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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jeff Masters, Stu Ostro, Joe Romm: In Face Of Blow-Out March Heat Wave, Meteorologist Masters Says ‘This Is Not The Atmosphere I Grew Up With’

In Face Of Blow-Out March Heat Wave, Meteorologist Masters Says ‘This Is Not The Atmosphere I Grew Up With’

2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1
It has been a summer to remember. In winter.
Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. As Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro says of the current heat wave:
This remarkable warmth is associated with a bulging ridge of high pressure aloft that is exceptionally strong and long-lasting for March. While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell, given the nature of it and its context with other extreme weather events and patterns in recent years there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity.
This year, U.S. heat records have been outnumbering cold records by a stunning amount — 14-to-1 (19-to-1 in March so far) – as this chart from Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate makes clear:
Monthly ratio of daily high temperature to low temperature records set in the U.S. for every month of 2011 and the first half of March, seasonal ratio for summer and fall 2011, winter 2011-2012 to date, and annual ratio for 2011 and 2012, data from NOAA.
I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming. If you want to know the historical ratios, see the 2009 analysis, “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.,” which shows that the average ratio for the 2000s was 2.04-to-1, a sharp increase from previous decades. Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), explained, “If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even.”
As Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang notes, this week saw truly “Historic record warm weather“:
Temperatures more characteristic of June have broken hundreds of temperature records over the last several days and promise to continue into the next week in many areas. In some places, temperatures have been an eye-popping 30-40 degrees above normal, nearing or surpassing the warmest temperatures ever recorded so early in the season.
Since Sunday, an amazing 943 new record highs have been broken or tied across the U.S. compared to just 9 record lows
Record highs set Wednesday. Open circles indicate records were tied, circles with an x indicate records were broken.
This is not your father’s climate, as Ostro has documented at great length (see this big PDF):
In recent years I’ve documented hundreds of extreme and/or unusual weather events nationally and globally, but this one is even freaking me out with the nature of the air mass, clouds and downpours yesterday and today, and how the sky has looked so tropical, where I live in the Atlanta area – in mid-March. It’s surreal.
Unfortunately, it’s all too real — and just going to get worse and worse until we act to sharply reduce emissions of industrial carbon pollution.
Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters has done some great reporting on this heat wave, in part because he lives in Michigan, which just got slammed by “the earliest EF-3 or stronger tornado in Michigan history, going back to 1950.”
As Masters wrote Friday (emphasis in original):
As I stepped out of my front door into the pre-dawn darkness from my home near Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday morning, I braced myself for the cold shock of a mid-March morning. It didn’t come. A warm, murky atmosphere, with temperatures in the upper fifties – 30 degrees above normal – greeted me instead. Continuous flashes of heat lightning lit up the horizon, as the atmosphere crackled with the energy of distant thunderstorms. Beware the Ides of March, the air seemed to be saying. I looked up at the hazy stars above me, flashing in and out of sight as lightning lit up the sky, and thought, this is not the atmosphere I grew up with.
If we’re going to paraphrase Shakespeare, how about: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by global warming.
Here’s Masters today on “Summer in March continues for Midwest“:
For the third consecutive day, Chicago, Illinois, hit their warmest temperature on record so early in the year, going back to 1872. The mercury hit 82 °F, giving the city its third consecutive day of 80 °F+ temperatures, smashing the old record by a month. Previously, the earliest Chicago had ever seen three consecutive 80 degree days was back on April 14–16, 1976. This morning’s Public Information Statement from the National Weather Service in Chicago had this to say:
Chicago and Rockford have both broken high temperature records 3 days in a row and will likely break record highs for 5 days in a row. There is even the potential they could tie or break record highs for 6 or 7 days in a row depending on how warm temperatures get on Monday and Tuesday. It is extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year long periods of records to break records day after day after day. At the current pace… it is likely that Chicago and Rockford will not only break… but shatter their current record warmest Marches.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, hit 79 °F, yesterday, the warmest it’s ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 39 °F above average. This smashes the old record by a remarkable 6 °F. Previous record: 73 °F, set just two days previously, and also on March 7, 2000.
Bismark, North Dakota, hit 81 °F yesterday, which was a remarkable 41 °F above normal. Not only does this tie Bismarck’s warmest all-time monthly March temp on record (three other 81 °F readings later in the month, with March 22, 1910, being next earliest), it beats the next warmest early season record by a full 6 °F! The previous record was 75 °F on March 12, 2007. Temperatures also soared into the 70s well into Canada’s prairies on Friday, setting all-time warm temperature records for so early in the year across much of southern Canada.

International Falls, Minnesota, hit 71 °F, yesterday, which was 36 °F above normal, and their earliest 70 °F reading by two weeks. Previously, the earliest 70 °F reading came on March 30, 1967. Back on March 17, 1897, the temperature in International Falls hit -33 °F!
And in case you think the only extreme weather records being set this year are in the United States, remember, “Brutal Droughts, Worsened By Global Warming, Threaten Food Production Around The World.”
The really worrisome part is that we’ve only warmed about a degree and a half Fahrenheit in the past century.  We are on track to warm five times times that or more this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10 °F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20 °F ).
In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
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