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Historic Heat In North America Turns Winter To Summer 618

Posted by samzenpus
from the hotter-than-hot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A huge, lingering ridge of high pressure over the eastern half of the United States brought summer-like temperatures to North America in March 2012. The warm weather shattered records across the central and eastern United States and much of Canada. From the article: 'Records are not only being broken across the country, they're being broken in unusual ways. Chicago, for example, saw temperatures above 26.6Celsius (80Fahrenheit) every day between March 14-18, breaking records on all five days. For context, the National Weather Service noted that Chicago typically averages only one day in the eighties each in April. And only once in 140 years of weather observations has April produced as many 80Fahrenheit days as this March.'"
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Historic Heat In North America Turns Winter To Summer

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  • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by stox (131684) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:20PM (#39435431) Homepage

    Read carefully, only once in 140 years ( the period such records have been kept in Chicago ), has there been a run of as many days in the 80's in April, as we have had this March. Never, in the records, have we had a run like this before in March.

  • by mr_exit (216086) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:20PM (#39435433) Homepage

    And in the southern Hemisphere, We've had one of the coldest and wettest summers on record in New Zealand.

    But you only hear about climate change when people are hot.....

  • Not everywhere (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lije Baley (88936) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:22PM (#39435459)

    It's effing cold in Seattle. Snowing every other day it seems. I want to be warm and dry.

  • by Cazekiel (1417893) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:25PM (#39435493)

    Back in October, I was writing 'HAPPY HALLOWEEN!' in the snow, having a chuckle. I stopped laughing when a storm blew in so fierce, so heavy, that it took out the entire Western MA. area's electricity. We were without power for a week, almost exactly. The snow was already heavy, but the fact that trees still had leaves on their branches added to the weight. Entire limbs--or just entire trees were everywhere. It was a spooky time, and it's only getting spookier. I should NOT be sweltering at work while wearing shorts, which is how it went yesterday. Anyone saying "so what, it's a heatwave" doesn't come from New England. We're used to crazy-assed weather, but this has got us all stumped.

  • by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:27PM (#39435521) Homepage Journal

    I live in Europe, and have had a very mild winter. It's true, though, that we had a slight dip below average the first week of February. I think it might have something to do with being just outside the high pressure area that settled over central Europe, bringing winds from Siberia.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:27PM (#39435523)

    Cue the deniers.

    Fact is this is La Nina in action.

  • by uncadonna (85026) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sibotm)> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:52PM (#39435741) Homepage Journal

    If Slashdot covering a weather story isn't a climate-scale outlier, I don't know what is.

    Here's another strange fact: on March 18 the low temperature in Rochester MN exceeded [planet3.org] the previous record high for that date.

    I'm working on an essay linking this event to anthropogenic climate change ("global warming") which will appear on Planet3.0 [planet3.org].

    (For what it's worth I might as well submit a Slashdot story when it's up. Hose my host - see if I care.)

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:53PM (#39435757)

    This warm season actually doesn't have as much to do with Global Warming/Climate Change as it has to do with a double whammy of La Nina and an Arctic Oscillation. The former brought unusually warm weather while the latter kept the colder, arctic air away from us. The combination of the two warming effects gave us a warm, relatively snowless winter.

    This isn't to say that GW/CC isn't real. Just that this winter is explained by other forces at play.

  • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by realityimpaired (1668397) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:05PM (#39435871)

    So it is not really global warming; it's just month-to-month/year-to-year variation.

    Not global warming, maybe, but definitely global climate change. Though it is an el nino year, it's much too early in the year for it to be affecting the weather this much. In Ottawa, ON (described as the world capital with the most extreme weather... coldest winters + hottest summers), we got over 85 degrees fahrenheit today, when it should be closer to 40 degrees. Today was June/July weather, not March weather.

    Things are changing. And while countries like Canada and Greenland stand to benefit from a longer planting season, it's really hurting countries like Kenya (in the middle of one of the worst droughts ever).

  • Re:And yet... (Score:5, Informative)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:07PM (#39435893)

    And yet last year saw some of the coldest temperatures we've had in a very long time. But I didn't see people screaming OMG GLOBAL FREEZING!!1!!1! back then.

    Several years ago, when the changes were starting to get wide attention, people realized that it was extreme weather on both ends and changed the description from "warming" to "climate change". We've had several unusual winters, it's obvious that the phenomenon is not limited to higher temperatures.

