The National Climatic Data Center has finished processing the rankings for Boreal Fall 2011 for the lower 48 states. So, for everyone who participated in my little contest, the lottery numbers were: 97/85/93 with an overall "power-ball" ranking for the season of 102. The data can be found at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2011/11
The winner was Florida Girl, who came closest to picking the correct numbers. Her picks were 90/86/94.
Well, my picks were too low. I wasn't trying to "sand-bag", but truly trying to make a forecast, which underestimated the overall warmth of the season. My ranking climate lottery forecast picks were 75/68/32 for SEP/OCT/NOV. What's alarming is that everyone who played the Climate Lottery (just for fun) had picks that were lower than what verified. Not even my predicted "cooling trend" verified. The season, as a whole, was above long term averages with no individual months below average; and thus, having above average rankings. I'll stress again that for an area of the globe the size of the continental United States it is becoming unlikely that temperature averages for an entire season will be below average, although at a state level there remains a lot of variability. In the future only volcanic eruptions might cool the planet off enough in order for entire seasons or years to be below average. I'll have more about that later in this post.
Here's a breakdown of the National Climatic Center's ranking numbers for each month of the fall:
In September the overall ranking for the lower 48 states was 97 (out of 117):
The ridge that produced the extensive heat wave in the Southern Plains and Texas over the summer retrograded to the West Coast during September, which allowed the heat wave to break. Those of you living in Mississippi and Missouri saw some relatively cool weather, while those of you living in Portland and Seattle had a toasty late summer, even though the bulk of the Pacific Northwest's conditions during the summer were cool. Overall though, September was much warmer than average for the entire contiguous United States.
In October the overall ranking for the lower 48 states was 85 (out of 117).
In October the western upper ridge remained in place from September. Colder than average air masses continued to penetrate the Southeast where below average temperatures were predominant, but the air masses weren't cold enough to give the northern tier of states colder than average conditions for the lower 48 states. Once again, the Climate Dice came up red in October.
In November the overall ranking for the lower 48 states was 93 (out of 117).
The overall ranking for boreal fall was 102 (the 16th warmest fall out of 117 on record).
The pattern reversed in November with the jet stream digging into the West where below average temperatures occurred. There was a lot of warmth in the East, however. The climate dice came up very red in the Northeast. The Hudson Bay low, which typically starts to form during the middle of the fall, is only now beginning to form in early December, but this feature is still centered, for the most part, north of the bay. The Hudson Bay low funnels polar air masses southward into the lower 48 states from mid-fall into winter. Another reason why the fall was mild was the fact that the North Atlantic Oscillation has been in a positive phase since August. Of course, the warming trend is due to increasing carbon dioxide interacting with the overall weather pattern to produce above average conditions. The warming trend has been so stark over the last decade that weather patterns have to be in nearly total alignment for the climate deck to be stacked towards cold conditions for an entire season.
It will be interesting to see if the overall warmer than average trend continues into boreal winter 2011/2012 in light of the fact that the last two winters have been cold for most of the United States. The biggest factor for the boreal winter of 2010/2011 being cold was a persistent negative North Atlantic Oscillation. The NAO remains positive in December 2011 as of this post, but will it remain positive all winter long? I'll ask everyone to come up with their picks for boreal winter along with a "power ball" number for the overall ranking of the season. This time around the highest possible rankings would be 117/118/118 for DEC/JAN/FEB with an overall seasonal ranking of 118 since there will be another year added to NCDC's statistics starting with January 2012. The coldest possible rankings would be 1/1/1/ for DEC/JAN/FEB with an overall seasonal ranking of 1. Just for kicks and grins, also try to guess the overall ranking for 2011. That number should be from 1 to 117; but here's a hint...It will be on the warm side. I'll judge who the winner is for the second contests from those who reply before midnight on 1/1/12. Again, you will need to hit the reply button at the end of the blog to make any picks. I'm not going to make any educated guesses this time in order not to prejudice picks.
You may ask why I am writing in this motif? The short answer is that as long as carbon is being pumped into the atmosphere, humanity is "gambling" with its future. I'm not the only person writing in the "gambling" motif when referring to the overall warming trend of the planet. Someone with far better credentials than little ole' me, Dr. Jim Hanson, has also put out an article recently, which is linked here:
In the article Dr. Hanson links global warming to the Texas heat wave of 2011.
