Jeff Masters on the Vortex. Fewer and Farther Between.

January 9, 2014


Not a Historic Cold Wave
As notable as this week’s cold wave was–bringing the coldest air seen since 1996 or 1994 over much of the nation–the event failed to set any monthly or all-time record low minimum temperature records at airports and cooperative observing stations monitored by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. As wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt summed it up for me, “The only significant thing about the cold wave is how long it has been since a cold wave of this force has hit for some portions of the country–18 years, to be specific. Prior to 1996, cold waves of this intensity occurred pretty much every 5-10 years. In the 19th century, they occurred every year or two (since 1835). Something that, unlike the cold wave, is a truly unprecedented is the dry spell in California and Oregon, which is causing unprecedented winter wildfires in Northern California.

Part of the reason that this week’s cold wave did not set any all-time or monthly cold records is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in a warming climate. As Andrew Freedman of Climate Central wrote in a blog post yesterday, “While the cold temperatures have been unusual and even deadly, climate data shows that intense cold such as this event is now occurring far less frequently in the continental U.S. than it used to. This is largely related to winter warming trends due to man-made global warming and natural climate variability.” For example, in Detroit during the 1970s, there were an average of 7.9 nights with temperatures below zero. But this decade, that number has been closer to two nights.

29 Responses to “Jeff Masters on the Vortex. Fewer and Farther Between.”

  1. petersjazz Says:

    Hi Peter, you have been very active lately. Have you doubled up on your team of editors?

  2. kingdube Says:

    There is no such thing as “natural climate variability”. Period.

  3. […] WeatherUnderground: Not a Historic Cold Wave As notable as this week's cold wave was–bringing the coldest air seen since 1996 or 1994 over much of the nation–the event failed to set any monthly o…  […]

  4. The cold has not been as intense as historical figures but more deadly and damaging because of the speed it happens. People and nature take time to adapt, a slow descent into a deep cold is far less damaging than a fast descent into a less intense cold.

    With the way the temperature swings are getting faster, I dread the day we find some jogger deep frozen in shorts and T shirt.

    • ontspan Says:

      C’mon, don’t you know? ‘The day after tomorrow’ is fiction, Hollywood exaggeration.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        LOL But what about those mammoths they have found that seem to have been “quick frozen” so rapidly that their stomach contents were still intact? Or did aliens do that? Hmmmmm—am I getting my movies mixed up?

  5. It seems Peter is going to hold in moderation my substantive comment on his bullshit essay about me until everybody loses interest in this thread. Censor much, Peter?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Sour grapes with the “Censor much?”, Guy?

      Maybe what you call “substantive” was just too long?
      Or too full of bullshit like “bullshit essay”?

      IMO, Peter doesn’t “censor” enough.

      • Posting here sans links (which are embedded at Nature Bats Last)

        You’re not talking about me, Peter. You’re thoroughly confused.

        I summarize and synthesize science from many sources. Here’s the latest, from Nature Bats Last:

        Ever late to the party, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a report released 27 September 2013. As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed (“climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming“). “Attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could make matters worse,” according to research published in the 8 January 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. Gradual change is not guaranteed, as pointed out by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in December 2013: “The history of climate on the planet — as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores — is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years.”

        Malcolm Light concluded on 22 December 2013, “we have passed the methane hydrate tipping point and are now accelerating into extinction as the methane hydrate ‘Clathrate Gun’ has begun firing volleys of methane into the Arctic atmosphere.” According to Light’s latest analysis, the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere will resemble that of Venus before 2100. Two weeks later, in an essay stressing near-term human extinction, Light concluded: “The Gulf Stream transport rate started the methane hydrate (clathrate) gun firing in the Arctic in 2007 when its energy/year exceeded 10 million times the amount of energy/year necessary to dissociate subsea Arctic methane hydrates.”

        • Why should we be concerned about anything Malcolm Light has to say? Have his assertions survived peer-review?

        • fortranprog Says:

          I think you must be the ying-yang balance to Ms. Judith Curry, I am sure most climate interested folks (and scientists) are aware of the Arctic methane reservoirs and dangers, but take a more conservative approach than thee. Observable changes are so slow and gradual to most people that they fail to acknowledge anything is happening. Unless you are live near the Arctic, or are an Islander in the Bay of Bengal or Pacific – not too much has changed after all (a few thousand bats have been dropping from the skies in Australia due to heatstroke). I am a man and of course I am not too good at multi tasking, so have decided to remain concerned about CO2 and do my best to reduce my CO2 emissions in my small world of influence, as to the methane menace, I’ll just keep a weary on on it and cross my fingers. I live in a small nation with many sheep who all add to the methane problem I’m afraid, but I understand it only lives in the atmosphere for 9-12 years.

          • fortranprog Says:

            Corrections:1) Unless you live near the Arctic 2) just keep a weary eye on it
            sorry for the dyslexic moments

          • petersjazz Says:

            But we can still discuss the bigger picture. Should it be ok for coal companies to pollut the air and let others take the cost for that? Next generation, pour countries

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You need to be concerned more about your logic fails than your typos. You don’t have to “live near the arctic” to be affected by what happens there. What is happening in the arctic ultimately affects climate all over the globe, even in that great little two-island place you live in that that many of us may soon be moving to (a la On the Beach).

          • fortranprog Says:

            Peterjazz – Exactly, but nobody wants to acknowledge that fact ! I was looking at Paraguay – 100% of their electricity is from renewable energy by the way of hydro – Climate Change may endanger that with droughts. James Watt et al. what did you do ?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “I understand it only lives in the atmosphere for 9-12 years”.

            That’s true, but unfortunately the CH4 oxidizes to CO2 and the fossil carbon lives on for many more years as a component of that GHG. Any increase in methane (which is a far more potent GHG than CO2 while it’s around) ultimately leads to an increase in CO2.

            CH4 + 2 O2 = CO2 + 2 H20

        • Answer your skeptics.

          The deep ocean has to heat and considerably. This takes time. The prognostications are over the top. A little more Sciencey would be more believable.

        • No irony discussing peer review. You seem to be confused about who the scientists are. We are discussing science. We are not climatologists. ( mostly)
          There is nothing strange about it. Still, we can search and ask, where did that come from? Or we can interview the scientists directly. If we are balanced, we don’t pick just one, and we refer to the specialist scientist. No trix.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      regular readers know that we are currently in a lengthy discussion wherein people are pleading with me to reconsider my “open door” policy to discussion.
      readers also know that I occasionally have to do other things than man this blog, and things sometimes pile up when I take time to eat and sleep.

      • fortranprog Says:

        I appreciate the time and effort that you most put into this endeavour

        • dumboldguy Says:

          PS to a comment elsewhere. When we all invade your lovely little islands to escape from what we’ve done in the northern hemisphere, we will be bring our beef cattle with us. McDonald’s does not serve mutton-burgers, so hurry up and use up the curly haired little buggers to make room for the new “methane producers”.

          (and have you ever seen an American industrial-size feed-lot operation? You haven’t lived until you do. Of course you can’t “see” it for long because your eyes will water quickly and copiously, but you WILL be able to smell it (for many miles if the wind is right) for longer until your olfactory nerves short circuit.

      • I thought you were evidence of rapid developments is artificial intelligence. A robot with a sense of humor – and a conscience.

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