Thursday, February 15, 2007

RECORD WARMTH!?


It’s official – this past January surpassed 2002 as the warmest January on record, when you consider the Earth as a whole. The U.S. was barely a degree warmer than a normal January. That word came out today (Thursday, February 15) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of the National Weather Service. The graphic above illustrates some of the global highlights in the month of January. NOAA measures temperatures on land as well as in the ocean and that’s how they determined that global temperatures were 1.53 degrees warmer than the 20th century average of 53.6. Why so warm? Well, there are a couple of reasons: first, land areas were extremely warm, nearly 3.4 degrees higher than normal. Temperatures in Eastern Europe and Canada ran between 5 and 8 degrees above normal. Second, ocean surface temperatures ran about a tenth of a degree higher than normal thanks in part to El Nino conditions in the Pacific.

Recently, of course, it’s gotten a lot colder, but locally in Atlanta, I thought I’d put this month and the winter in general, into perspective. Let’s use days when the low hit 32 degree days or below as a measure of “cold”. If we count the number of these days for the months of December through mid-February, here’s where we stand:

Dec 05 – Feb 15, 2006 Dec 06 – Feb 15, 2007
35 25

Here’s how the individual months break down:

Dec 05 Dec 06
19 7

Jan 06 Jan 07
6 9

Feb 06 Feb 07
10 9

So it looks like we’re running about the same compared to last year, its just that is was so mild last December compared to December 2005. This might just be a case where perception isn’t quite reality. We usually see a cold day or two followed by moderating temperatures in Georgia. I think that this week, we’re having back-to-back cold days, which gives people the perception that “it’s a lot colder this year”.

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