Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sixth Warmest Global July And Does Media Under Report Disaster Links to Climate Change

The National Climatic Data Center  announced today the globe had its sixth warmest July on record, and the 341st consecutive month of above normal temperatures.
Most of the world was warm in July, 2013, but
as always, a minority of places ended up cool.

If you are under the age of 28, you've never seen a month on Earth that was cooler than normal. Yikes!

That July scored in the Top 10 hottest Julys, but didn't set a record for the hottest continues a trend over the past couple of years in which the world definitely seems to continue running a fever, but the rate at which the atmosphere is warming has slowed.

That makes sense. There hasn't been an El Nino weather pattern in years now, and El Nino tends to lead to spikes in global atmospheric temperatures.

That might be why we're muddling along at nearly unprecedented warmth, but we haven't been setting new records lately.

Of course, there were local heat waves that were unprecedented. Parts of Siberia, China and Japan had their hottest weather on record. And Greenland set an all time record high of 79 degrees in July.  The bottom line: July was within spitting distance of a record high for the planet, and some areas did have their most torrid weather ever.

Just because July was "only" sixth warmest, and not the all time hottest on Earth doesn't mean global warming has gone away. The pace at which the world is warming varies over some years and decades. Sometimes it speeds up, and sometimes, as it has in recent years, it slows down.

Yes, our emissions of carbon dioxide are warming the planet, so the overall trend is up. But all this extra carbon dioxide doesn't mean other natural climate trends go away. The climate always has up and down bumps because of natural changes in weather patterns, ocean temperatures and so on. This variability will probably never go away, no matter how much CO2 we pump into the atmosphere.

All this means that not every year will be the warmest on record. We'll maybe go years, perhaps a decade or two occasionally in which the world doesn't set a heat record.

Meanwhile, I was looking at the Climate Progress web site, and they are dismayed that in their minds, the media is ignoring a link between global warming and the forest fires in Idaho and much of the rest of the West

Is the question Climate Progress raises valid?
A big wildfire in Idaho this month.  

I do like the Climate Progress site, but it is a little unfair to blast the media for not tying climate change to the western wild fires every time there's a report on them.

People are most interested in the breaking news. Are the fires worsening? Has anyone been hurt? Any homes destroyed? Any changes in strategy on how to fight them?

There is, of course, room for analytical pieces on whether the western fires are related to global climate change, and there have been a number of such articles.

Many of those articles are necessarily a bit muddy. Though climate scientists almost all agree humans are warming the planet, there's still some argument over what that means in specific areas. Evidence does point toward a warmer, drier West due to global warming, but that's not necessarily a totally settled case.

Those western wildfires might indeed be a symptom of global warming. It seems totally plausible to me, but don't ask me to bet my next paycheck on that idea. At least not yet.

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