Weather and Climate


February 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

Confused  by CRAIG JAMES  I admit to being confused about many things, but this time it is about record low temperatures. I doubt many people spend much time wondering about such things, but once a weatherman, always a weatherman. The idea for this article was put into my head by a post on the blog, “WattsUpWithThat” by E. M. Smith. Consider the following. The coldest temperature ever seen in New England is -50°F, which has happened twice. A remote site in northern Maine recorded a minus 50°F reading on January 16, 2009, that tied the record set back in 1933 in Bloomfield, Vt. Also, on January 16, 2009, a new state low temperature record was apparently set in Illinois when a reading of -36°F was recorded in the town of Rochelle. However, the state climatologist determined that this record would not be accepted, even though the thermometer had been recalibrated just the day before, because this thermometer had not been recalibrated by the National Weather Service. What does that have to do with it? The point is, it was recalibrated and was working just fine. Another questionable exclusion happened in Michigan in 1994. The Michigan State Climatologist Office reported the following: “Low temperatures on the morning of the 19th reached near all-time record low levels nearly statewide as readings of 20 to 40 below zero were quite common. Numerous daytime and monthly record lows were broken as well as numerous daytime record low maximum temperatures. The all-time record low for the state of Michigan was also challenged on January 19 with Amasa, Michigan coming in with a remarkably low temperature of -53°F surpassing the old record of -51°F. Unfortunately, this reading cannot become an official state record low since the thermometer site was too close to the observer’s house!” Say what? Wouldn’t the thermometer have read even colder if it had been farther away from the heated house? This is an especially puzzling statement since temperature readings that are taken from thermometers mounted on the side of a brick building facing into the sun are considered official in other locations, such as this one in Urbana, Ohio. Why wasn’t the Michigan temperature accepted? Or the one in Illinois? Could it be because they represented all-time […]

WORDS ON WEATHER & CLIMATE — December 23, 2010

December 23, 2010 // 0 Comments

Cold More Deadly  by CRAIG JAMES Many people who have looked at the global warming issue, myself included, believe we have much more to fear from a cooling world than a warming one. Data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics for 2001-2007 shows that 800 more people die every day in the United States in December, January and February than occur on an average day during the rest of the year. The winter months kill 72,000 more U.S. citizens than the spring-summer-autumn average. The data shows that heart attacks and strokes are the major culprits of cold weather deaths. It states, “As temperatures cool, blood vessels contract to preserve heat and blood composition changes. Cold weather makes the human respiratory system more susceptible to viruses. Compounding matters, influenza becomes more resistant to the human immune system when temperatures fall.”             Another recently published article in the Southern Medical Journal also concluded, “Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due to common illnesses that are increased by cold.” In addition, “Even in climates as warm as southern Europe or North Carolina, cold weather causes more deaths than hot weather.” The Journal also notes that “rising temperatures could reduce overall mortality rates.”             Here’s more evidence that warm is better. Two health agencies in the U.K. recently released a report stating, “Mean annual heat-related mortality did not rise as summers warmed from 1971 to 2003.”             Indeed, the authors note: “Heat-related mortalities are substantial throughout Europe, but the hot summers in southern Europe cause little more mortality than the milder summers of more northerly regions.”             In October 2009, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported, “We found that the lowest monthly mortality rates in selected European Mediterranean countries over the last few decades occurred in September. In Sweden and North American countries, the lowest mortality occurred in August, while it occurred in July in Japan. In Australia and New Zealand, the lowest monthly mortality was in March and February, respectively, which correspond to September and August, respectively, in the northern hemisphere.”             The authors speculate that temperature plays a major role when it comes to […]

WORDS ON WEATHER & CLIMATE — November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

