February 14, 2012
I'm just curious, seeing that it's global warming, why would you just look at US data and not include a global average?
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 80 Comments: 235

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About hcubed

Living in Biloxi MS, have been here since '85 (first Hurricane was Elena).

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