Craig James

Words on Weather & Climate — March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

Spring? by Craig James What a great way to start out the month of March. It was certainly windy and gloomy this past weekend but prior to that, every day from the 2nd through the 8th had 93 percent or more of possible sunshine with three of those days receiving 100 percent of possible sunshine. Compare that to February when only one day had 100 percent of possible sunshine and on 17 days, we received no sunshine at all. Since the snow cover was slow to melt, golf season didn’t start quite as early as last year when I golfed on March 6. I did practically have to use a hammer to get the tee into the still partially frozen ground and there was ice in one of the cups, but hey, it beat sitting indoors and writing a newspaper article. I was able to golf all the way to December 2 for golf in 10 of the 12 months of 2009. Last year, we hit the first 70 degrees of spring on March 17. Looking at the last 116 years of records, it turns out we have a 51 percent chance of reaching 70 in March, and a 74 percent chance of hitting 60 degrees. That means in one out of every four months of March, the temperature never gets as warm as 60. That’s depressing. With all of the cold weather in the southern states this year, the tornado season has gotten off to a very slow start. In fact, it looked as if we were going to see the only month of February on record with no tornadoes reported in the entire country. However, according to the National Weather Service, a weak tornado that lasted all of three minutes was spotted, in of all places, California on the 27th to spoil the record. There have only been twelve tornadoes so far this month. Since we are on daylight saving (not savings) time now, it is staying light until 8 p.m.. Astronomical spring arrives on the 20th this year, which is of course when there is equal day and equal night across the globe. However, if you look at sunrise and sunset tables you will see on that date we have 12 hours […]

Words on Weather & Climate — March 11, 2010

March 11, 2010 // 0 Comments

Your Carbon Footprint by CRAIG JAMES There are many places you can go online to calculate what is called your “carbon footprint,” or how much carbon dioxide your daily activities release into the atmosphere. A Google search of “CO2 calculator” brought up over 700,000 hits in .36 seconds. I’ve even seen carbon dioxide emissions included on new automobile stickers lately. The goal of these calculators, of course, is to encourage you to cut back on CO2 emissions to “save the planet.” The numbers are usually presented in tons of CO2, so they sound quite impressive. If you really feel guilty about driving that SUV, you can send money to several companies (such as NativeEnergy), and they will take that money and invest in wind and methane power to offset the amount of CO2 you have produced, in case you actually don’t want to give up your SUV. However, wouldn’t it be helpful to know just how much impact our reduction of CO2 will actually have on the climate? How much human-induced climate change is being prevented by changing your light bulbs, from biking to work, or from slashing national carbon dioxide emissions in whatever ways possible? Isn’t this the number we really need to know? Unfortunately, this is the number the calculators don’t tell you. Since climate model projections of the future climate are what are being used to attempt to scare us into action, climate models should very well be used to tell us how much of the scary future we are going to avoid by taking the suggested/legislated/regulated actions. I’ve never seen that number published anywhere. But even though you and I don’t have access to the global climate models, there is a fairly simple way, with the use of a handheld calculator, we can determine how many tons of CO2 emissions are required to change the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by one part per million (ppm). Then we can figure out how many ppm of CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature one degree Celsius (1°C). There is a little math involved here, so if you don’t want to follow along, you can jump ahead to the answer, but it won’t be nearly as much fun that way. I will keep […]

Words on Weather & Climate — March 4, 2010

March 4, 2010 // 0 Comments

Winter 2009-2010 by CRAIG JAMES The calendar says winter lasts until March 20 this year. However, meteorologists consider winter to be the three full months of December, January and February. Spring is March, April and May, etc. So winter is over, right? Any snow now is spring snow. Can’t you see the difference? So how did the temperatures turn out this winter season in West Michigan? In Grand Rapids, the temperature for the three months was 1.6 degrees above average. In Muskegon, it was 1.1 degrees above average, but in Kalamazoo it was 1.6 degrees below average. So the northern part of our area was a little warmer and the southern part a little cooler. My forecast in the December 10 edition of this newspaper was for temperatures to be “near to a little below average.” I’d give myself a “pretty close but not exactly right on” for the forecast. The snowfall season runs from the first flake to the last flake. The first flakes fell this year on November 26 and the last flakes… well, I would guess we will see flakes this year into April for a six-month snow season. We have seen snow October into May before, so don’t complain. As of the end of February, the total in Grand Rapids was 70.2 inches, in Muskegon 73.2 inches, and 69.7 inches in Kalamazoo. This gives us a snowfall that is a little above average up to this point, but certainly less than the 104.5 inches we had received by this point last winter. Muskegon’s total is almost 20 inches below what they would normally see up to this point in the winter and way below the 147.8 inches they had at this point last year. My forecast for this season was for around 70 inches in Grand Rapids. So, to be right on, I hope it doesn’t snow much more. That is possible, but not likely. Last year, from this point on in the season, we had just 0.4 inches of additional snow. The heaviest snows and the coldest temperatures relative to average this season have been to our south and southeast. In the month of February, the cities of Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia, among many others, had the snowiest month […]

