Warmer

Jan 9, 2007 3:25pm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has just put out the following press release:  NOAA REPORTS 2006 WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD FOR U.S.
General Warming Trend, El Niño Contribute to Milder Winter Temps "The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, including December, which ended as the fourth warmest December since records began in 1895." The full release is HERE.  You’ll see that parts of it are self-contradictory; when the numbers are finally crunched, 1998 may actually turn out to have been slightly warmer. The map that goes with the release is all red, NOAA says, because all of the lower 48 states were in record territory.    1998 and 2006 both show temperature spikes because of El Nino events, says the NCDC.  An El Nino (you’ll recall it’s the patch of warm water in the equatorial Pacific that rearranges the jet streams blowing over us) generally means warmer, wetter weather for many parts of the country. Here’s NOAA’s graph of U.S. temperatures since regular records began in 1895 (click to enlarge): There’s an explanatory paragraph later in the release: "The unusually warm start to this winter reflected the rarity of Arctic outbreaks across the country as an El Niño episode continued in the equatorial Pacific. A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases. This has made warmer-than-average conditions more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was
due to greenhouse-gas-induced warming and how much was due to the El Niño-related circulation pattern. It is known that El Niño is playing a major role in this winter’s short-term warm period." A little while ago I got a call from someone there, pointing out that this is the first time the phrase "greenhouse gases" has been in one of their periodic releases. On its own, of course, this news is only one small piece of a large puzzle.  The World Meteorological Organization put out a preliminary report in December that said 2006 would be the sixth warmest on record, and the British Meteorological Office last week said that El Nino plus greenhouse warming added up to a 60% probability that 2007 would be the warmest.  (More on both HERE.)  The U.S. is only a few percent of the planet’s surface, and individual years are far less important than long-term trends.  Thoughts are welcome.  Click below. 

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