NOAA Discusses Global Warming

Map of the U.S. demonstrating that every state experienced record warmth this year.
U.S. temperature state rankings for 2006. Source: NOAA.

As I noted in a previous entry, 2006 was the United States’ warmest year on record and the sixth-warmest year worldwide. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently its yearly weather summary, including this amusing map showing temprature rankings of U.S. states. The NOAA attributed the trend to both El Niño and global warming and was surprisingly open about human-induced climate change, given that it is a U.S government agency. It said:

The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.…The unusually warm start to this winter reflected the rarity of Arctic outbreaks across the country as an El Niño episode continued in the equatorial Pacific. A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases. This has made warmer-than-average conditions more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to greenhouse-gas–induced warming and how much was due to the El Niño–related circulation pattern. It is known that El Niño is playing a major role in this winter’s short-term warm period.

The attempts by the Bush administration to ignore and suppress inconvenient science have been widely observed. As the editors of Scientific American note in the current (February 2007) issue,

For years, scientists worried that Republican politicians ignored science and were even downright antagonistic to it.

Aside from the attempts to interfere with research in global warming, there have been several other well-publicized examples, including an attempt by a young Bush appointee to tone down language at NASA regarding the big bang (see, for instance, the New York Times article), making statements such as

[The big bang is] not proven fact; it is opinion.…It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.

However, there are signs that things may change with the next administration. Catherine Brahic, at New Scientist, writes

Two strong candidates for the 2008 US presidential elections have joined forces to address climate change.

On Friday, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama—plus independent senator Joe Lieberman—will present a bill in Congress calling for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, industry and oil refineries.

Let’s hope that voters continue to stay aware of these issues.

7 thoughts on “NOAA Discusses Global Warming

  1. Hello Darmok,

    Can you give me some tips on how to explain the results for California to myself and middle school kids? The question arises from comparing maps, as you can see on my latest posting. Could El Niño also be a reason for the cooling on the West Coast over the past decade? If you check my blog you’ll see what we are puzzled about. It all relates to a blue dot on San Francisco!


  2. P.S. I just read that I wrote “cooling on the West Coast” and I don’t necessarily mean cooling per se. What I should have asked you was why California (renowned for being “sunny California”) has not experienced the same degree of warming as might be expected. The IPCC map on my latest post shows the cooling trends over several decades leading up to 2000, and the other map shows that in 2006 CA did not break records (unlike the U.S. as a whole in 2006 and five East Coast states in particular in December 2006.) I know global warming does not mean that everywhere warms uniformly—in fact, this is a good example of that not being so—but the effects of El Niño combined with global warming remain a puzzle to me. This is not a trick question. I just want to understand it a bit so when the kids ask again, I am rather more helpful than clueless 😉

  3. → Inel Those are some very good questions, and to be honest, I’m not familiar enough with the weather patterns there to give you a good answer. If any readers here can help, please feel free to respond. Otherwise, I’d suggest perhaps asking your local university or maybe RealClimate; I bet they’d be a good resource. Thanks for mentioning me in your entry!

    → Jd2718 Actually, I believe they do. Inel wrote a detailed entry on this and included several maps. including the state rankings from last year (still hot, but not as extreme as this years’).

  4. My pleasure, Darmok. I found extra helpful comments over at tamino’s blog Open Mind, which is worth checking for climate change discussions, as well as RealClimate.

    This is what I have unearthed so far, jd2718, as a member of the public trying to figure out the best resources to explain this to visual kids!

    The 2006 map up there is solid red because it is the national map showing the national average. I agree with Darmok that NOAA issue these summary news reports every year, but it’s the NOAA NCDC Climate Monitoring site you really need to search on for more detailed reports—they have 112 years’ worth of data and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is the world’s largest active archive of weather data.

    NCDC Climate Monitoring produce annual “State of the Climate” reports.

    They also provide “Annual Climate Review” with a “U.S. Summary” which is what I am trying to learn more about, and from where many useful maps emerge! For example, here are 2006, 2005, and 2004 reviews. From these you can read that 2005 and 2004 were the 13th and 24th warmest years on record for the U.S. which just shows that the map would have been orange-all-over last year, and I guess peach-all-over the year before 🙂

    The national map (red-all-over) is not visible to me in any of these reviews. Perhaps that was a headline-grabber produced specifically for the NOAA News?! The data is still available in text form, but that map visually hits you in the face, doesn’t it?

  5. Hmmmm…that’s interesting. So the map I reproduced would have been a solid color no matter what? That lessens its impact; I misunderstood what it was showing.

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