Words on Weather & Climate — February 25, 2010

February 25, 2010 // 0 Comments

Climate Data, Part II by CRAIG JAMES If you didn’t see my article from last week, I showed this chart from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies supposedly showing about .8 degree C (1.4 degree F) warming across the globe since 1880. I think this chart is pure fantasy. Here is more on why. Last week I wrote about the United States Historical Climate Network (USHCN) and the problems with bad location of thermometers on or near tarmacs, next to buildings, on paved driveways and roads, in waste treatment plants, on rooftops, near air conditioner exhausts and more. In addition, there are problems with the adjustments made for the urban heat island effect, changing thermometer locations and thermometer calibration. This article looks at the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN). Back in the 1970s, there were about 6,000 climate-reporting stations in the GHCN, but that number had dropped to around 1,500 in 1990 and to a little over 1,000 now. That is the entire number of land-based surface observations used in calculating the global temperature. Temperature readings are still taken at most of the original stations, but for some reason, they have been deleted from the database. A computer expert by the name of E. Michael Smith has done an exhaustive analysis of which stations have disappeared from the record and how the remaining data has been manipulated. You can read the details at his website at To summarize, it appears that stations placed in historically cooler, rural areas of higher latitude and elevation were deleted from the data series in favor of more urban locales at lower latitudes and elevations, which are of course warmer. Consequently, readings after 1990 have been biased to the warm side not only by selective geographic location, but also by the influence of the urban heat island effect. For example, guess how many climate stations are now in the GHCN database for California? Just four! They are San Francisco, Santa Maria, Los Angeles, and San Diego. These are all coastal, urban and low-elevation stations. All of the high-elevation, rural and cold thermometers have been eliminated. In Canada, the number of reporting stations dropped from 496 in 1989 to just 44 in 1991 with only one—that’s right, just one—station north of […]

Words on Weather & Climate, by Craig James

February 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

  Climate Data Part 1 It seems as if every time someone digs up anything new about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), something ugly crawls out. For example, the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency has recently discovered the IPCC incorrectly reported that 55% of that country was below sea level and would be flooded by increasing sea levels. The number should only be 20%. There have been many other revelations recently about the IPCC, the committee established to inform the world about climate change, but let’s move on to the two really important issues in climate change. Has this past decade been the warmest decade on record and have the global computer models been forecasting way too much warming? Let’s take a look at how the climate data is obtained and then used to construct this chart from NASA below, which shows global temperatures warming about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. I’ll start first with what is called the United States Historical Climate Network or USHCN. There are currently 1,221 reporting stations in this network with records going back into the late 1800s. A former television meteorologist by the name of Anthony Watts took on the enormous task of having all USHCN climate reporting stations surveyed to determine if they met the National Weather Service criteria for proper siting. Over 80% of the stations have now been studied and almost 90% of those stations failed to meet that criteria. The survey shows that nine out of every ten stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited on or near tarmacs, next to buildings, on paved driveways and roads, in waste treatment plants, on rooftops, near air conditioner exhausts and more. You can read about the survey and see photos of some of the ridiculous locations of thermometers in this pdf: One of my favorite examples is from The University of Arizona showing where the thermometer has recently been placed over pavement in a parking lot. It used to be over grass. Would you think this move might produce higher daytime temperatures? The thermometer shows warming but certainly not from Carbon Dioxide.   Poor current location of thermometers is just one of many problems. Since records began, most thermometers have […]

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