Temperature S.W.A.G.

I have lived most of my life in Hawaii and Alaska.  Talk about  extremes in temperature variation.  People in Hawaii watch the weather to get the surf report…and to get information on the occasional tropical storm.   Day to day, nobody cares.

When I lived there I once saw local TV newscaster Joe Moore fake the weather.  He searched his desk for the paperwork, admitted to not knowing where he had put it and then made up something like high of 87, low of 74 with light trade winds (an average day in summer).  Good call.

Right now, without even bothering to check for local conditions, I can get the high and the low for Honolulu to within 3 degrees F.  High of 80, low of 67.  And I’m 2600 miles away.  That forecast is good for today…and tomorrow…and the day after that.  The weather in the tropics changes very slowly.

Anchorage is another story.   Yesterday I drove from South Anchorage (at sea level) along Turnagain Arm toward Girdwood.  At about McHugh Creek State Park the temperature changed.  In about a minute it went from 23 degrees to 36 degrees.

In Fairbanks, temperatures within the city area regularly vary by 30 degrees F or more.   The hills around Fairbanks are warmer than the city.   Go up in altitude and warm up.  Fairbanks gets horrible temperature inversions every winter.   A drive from downtown up Farmers Loop Road (about 5 miles) nets the aforementioned 30 degree shift on just about any cold winter night.

Climate experts tell us the climate will change more in Polar regions than in more temperate zones.   The UN gives very specific predictions for climate.  They make predictions for 10 years from now, for 90 years from now and for 200 years from now.   How do they know?

As we venture from the equator toward the poles, two important statistical problems develop for temperature predictors.  1) The temperature variability increases and 2) the number of weather stations decreases.   Hmmm.

fluctuating data + few data points = wild ass guesses

 The University of Alaska recently conducted a climate study of Alaska showing cooling in the 2000 to 2010 period.  They used 20 reliable test sites for the whole state.   They need hundreds if they have any hope of being accurate.

Siberia and Northern Canada suffer similar problems….and the Arctic and Antarctic….well forget about it.   The Arctic Ocean averages about 10 working sites and those locations are not fixed, they drift with the ice.  Any ground based temperature data for either the Arctic or Antarctic must include more than a little wild ass guessing.

Perhaps a little perspective, here’s a graphic of the Arctic

Ten sites, all that space.  WOW.

That is why I like Satellite data.   That data includes guessing too, but it’s a different kind of guessing, making adjustments for Satellite drift and other indirect conversion problems.   The big problem with Satellite data, it is a very small data set.  Who knows what the data would have looked like 50 or 500 or 5000 years ago.    Let’s take a peek at the most recent Satellite data courtesy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville

Yep, the world’s a bit warmer than it was 34 years ago.  But it’s worth remembering that in 1974 Time Magazine ran a cover article predicting the next ice age based primarily on 30 years of cooling that began around 1940.  Sure it looks like the world has warmed about .3 degree C since 1979, but I wonder what the Satellite data would have shown had it existed in 1940.

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