Chased by Extreme Weather – I still have a chance to win my Global Cooling bet…

Northern Utah, May 8, 2011

All coincidental for sure, but… that strange year I lived in Park City, UT (a fancy ski town just outside of Salt Lake City), winter seemed borderline eternal.  It may be the times we live in, but “unusual weather” seems to be the new normal, at least from my perspective…

Back there in Utah, it began early with an “Artic blast” on October 25, 2010…, followed by a cold-mild-cold yo-yo weather ride, bringing… snow every month for 9 months… to the point even local snow enthusiasts were getting tired the white stuff when it still fell from the sky all the way into June…  (See also my May 11, 2011 cursive blogpost ‘Signs this Never-Ending Winter may end after all…‘ or a month later, this NY Times June 10, 2011 article “What’s to Be Done With 15 Feet of Snow in June? Utah Knows.“).  It was what it was, the second worst snow season on record, aka “2010-11 the Second Best Season On Record for Utah Ski and Snowboard Resorts“.  Among other motivations, I left the region last August.  (In contrast, so far this ’11-’12 winter, they’re only at 25% of average snow fall…)

Tetons, Wyoming

I got to enjoy the rest of summer on an epic road trip towards Vancouver Island, traveling through some of this continents most amazing  areas, such as the Grand Teton National Park, where I hiked up to 12,000 feet, part of the way through what local mountain guides described as “the worst hail and thunderstorm all season” (blogpost August 30, 2011).

Frosty mid-November day on top of Mt Erskin, BC.

I enjoyed a lovely (and weather-wise normal) ‘Indian Summer’ in the Pacific Northwest, thoroughly enjoyed wonderful Victoria and the Cowichan Valley, among other magical places on Vancouver Island till late November.  A little higher up, a British Columbia ski resort had its earliest opening in its history (see Nov 7, 2011 Vancouver Sun article).  Car camping became rather uncomfortable those last few weeks in paradise…

Cold spell in Iceland, December 2011. Icy Golden Falls.

As they say, the best part of a trip to Europe is the stop-over in Iceland… Its true.  Amongst the nightlife, culture and hot springs, I also got to taste Reykjavik’s most frigid first week of December in half a century…  By the time I left, temperatures in Northeastern Iceland even dipped down to  -27.3°C (-17.14 F) [see here], the coldest since 1949 (see here), and most roads had become impassible due to snow drift.

Daffodils (Latin: Narcissus, Dutch: Paasbloem) in bloom, Brussels, mid-December 2011.

In contrast to the cold, once in Belgium, the same weather pattern that held Iceland in an icy grip, gave Western Europe in its warmest December on record.  It’s the weirdest thing to see daffodils and other spring flowers in bloom before Christmas in the center of Brussels.

But that all changed on the day I boarded for Denver, Colorado.  The Siberian high pressure field took center stage and started to blow extremely cold air all over Western Europe (also flipping the cold spell in Iceland into a warm spell, see here).

Temperature Anomaly Europe: January 2012: like December, for most of Europe, January was significantly warmer than average. Click to access Source: NOAA

Temperature Anomaly Europe for week Jan 30 - Feb 4, 2012: months of unusually warm weather has flipped to cold spell: much colder than average. Click to access source: NOAA

Brussels Feb 3, 2012

Within days, the continent was blanketed in snow, and hundreds froze to death in what is reportedly the most extreme cold snap in decades.  (NY Times, Feb 5, 2012: Hundreds of Deaths as Europe Struggles With Snow Amid an Intense Cold Snap).  Higher elevation temperatures in Belgium dipped below -20C, and the Netherlands saw its coldest night since 1956 (see here), with -22.8° Celsius (-9.04 degrees Fahrenheit).

Boulder, CO --- A record-snow-covered Boulder on my first morning here... Feb 3, 2012

Coincidentally, within hours after moving into our sweet (sublet) temporary home in Boulder, Colorado, as posted the other day, this unusual snow storm left Boulder with “22.7 inches of snow, a new February record“.

Reports of unusual weather, especially unusually cold weather, are coming from all over the world: Seattle gets a years worth of snow in a single day (see here); record snow in northern Japan (see here); record cold in Canada (see here); Coldest day in 132 years for India (see here), Anchorage, Alaska smashes its snowfall record (see here), in China’s Inner Mongolia province temperatures dip below minus 50 C ! (below -58 F, see here) and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is exacerbated by the coldest winter there in 20 years (see here),…

SO… what’s happing to the temperature of the planet?  It is still too early to tell (give it another 6 years, perhaps?), but I’m calling the onset of global cooling…

Beside thousands dying, what's at stake is... my bet.

I stand by a bet I made with a friend in Brussels in 2008 (for a case of La Chouffe beer ;-) ).  I really don’t know, but… I betted that global lower atmospheric temperatures, as based on satellite records, will be THE SAME OR LOWER in the period 2008-2018 (averaged) compared to the previous decade 1998-2008 (averaged).  My friend betted it would be warmer.

He sides with the IPCC modeling that gives much weight to CO2 as a driver of climate change, I give more weight to cosmic ray variation and ocean cycles. (see also my blogpost about that HERE)

I LOVE warm weather, so I’m sure I’ll be sharing that case with my friend over memories of warmer days… if the beer’s not frozen solid, that is…   Only way to gauge who wins our bet on the somewhat absurd concept of a “global average temperature”, at least scientifically (which is still only by approximation), is to do so based on Satellite records, which isn’t distorted by, for instance, the Urban Heat Island effect. Unfortunately we can only look as far back as 1979 this way:

The global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly for January, 2012 took a precipitous plunge, not totally unexpected for a La Nina January . Click image to see at SOURCE @ Roy Spencer's blog: http://www.drroyspencer.com/

Hat tips also to:

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