It is going to get colder by CRAIG JAMES    You may think, “Of course it is going to get colder, it is November and we are heading into December.” However, I don’t mean just here in Michigan, I mean temperatures across the globe are going to head downward If you have read some of my past articles, you know how I believe the satellite-derived global surface temperature record is much more accurate than the record from surface-reporting stations. There are so many problems with the surface observations that many people studying this issued believe the surface data set simply can’t be trusted. The problem, of course, with satellite measurements is that they only go back to 1979. Here is a graph of the global temperature anomalies (departures from average) from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in Santa Rosa, Calif. The graph begins in 1979 and covers 400 months, which ends last month, October 2010. You can see the spike in temperatures around month 230, which was caused by the strong El Niño in 1998. You can also see the spike this past summer caused by the latest strong El Niño. Notice how quickly the temperatures dropped after the 1998 El Niño, and it looks as if that process has started again. I am one of the many people who believe we could see the graph drop below the zero line by the end of this winter. On the second graphic, I have drawn an arrow indicating where I think the graph will end up by March 2011. If this does indeed happen, you can see from the trend line I have added that we will actually have seen slight cooling since 1998 even though CO2 levels will have gone up over 10% in that time. One of the main reasons for the surface temperatures cooling is the dramatic cooling that has taken place in the world’s oceans, especially in the Pacific as seen in the next image. You can clearly see the much-cooler-than-average surface water in the Pacific along the Equator. This is an indication of the strong La Niña that has developed. Also, note the very cool water in the North Pacific. The Pacific has actually switched into its cold mode after being in […]

Words on Weather & Climate — September 23, 2010

September 23, 2010 // 0 Comments

The Weather Ain’t Like it Used to Be by CRAIG JAMES How many times have you heard someone say, “The weather ain’t like it used to be”? And I always say, “It definitely isn’t. The climate is always changing.” We all seem to have selective memory about the past, but we are told now that weather extremes are worse than ever. Is that so? Let’s take a look a few weather extremes I imagine most people are unaware of that happened in the United States. The 19th century (1800s) saw many extreme weather events in this county but let’s look specifically at the years 1888, 1896 and 1899. There were two incredible storms in 1888. The first occurred in the Plains and Midwest January 12-13. It is still the worst blizzard of record in Nebraska. Most school children were trapped at school for days. In 24 hours, the temperature fell from 70 degrees to almost 40 below zero. The wind at times was so strong you could not hear voices 6 feet away. Many cattle suffocated due to the fine powdery snow being blown into their nostrils. The second great storm occurred March 11-14, 1888, and has become known as “The Great White Hurricane” or “The Blizzard of 88” that paralyzed areas from Chesapeake Bay to Maine with New York City being hit the hardest. New York City papers reported that in 36 hours: “the snow had fallen to depths of between two to five feet, with drifts piling up over fifteen to thirty feet in many sections of the city.” In some western suburbs, snowdrifts were reported to be as high as 50 feet! Transportation collapsed. Trains on all four of the city’s lines stalled, leaving 15,000 passengers helpless in unheated cars. Trolleys were blown off their tracks in wind gusts estimated over 75 mph. There hasn’t been a storm of that magnitude since. In 1896, there was a brutal heat wave from the Plains to the East Coast. Theodore Roosevelt, then head of the Board of Police Commissioners in New York City wrote: “the death rate trebled until it approached the level of a cholera epidemic; horses died by the hundreds.” Although official high temperatures were mainly in the 90s, the humidity was […]

Words on Weather and Climate — July 15, 2010

July 15, 2010 // 0 Comments

Heat Wave 2010 by CRAIG JAMES According to the National Weather Service, in our part of the country a heat wave is defined as a period of at least three consecutive days of temperatures at 90F or warmer. The period July 4 through July 7 had high temperatures each day of 92 degrees both in Grand Rapids and Lansing. The last heat wave was only three years ago, in 2007, when we had five days in a row of 90-degree weather with highs of 93, 97, 96, 94 and 91 between July 30 and August 3. What is amazing to me is not that we had four days in a row of temperatures in the 90s during the first week of July, but that all four days had exactly the same high temperature. Now that is a very rare event. In fact, it has only happened once before in Grand Rapids since records began back in 1892. I doubt it has ever happened in both Grand Rapids and Lansing at the same time with exactly the same temperatures. It still looks to me as if the entire summer is going to end up a little warmer than average, but it won’t produce many, if any, records for heat. The greatest number of consecutive 90-degree days on record is 11, set way back in 1901 when it was supposed to be cooler than now. How about the heat wave of 1936 when, between July 7 and July 14, high temperatures in Grand Rapids were 98, 101, 101, 102, 99, 106, 108 and 102. Several of those nights had lows around 80 and there was no air conditioning. What do you think the media would do if another heat wave like that occurred again today? The hottest weather of this heat wave was from Boston through New York City to Washington, D.C., where temperatures did hit 100 degrees or higher, but fortunately without the high humidity so common in heat waves in that part of the country. On Tuesday, July 6, the official high temperature in Baltimore, recorded at the Baltimore-Washington International airport, was 105 degrees, a new record for the date and just one degree shy of the all-time record high set in 1930. However, could […]

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