    And last year I do remember news stories on the unusual winter where people questioned if the global climate change was responsible.

    The root of the problem is that global average temperatures are increasing, but since that also contributes to [politicalaffairs.net] unusual [wunderground.com] cold snaps [nytimes.com] then it doesn't help the discussion to call it global warming if every idiot who gets cold uses that as evidence that global warming is not happening. Extreme weather changes on both ends are both symptoms of global warming. You only need to look at a graph of global average temperature over a long period to figure out that it is currently spiking.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:09PM (#39435913)

    Weather has always been variable. In my town a record 5 feet of snow fell in just one storm during the 1950s, which stranded people in their homes for many days (they couldn't open their doors). That record still stands. Vice-versa other records from the 1960s show that 1964,65,66 had unusally warm winters with barely any snow. The weather was just as extreme in the past as the present.

  • by zz5555 (998945) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:24PM (#39436035)

    I agree somewhat with this statement. But remember that there's very good evidence that the loss of summer Arctic ice cover has a large effect on the winter Arctic Oscillation. And the loss of summer Arctic ice cover is caused by the current climate change/global warming. So there is some effect there. I don't know if it's very predictable though so what effect climate change/global warming had on the past winter, I don't know. And you're correct about the La Nina - for all I know that's the bigger cause of the past winter's weather.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:35PM (#39436153) Homepage

    By definition, this is "weather", not "climate", it only lasts a week.

    Climate change is defined by decades at a very minimum. Climate change is this:

    http://www.ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=en&n=8C03D32A-1 [ec.gc.ca]

    Environment Canada takes readings every day, in hundreds of locations outside urban heat islands, and averages them across a whole season to get an average temperature. And then it graphs that number for every year since 1945. While even that graph swings wildly up and down from year to year and even has warmer and colder decades, the regression across almost 70 years shows a steady upward trend. It's most dramatic for our winter (2.8C) but all the seasons have shown statistically significant increases.

    I was a huge skeptic until about 2004, but this and several papers I managed to puzzle my way through, plus the book "The Ice Chronicles", finally brought me around by about 2006.

    Yes, there are Snowmaggedons. And there are these. And when you add them all up, the warmer spells are getting a little more frequent and the colder spells a little less so. Over decades. That's climate.

  • Re:And yet... (Score:5, Informative)

    by zz5555 (998945) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:37PM (#39436175)

    Several years ago, when the changes were starting to get wide attention, people realized that it was extreme weather on both ends and changed the description from "warming" to "climate change".

    While I agree with most of your points, I thought I'd point out that this is a common misconception. In fact, both terms came into usage at about the same time (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/climate_by_any_other_name.html ). Climate change refers to all effects of the changing climate (ocean acidification, droughts, floods, changes in short term weather events, long term temperature changes, etc.). Global warming only refers to the general trend in surface temperature. So global warming is, and always has been, just a subset of climate change.

  • by haruchai (17472) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:24PM (#39436537)
    Take a good look at this - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enso-global-temp-anomalies.png [wikipedia.org] Look at the 1960s, look at the long term trend. A few hot years or some unbroken records are just a blip. albeit of some significance. But it's the GLOBAL trend, not periodic local extremes that are of deepening concern. Meterologist Stu Ostro stopped being a skeptic - here's his (very long) take on what changed his mind: http://i.imwx.com/web/multimedia/images/blog/StuOstro_GWweather_latestupdate.pdf [imwx.com]
  • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:24PM (#39436539) Homepage

    If the K.P. goes through, as planned, and has a B.P. style incident? There goes the country's capability to feed ourselves.

    There is an important difference between the BP well and a pipeline: a pipeline can be shut down. Pipelines have multiple pumping stations to keep pushing the oil along, and those pumping stations can be shut down; pipelines have leak detectors. Not only do the oil companies not want to waste valuable oil and incur financial penalties for pollution, but additionally governmental regulations require them to have leak detectors and safety shutdowns.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipeline_transport#Leak_detection_systems [wikipedia.org]

    Wikipedia says the Keystone XL pipeline has a planned maximum capacity of 510000 barrels of oil per day. If I am not mistaken, that's about 354 barrels of oil per minute. Wikipedia says that one state (Washington) imposes a requirement to be able to detect and pinpoint the location of leakage of 8% of maximum flow within 15 minutes. Using this standard, if we assume the Keystone XL leaks 8% for 15 minutes and is then shut down, that would seem to work out to about 23 barrels of oil leaked before shutdown. I'm not an engineer, but I should think it would be easier to detect more significant flows and shut down.