Some of you asked why I didn't show rankings in the blog Climate Dice Two before 1980. Well, I was trying to be brief by just introducing the National Climatic Data Center's ranking concept. Also, people were wondering about my take on different variables in association with global warming. The following is the full Monty with all of the data since 1900 and a brief history of the ups and downs of climate changes and trends of the 20th century. To make the charts easier to follow trends, I've continued to color code the warm months and years in red (those that have rankings above 69) and color coded the cold months and years in blue (those that have rankings below 48). The near average months are shaded in black (+ 10 or -- 10 from the average value of 58.5).
The link for the National Climatic Data Center's Climate at a Glance Site where the rankings are archived is: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/cag3.html
The following are the rankings so far for the 2010's:
So far, the rankings for this decade are very similar to those of the 2000's.
The 2000's was the warmest decade since 1900. The rankings for individual months and years have verified the warming trend predicted by climate models; however, there continues to by enough individual cooler than average months into this decade to fuel the criticism of skeptics.
Notice that rankings did become more blue or black in 2008 and 2009. The planet and United States did cool off some due to a strong solar minimum that took place after 2007. Warming did occur after 2009 once the next solar cycle ramped up, which was correctly forecast by NASA. Solar irradiance is a minor factor, which will slightly affect the overall warming trend of the planet. (For more information see Dr. James Hansen's book Storms of My Grandchildren pages 103 through 107.)
The warming trend continued from the 1980's with one notable exception. In June 1991 Mount Pinatubo erupted. Roughly a year later, after Pinatubo's particulates mixed into the atmosphere worldwide, temperatures got noticeable colder. Note that rankings for the United States were, for the most part, below average from June 1992 to February 1994. The eruption was strong enough to temporarily cool the planet for a couple of years once associated aerosols mixed into the atmosphere. Volcanoes are the only natural variable which will temporarily cool the planet down significantly for a few years depending upon the size and location of the eruption. (Source: The Weather of the Future by Dr. Heidi Cullen pages 41 and 42.)
Another natural factor is the El Nino/La Nina Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which can either warm or cool global averages. For example, the strongest El Nino in recorded history began in the spring of 1997 and lasted well into 1998. Worldwide averages spiked in 1997. The subsequent leveling off of global averages until 2005 became a point for contrarians to argue that the planet was not warming due to carbon pollution, but the cooling was due to the end of the strong El Nino. Note that rankings in the U.S. were very red in 1998.
After several relatively cold decades a warming trend commenced during the 1980's. The summers of 1980 and 1988 were particularly hot. Dr. James Hanson gave his testimony before Congress warning of the dangers of carbon emissions in the hot summer of 1988.
The 1960's and 1970s's were two of the colder decades of the 20th century for the U.S. It was during the 1970's that some climate scientists were thinking that the world was headed towards a new ice age. After doing more research climate scientists changed their minds and correctly forecast a warming trend for the late 2oth century.
Climate scientist suspect that aerosols from industrial pollution were a major contributing factor to a slow decline in temperature averages from the 1940's through the 1970's, which offset warming by carbon pollution. (See Dr. James Hanson's book Storms of My Grandchildren pages 99-101.) After most industrial countries began to utilize cleaner factories after the 1960's and 1970's the effects of carbon became the dominant factor for controlling the planet's temperature trends towards more warmth. Also, carbon was steadily increasing in the atmosphere during the middle of the 20th century. The reason for the temperature trend from the 1940's through the 1970's is further complicated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Atlantic Decadal Oscillation. There is a debate in climate science as to how much of a role both factors played into the cooling trend of the middle part of the 20th century.
The 1930's was arguable the warmest decade of the 20th Century for the United States, but the warmth of that decade was similar to that of the 1990's. The famous Dust Bowl occurred during the hot summers between 1933 and 1936.
There is also a debate among climate scientists that a warming trend had already commenced due to carbon release by the Industrial Revolution well before the start of the 20th century. The planet could have come out of what is described as the Little Ice Age due to increased carbon in the atmosphere. There was a warming trend from the dawn of the 20th century through the 1930's.
Well, that's about it this go-round. You can check any picks for each individual month of winter around the 8th of the following month. I will post the verification in "Climate Lottery - Ranking Numbers for Boreal Winter 2011/2012" around March 10th, 2012. Have a great winter and stay warm. Yes, there will be cold periods even if we have an overall mild winter across the United States.
Guy Walton, Lead Forecaster, The Weather Channel