Words on Weather & Climate by Craig James — January 14, 2010

January 14, 2010 // 0 Comments

Cold weather makes headlines by CRAIG JAMES “World copes with Arctic weather…” “Winter Could Be Worst in 25 Years for USA…” “CHILL MAP…” “3 Deaths Due To Cold in Memphis…” “GAS SUPPLIES RUNNING OUT IN UK…” “Elderly burn books for warmth?” “Vermont sets ‘all-time record for one snowstorm’…” “Iowa temps ‘a solid 30 degrees below normal’…” “Seoul buried in heaviest snowfall in 70 years…” “Historic ice build-up shuts down NJ nuclear power plant…” “Midwest Sees Near-Record Lows, Snow By The Foot…” “Miami shivers from coldest weather in decade…” These are just a few of the headlines from newspapers last week about the very cold weather across much of the northern hemisphere. In the first 10 days of January, there were over 700 cold temperature records either tied or broken in just the United States alone, making it one of the coldest starts to a new year on record. There were snowflakes reported Saturday morning, January 9 as far south as Naples, Florida, and even into the northern portions of Dade County, where Miami is located. The last time that happened was back in 1977. Over 100,000 tropical fish have died in south Florida from the cold and—in one of the strangest reports I have ever seen—giant iguanas became comatose from the cold and fell from trees. The National Weather Service could have issued a falling iguana warning. One winter, obviously, doesn’t make a climate trend and just as you can’t point to one storm or heat wave to prove global warming, you can’t point to one cold wave to indicate the end of global warming. Using one cold wave to claim climate change is equally in error. In a White House press briefing, Friday, Jan. 8, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated, “Worldwide record cold is the result of climate change.” At least he knew how ridiculous it would sound if he had said it was the result of global warming. One weather pattern is not climate. The cold weather this winter can very easily be explained by natural phenomena such as changing ocean currents. However, the fact there hasn’t been any warming in the past decade and that a number of new studies suggest global cooling on the horizon, may indeed indicate a change in the […]

Words on Weather & Climate

January 7, 2010 // 0 Comments

Trends in severe weather  Politicians, and even others who should know better, have stated frequently there would be an increase in the intensity and frequency of severe storms due to global warming. But in last week’s article I showed you that the tropical storm activity across the globe is now near a 30-year low. This week, let’s take a look to see if there has been an increase in tornadoes. According to the National Climatic Data Center, “With increased national Doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency. To better understand the true variability and trend in tornado frequency in the U.S., the total number of strong to violent tornadoes (EF3 to EF5 category on the Enhanced Fujita scale) can be analyzed.” For further details on this subject, visit You can see from the graph in Figure I that there was an increase in the number of strong tornadoes up until 1974, but there has been a DECREASING trend since then even though the number of people seeing and reporting tornadoes has increased. This is exactly the opposite of what has been forecast. There have also been forecasts of increasing droughts and heavy precipitation events. I haven’t found a graphic to show this on a global scale, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has compiled one for the United States. In Figure II, the top graph shows the percentage of the United States experiencing moderate to extreme drought for each year since 1900, and the bottom graph shows the percentage experiencing moderate to extreme wet conditions. About 80 percent of the United States was in moderate to extreme drought in the mid 1930s, but there certainly doesn’t appear to be much of an overall change in either extremely dry weather or wet weather since 1900. Going back to A.D. 1200, it appears the worst drought in North America occurred in the 1500s. According to an article in Science Daily (Feb. 8, 2000), “No other drought appears to have been as intense, prolonged and widespread as the 16th century megadrought,” and, […]

Words on Weather & Climate

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

Storm facts by CRAIG JAMES Here are a few facts about the storm that affected much of the country Dec. 6-11. The barometer reading in Grand Rapids dropped to a record-low reading for the month of December at 28.86”. Some home barometers don’t even register that low. Readings below 29.00” are not uncommon in Great Lakes storms, but don’t happen very often in West Michigan due to the fact that the low pressure centers usually move either to the south or to the north of our area. This one went directly overhead. By the way, the lowest barometer reading ever recorded for this area was set in the blizzard of January 1978 with a reading of 28.68”. Technically, we never did reach actual blizzard conditions in Kent County from the storm. To officially be a blizzard, there must be sustained winds of 35 mph or greater with the visibility reduced to less than a quarter mile in snow and blowing snow. The highest sustained winds reported in Kent County were around 30 mph, but we did have many times when the visibility was less than a quarter mile. Many people don’t realize that the amount of snow is not considered when issuing a blizzard warning, just the wind speed and visibility. The worst of the weather, as usual, occurred to the north and west of the storm center. A state of emergency was declared in much of Wisconsin due to 10 to 18 inches of snow and wind gusts over 40 mph. However, Milwaukee only picked up 3 inches. At Marinette, in the northeast corner of the state, a wind gust hit 78 mph with widespread power outages and most roads drifted shut. Snow totals of 15-30 inches were common in the western half of the Upper Peninsula, which was a pretty significant snowfall even for those hardy folks. This was the same storm that earlier in the week produced wind gusts measuring over 100 mph in three western states. The highest gust of 116 mph hit White Sands, N.M. The Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., reported a wind gust to 75 mph. Wolf Creek Pass, Colo., received 5 feet of new snow from the storm. As bad as this system was, it wasn’t […]

Words on Weather — December 10, 2009

December 10, 2009 // 0 Comments

by CRAIG JAMES I want to thank the folks at The Rockford Squire for giving me the opportunity to write about two of my favorite subjects, weather and climate. Mark Twain once said, “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” That is the best summary of the distinction between the two I have heard, and I am sure rarely a day goes by when you don’t hear a comment about one or the other. It is my hope that maybe I can shed a little light on both subjects. I am a firm believer in another Mark Twain quote, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” Too often it seems, especially on the subject of “climate change,” you don’t hear all the facts, frequently just the politically correct ones. So it is with this in mind—and freely admitting my own biases will enter in to anything I write—I hope to present information you may not have heard. I believe the best way to be educated about a subject is to hear both sides of an argument. The first thing I want to write about is the expected weather for this upcoming winter. You may have heard there is an El Niño occurring in the Pacific Ocean again this year, which means there is a pool of warmer-than-normal surface water located in the central Pacific Ocean. You can see in the graphic from NOAA there is an area of water along the Equator in the central Pacific Ocean between two and three degrees warmer than normal. This is a classic moderate El Niño look. It seems as if the popular belief has been if we are in an El Niño pattern, the winter will be warm, and if we are in a La Niña pattern, the winter will be cold. However, the truth is much more complicated than that. All El Niños and La Niñas are not the same. The exact location of the warm water, how much warmer than normal the water is, and whether the water temperatures peak in winter or in spring make a big difference in the downstream weather over the United States for the coming winter. There are other ocean circulations in the […]

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