    On the other hand, what if we assume some catastrophic event completely breaks the pipeline at some point? Wikipedia says that industry practice is to place "block valve stations":

    These are the first line of protection for pipelines. With these valves the operator can isolate any segment of the line for maintenance work or isolate a rupture or leak. Block valve stations are usually located every 20 to 30 miles (48 km), depending on the type of pipeline

    If we assume that a catastophe completely breaks the pipeline and all the crude oil in an entire 48 km segment drains out, and use the Wikipedia pipe diameter of 910mm, then if I have done my sums correctly that would be a spill on the order of 25000 tonnes of oil. Checking the Wikpedia List of oil spills page, we find that the Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf was at least 492000 tonnes. If we assume that most segments of the pipeline are not completely flat, then it seems likely that less than the maximum oil will leak out.

    Also, according to press releases from TransCanada, there is at least one route available that takes the pipeline completely around the aquifers, and other routes were studied that shortened the pipe runs by putting some sections in aquifer areas. One possible solution is to insist that the pipeline simply not go through the aquifer areas. I'm not an expert on pipeline risk assessment so I won't take a position on the tradeoffs involved.

    Also, I wonder just how much crude oil will soak through the ground and into an aquifer, and what the consequences would be; whether crude oil ever naturally leaks into aquifers, and if so how serious it is when it happens. I haven't found a sober assessment of the situation; I have mostly found breathless and fact-free assertions that the pipeline would instantly destroy "the heartbeat of America" and such.

    While pipeline disasters suck, the level of disaster that worries you should not be possible.

    steveha

  • by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:25PM (#39436549) Homepage

    temperatures near the -10 Celsius

    Now, as cold as you think that is, it is a warm night for a Chicago winter.

    As I posted earlier, in some suburban areas of Chicago, it was 91F today. (that is 42 degrees above average, for nearly 10 days now)

    For some perspective, if it was as much above average in Chicago in July as it currently is now, the daily high temperature would be 127F, with an overnight low of 94, for over a week.

    Those temperatures are almost above the maximum globally recorded extremes for heat, ever, and certainly would be for Chicago by almost 20F.

  • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:11PM (#39436897)

    Yeah, all you need to do is turn the oil off, huh?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipeline_accidents [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:yawn (Score:2, Informative)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:33PM (#39437037)

    No, racism is caused by stupidity and idiocy. No relation to global warming.

  • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:46PM (#39437115)

    If you paid attention to the Arctic you'd know that there is lots of open water in the Barents and Kara Sea's [nsidc.org] north of Europe where it's been extraordinarily warm. That open water and the (relative) warmth it releases forces the jet stream to dip south into Europe carrying frigid Arctic air with it.

  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @12:01AM (#39437173)

    Doubt science because of economics?

    Yes. We can form beliefs about things based on our beliefs in the consequences of not doing so. Example: Believing in god because you'll go to hell if you don't.

    But a bigger factor is 99% of the population has formed a belief about global warming based on what other people have said. Most of us have not looked at the evidence with the eye of a trained scientist. Most of us have only seen brochure style graphs and news stories and summaries of scientific findings. We're basing our opinions on what others (both credible and not credible) are saying...not what's logical. So if someone who is perceived to be credible by one social group says something is true (regardless of whether or not that person believes it), the social group will believe it.

  • by khallow (566160) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @12:32AM (#39437319)

    We know the sun isn't causing the current climate change/global warming because, if anything, the long term output from the sun has decreased slightly.

    Incorrect. The "long term" here is on the order of hundreds of millions of years. In the short term, the Sun is a variable star and variation in solar output is thought to contribute to climate changes. Typical climatology theory claims here are that we have accounted for variance in solar output and that these variations don't contribute significantly to the global warming that is seen over the past couple of centuries while contributions from human-generated greenhouse gasses does.

  • by tftp (111690) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:09AM (#39438015) Homepage

    You lack imagination. Energy is energy. More solar energy pours down on the planet in a few hours than humans use in a whole year. We didn't get as far as we have by sticking with the old ways of doing things.

