Share

What's 'Normal' Weather Now? It's Time to Redefine It: WMO

By Terrell Johnson
Published: July 11, 2014

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A surfer rides a large wave caused by Hurricane Arthur on July 4, 2014, in Avalon, North Carolina. The storm caused widespread power outages, flooding and damage across the Outer Banks over the 4th of July holiday weekend.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are changing Earth's climate faster than at any time in human history, so the yardsticks we use to gauge what a "normal" climate is will have to change too, the World Meteorological Organization said this week.

In a news release titled "Scientists Urge More Frequent Updates of 30-Year Climate Baselines to Keep Pace With Rapid Climate Change," the United Nations-sponsored agency said that in 2014, the 30-year period most often used as the baseline for "climate normals" -- 1961 to 1990 -- is no longer a useful guide for today's climate.

These climate normals are made up of temperature, precipitation and other climate data, and used by climatologists and meteorologists to put current events in context at local, national and global levels. They help us determine, for example, how extreme the latest drought, heatwave or hurricane is, compared to recent history.

But these baselines are updated only once every 30 years, the WMO explains, and in today's fast-changing climate, that's not nearly fast enough. "As a result, decision-makers in climate-sensitive industries may be basing important decisions on information that may be out of date," the WMO adds in the news release.

The WMO urges national weather services around the world to begin using the 1981-2010 baseline for services like forecasting peak energy demand times and for recommending crop planting times.

While many -- including the U.S. National Weather Service -- already do, not having a global standard means that "different researchers and weather services are using different baselines, which results in inconsistent comparisons," the WMO adds.

That's why the later, 1981-2010 baseline should be adopted by weather services in all nations, and it should be updated far more frequently, the WMO says -- every 10 years rather than every 30 years.

"Today’s increasingly powerful computers and climate data management systems now make it much easier to conduct more frequent updates, which involve analyzing massive amounts of climate data," the WMO said in the news release. "Another advantage of decadal updates is that they will make it possible to incorporate data from newly established weather stations into the normals more rapidly."

Read the full story at the World Meteorological Organization.

 

MORE: Why This Pacific Island Nation Is Drowning

Way of Life at Risk

Way of Life at Risk

As an extremely low-lying country, surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, Kiribati is at extreme risk from the impacts of human-caused climate change, including sea-level rise and storm surges. (Charly W. Karl/flickr)

  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Sign of the Times
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Vanishing Islands
  • Pacific Partnership
  • Rising Seas
  • Building Resilience
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Life in Kiribati
  • On Borrowed Time?
  • 'All We Could Do Was Relocate'
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Clean Water Threatened
  • Sign of the Times
  • Resettling Away From the Sea
  • Resettling Away From the Sea
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Life in Kiribati
  • Pacific Partnership
  • Pacific Partnership
  • Pacific Partnership
  • Pacific Partnership
  • Defending Freedom
  • Life in Kiribati
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Replanting Mangroves
  • Replanting Mangroves
  • Life in Kiribati
  • Life in Kiribati
  • Way of Life at Risk
  • Way of Life at Risk

Featured Blogs

63.5°F in Antarctica: Possible Continental Record; 14 Years of Rain in 1 Day in Chile

By Dr. Jeff Masters
March 27, 2015

The warmest temperature ever recorded on the continent of Antarctica may have occurred on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, when the mercury shot up to 63.5°F (17.5°C) at Argentina's Esperanza Base on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Prior to this week's remarkable heat wave, the hottest known temperature in Antarctica was the 62.6°F (17.0°C) recorded at Esperanza Base in October 1976.

Possible New Continental Heat Record for Antarctica

By Christopher C. Burt
March 26, 2015

On March 24th Base Esperanza (under Argentinean administration) located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula reported a temperature of 17.5°C (63.5°F). Although this is the warmest temperature ever measured since weather stations became established on the southern continent, it is complicated by what the very definition of ‘Antarctica’ is. Here’s a brief review.

Devastating Drought Conditions and Annoying People

By Shaun Tanner
February 4, 2015

The drought in California has been pretty devastating and at least some of the people of California seem to be happy about it.

Meteorological images of the year - 2014

By Stu Ostro
December 30, 2014

My 9th annual edition.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.