A Single Global Number

David Appell’s not around to do this, so I guess it’s my job to point out that October 2005 was the second-warmest globally in history. The three warmest Octobers in history have come in the last three years. It’s not that I think that a single global number is useless. I agree with Roger Pielke Sr. that it misses a lot of what’s important, but that does not mean it’s unimportant, especially as one tool in explaining to the public the change that’s underway.

For those of you living in Albuquerque, October temperatures were just a hair above average overall, but the devil is in the details. Daytime highs were cooler than average, while overnight lows were the fifth warmest in history, continuing a trend of remarkably warm overnight temperatures. I haven’t run the numbers yet (Danger! Danger! Journalist doing math!), but I’ll be surprised if 2005 doesn’t end up the warmest, in terms of overnight temps, in the city’s history. Our diurnal temperature range is shrinking. (Albuquerque 2005 numbers from the National Weather Service, long-term data from the Western Regional Climate Center.)


  1. Thanks JF for picking up this task. It was one feature of Quark Soup that I enjoyed. Now I can come for the monthly temps and stay for the thoughtful analysis.

  2. “David Appell’s not around to do this, so I guess it’s my job to point out that October 2005 was the second-warmest globally in history.”

    Yeah…if the globe was ~150 years old. (Most scientists estimate the earth is much older than 150 years.)

    And if the global “temperature” being referred to was the surface temperature, as measured by the global surface temperature measurement network. (As opposed to, for example, the global lower tropospheric temperature, as measured by satellites.)

    And further, that also refers to the global dry bulb temperatures, which as Roger Pielke Sr. points out, aren’t even the most appropriate measurements to use to evaluate changes in energy levels in the atmosphere (wet bulb measurements are more appropriate).

    But I suppose if keeping track of such things “energizes the faithful”…


  3. A sample going back to 1880 isn’t very meaningful. This is on par with the hurricane study showing gathering strength since 1970. Conveniently misses Camille.

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  5. How did they measure global temperatures a hundred years ago, and how much confidence do you have in those figures?

  6. Thanks for the reply John. Great blog in the Journal, by the way.

    In looking through the paper, I find no reference whatsoever to urban effects. Although Urban Heat Island (UHI) is supposedly accounted for, I can’t help but remember the graduate student who, in looking at and separating out the data, commented that “Even after the UHI is accounted for, urban stations are warming twice as fast as rural stations” Could this not affect readings in a growing community such as Albuquerque? Here’s a link on that rural temperatures:

    I wonder also about the melting ice caps right now – on Mars. Supposedly the natural variability model had the warmest year as 1998, which it was…

    I don’t doubt that it’s warming, but the rate since 1940 seems slower than the rate from 1900 to 1940. How much effect does all the Chinese particulate pollution settling on the arctic ice and lowering albedo have? Also increased plant growth emerging from the snow from increased CO2 is having an albedo reducing effect. How do they know those effects in the arctic – since those temperatures certainly were not accurately known a hundred years ago?


  7. Steve –

    I’m actually in the midst of trying to figure out how to answer your question about the effect of the UHI on temperature numbers here in Albuquerque. Watch your newspaper!

    On a broader scale, I’m not sure who your unnamed grad student is, but what he/she said is not consistent with the literature. See for example Peterson and Owen from the Journal of Climate earlier this year. They used various measures of “urbanness” and found that “the UHI contamination from the high population stations accounted for very little of the recent warming.” (Peterson has a cluster of New Mexico sites, comparing urban and non-urban temperature trends. That’s one way I’m hoping to answer your question above.)

    That said, however, the GISS team does a correction to their data to try to remove any UHI bias (check out their web site for details).

  8. I’m looking forward to seeing it in the paper (actually on the website). In the meantime, here’s an equivalent study about Rural vs. Urban temp changes in California:

    And, to beat a really dead horse, here’s a link with a couple of letters to Roger Pielke’s Prometheus site. They’re from a couple of guys named McKitrick and McIntryre. Turns out the Hockey Stick “discussion” isn’t about climate at all – not directly anyway. It’s about science itself.

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