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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jeff Masters: Wunderground launches Local Climate Change feature in their new Climate Change Center

Wunderground launches Local Climate Change feature in their new Climate Change Center

by Dr. Jeff Masters, WunderBlog, April 20, 2012

In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, wunderground has launched a new Climate Change Center, which gives people resources to understand how the climate is changing both globally and in their local neighborhoods. I am particularly pleased with our Local Climate Change feature, which allows one to see how temperature and precipitation have changed over the past 100+ years at the nearest station with a long period of measurements. Predictions from climate models on what the next 100 years may bring are overlaid for each station. Data for most U.S. stations goes back to 1895; we have data for a few stations in Europe that extend back to the 1700s. Berlin has the longest period of record in this database, with data back to 1702. 

Figure 1. Screenshot of the Local Climate Change page for Washington, DC. Measured temperatures since 1820 are shown in grey. By clicking on the "Show post-1900 trend:" box, we see that the trend since 1900 has been for an increase in temperature of 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) per century. Moving the thin vertical red line over the image using the mouse shows that the warmest year on record in Washington, DC, was 1991. Predictions for a future with low emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide are shown in yellow; the high emissions prediction is shown in red. Separate tabs are available to examine precipitation and snow.

Also included in the new Climate Change Center is a section addressing the common skeptical arguments made against climate change. We offer three levels of explanation. The "Basic" level is the default, but one can also see more technical, in-depth discussions by clicking on the "See All Explanation Levels" link. The material was developed by physicist John Cook for his excellent web site, which is widely referenced in the climate science communication community.

Video 1. I'm featured in this video on extreme weather and climate change done by veteran videographer Peter Sinclair for the Yale forum on Climate Change and the Media this month. I'm also featured in Part 1 of this series. Our new Climate Change Center has a section for climate change videos, which includes a twice-monthly feature from GreenTV detailing the world's notable wild weather events of the past two weeks.

Earth: the Operator's Manual airs Sunday night
Penn State climate scientist Dr. Richard Alley hosts parts II and III of Earth: The Operator's Manual on PBS beginning at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 22 -- Earth Day. Part I of this excellent series aired in April 2011. The series gives an overview of climate change, but primarily focuses on what we can do to help slow down climate change though smart energy choices. Dr. Alley, a registered Republican, geologist, and former oil company employee, is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, and one of the most respected and widely published world experts on climate change. Dr. Alley has testified before Congress on climate change issues, served as lead author of "Chapter 4: Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground" for the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is author of more than 170 peer-reviewed scientific articles on Earth's climate. He is also the author of a book I highly recommend -- The Two Mile Time Machine, a superb account of Earth's climate history as deduced from the 2-mile-long Greenland ice cores. Dr. Alley is an excellent and engaging speaker, and I highly recommend listening to his 45-minute keynote speech, "The Biggest Control Knob: CO2 in Earth's Climate History," given at the 2010 American Geophysical Union meeting, via this very watchable recording showing his slides as he speaks in one corner of the video. If you want to understand why scientists are so certain of the link between CO2 and Earth's climate, this is a must-see lecture.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday with a new post. I'd like to thank Wunderground meteorologist, Angela Fritz, for spearheading the creating the new Climate Change Center; it's a product I'll be referring to frequently in the future, and one we'll be updating in the coming months with data on local sea level rise, fire risk, and drought.

Jeff Masters

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