    I have some imagination - I need it for work, I'm an engineer working with electronics. Yes, we have lots of energy - and we can't capture it. Without capturing energy efficiently we can't use it. Solar and wind are enormously expensive; solar is also very poisonous, since manufacturing of pure silicon requires lots of nasty chemicals.

    You should not discount economics. For example, you are taking a bus to school every day. But starting tomorrow someone way above you and me decided that buses are polluting and you should walk or use your bicycle. The only problem is (for example) that you have only one leg and you can't do any of the above at any reasonable efficiency level. You can't spend a week to crawl to the school. You don't have money to pay someone to carry you there, unless you stop eating. What are your choices? This is the problem that invariably occurs when the cart is placed in front of the horse.

    The same problem exists everywhere else. Imagine that starting tomorrow coal and gas plants stop making energy. Cost of energy goes through the roof. As result you can't cook food at home! What are your options? Making a fire on the kitchen floor with your philosophy books?

    I'm glad that you know of a coal power plant that is more expensive - for whatever reason - than solar. (I have 6 kW of solar panels at my house, by the way.) However failures of solar power are far more common, even despite huge injections of public money into those projects (see Solyndra.) The reason for that is simply that solar panels today are not very efficient. Will they become better? Probably, over time. Maybe even soon. But today we can capture very little of the energy that is coming down.

    You need to consider also the weather. Not every region is suitable for solar power. Not every region is suitable for wind either. The energy is out there, but it's very costly to mine it. I have sun here, but wind is either 0 (for most of the year) or 60 mph for a few days in winter; in both cases the windmill would have to be shut down; it would be completely useless to me.

    In the end, a hungry man needs his daily food. You cannot tell him that he should eat only every other day - even though food is available - because food on odd days is "unclean." But that's what green advocates are doing. The goal is good since I can't imagine an advanced society of Star Trek type that burns coal to power its spaceships. But we cannot implement the program until the program becomes viable. We cannot destroy the world in order to save it.

    I'm not against nuclear power but it's an awful expensive way to produce electricity and the lead times are so long. I'm not sure it will be able to compete with solar and wind in another decade.

    Nuclear power is very competitive with these sources right now. We do not need to guess what will be 10 or 20 years in the future. Today's nuclear reactors by that time will be ready for decommissioning, and then we can decide what to do, and we will have all the up to date information. Guessing today is pointless. What is not pointless is running all the reactors that you got. Each operating reactor prevents burning of a mountain of coal!

    I would understand if UN, for example, or some other worldwide organization, set up a research institute that would focus on the new energy sources, collection and storage methods. But that's not what happened. Instead we have con men like Al Gore that are cutting coupons from useless "carbon credit" trade. Essentially, rich countries are supposed to pay money to poor countries because those poor countries don't pollute that much. Please tell me how this helps develop new technologies? All that we have here is producers being given another haircut, and the proceeds are given to tinpot dictators in banana

  • by mbkennel (97636) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:38AM (#39438291)

    In the professional atmospheric physics community (say people who are members of the American Geophysical Union, attend the conferences and regularly publish papers), it was sometime in the early 90's that nearly everybody was convinced.

  • by mbkennel (97636) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:40AM (#39438295)

    That's true. HOwever, an appreciable amount of carbon which was out of the climate system for a hundred million years (and made things damn hot when it was in the atmosphere), was never suddenly inserted in the environment in a tiny time scale geologically and substantial magnitude.

  • Grammar? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jabberw0k (62554) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @07:26AM (#39438833) Homepage Journal
    On the Interstate Highway 5 what? On the I-5 bridge? on the I-5 ...what? (You used it like an adjective, you wouldn't say "on the Route 66", would you? Or "on the Main Street" ? Did you mean "on I-5" perhaps.)
  • Re:yawn (Score:4, Informative)

    by rhsanborn (773855) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @07:39AM (#39438887)
    All the weather reporting I've seen has said this has nothing to do with global climate change, but rather a funky set of events involving the jet stream that's keeping a high pressure system stuck in place. It's the same reason we don't blame climate change when a low pressure system brings arctic air down and we get 60 degree days in July (I'm in Michigan).

    I stand behind the science of climate change, but everything I've seen has said this is just a natural occurrence, albeit rare.
  • Re:Grammar? (Score:1, Informative)

    by waives (1257650) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:57AM (#39439961)
    go back to the east coast, douchebag.

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