Monday, January 12, 2015

More Details On A Nation That Ran Hot And Cold In 2014

A pedestrian braves temperatures of minus 10 in
Indianapolis last January. The year 2014 proved to
be the coldest on record for Indianapolis.
Photo by Michael Conroy.  
Some cities ran record cold. Some cities ran record hot.

That's the takeaway from more data released today from the National Climatic Data Center, which offers more detaisl on a topsy turvy weather year of 2014.

In their analysis, they found three cities - Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana, and Dubuque, Iowa had endured their coldest year on record.

By contrast, 16 U.S. cities, all on or near the West Coast or in Alaska, had their hottest years on record.

This bit of data, while giving us little of consequence on the overall impact of global climate change, does give us a few interesting tidbits.

The data center looked at 180 cities across the United States that have long term weather records, going back many decades.  
Phoenix, Arizona is already torrid, but 2014 was
its hottest year on record, one of 16 such record hot
cities in the U.S. last year. Here, Steve Koyle sprays
and cools down Indu the elephant amid
116 degree heat last July. Photo by Matt York/AP  

Drilling down even deeper, I found a couple weird things.

The weirdest was right here in Vermont. Burlington and Montpelier, Vermont are separated by about 40 miles. Burlington had its 16th warmest year in 2014, while Montpelier had its 18th coldest.

My guess is part of this had to do with last winter's enormous chill. There were a lot of clear nights in the depth of Arctic cold snaps in January, February and March.

In Montpelier, winds were probably lighter at night during these cold waves, allowing temperatures to really crash downward.

Burlington is in the open Champlain Valley, so winds stirred at night, keeping temperatures up.

I also think that Burlington has had a fair amount of development over the past three or four decades, so there's a bit of a heat island effect, as buildings and asphalt absorb the sun's heat during the day,  making the local area hotter. Those buildings and all that pavement also retain some of the day's heat, so nighttimes are a little warmer, too.

The area around Montpelier has not had nearly as much development over the past century, so there's less of a heat island effect.

By the way, when measuring overall global warming, scientists with their fancy-schmacy computers can correct for local heat islands, where they exist, so that doesn't affect the measurement of the Earth's overall upward trend.

Or, scientists just cut out the worst heat island cities, and just use the zillions of other measuring sites and methods to take an accurate measure of the Earth's atmospheric temperature.

In terms of precipitation, only one American city set a record. Sioux City, Iowa had its wettest year on record with 41.37 inches of rain, more than a foot of water more than they usually get in a year.

No American city had its driest year on record. Even in drought-stricken California, some rain in December prevented any city there from reaching among the top 10 driest. Las Vegas did have its ninth driest year in 2014, but that's not SUCH a big deal.

By the way there was no precipitation disparity between the nearby cities of Burlington and Montpelier, Vermont like there was in temperature.

Burlington had its 25th wettest year on record in 2014 while Montpelier had its 28th wettest.

The climate report also showed that only eight tropical storms or hurricanes popped up in the Atlantic basin in 2014, the fewest since 1994. Only one hurricane, Arthur made landfall, that being in North Carolina in July.

The nation also had a below normal number of tornadoes in 2014, the third year in a row with fewer than the usual number of twisters.

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