"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Winter Persists in Northeastern Canada

A fascinating article in the Winnipeg Free Press indicates that conditions in the Arctic are not what you might expect:
Prolonged cold snowy conditions in the Hudson Bay area are expected to obliterate the breeding season for migratory birds and most other species of wildlife this year.

According to Environment Canada, the spring of 2009 is record-late in the eastern Arctic with virtually 100 per cent snow cover from James Bay north as of June 11.

May temperatures in northern Manitoba were almost four degrees C below the long-term average of -0.7, and in early June, temperatures averaged three degrees below normal.
I presume this will make the rounds among the denialists. What I'm not sure is what the right answer is. The referenced report is muddled:
"Such major oscillations are part of a bumpy ride toward global warming," said Thomas Karl of the National Climate Center. "For awhile at least this will be the shape of things to come."

Vegetation is also impacted upon by late Arctic springs, with green-up about three weeks late this year. Consequently, herbivorous animals have delayed breeding

"People often confuse climate with weather, and this spring is a weather phenomenon," said an Environment Canada spokesperson.
Of interest to Canadians is the fact that the nationality of the National Climate Center (American) is not identified. NOAA is also mentioned without reference to its nationality. More important is the coexistence here of two responses, which while in close proximity to each other ( 1) it's weather, not climate and 2) it's a bumpy ride ) are essentially different in character. Though the reporter has a doctorate (in zoology) he doesn't seem to be aware that he has provided two explanations that while not wholly incompatible are different in flavor. One could argue that in a bumpy climatological transition the bumps are weather-like, I suppose. Even so, with all the talk of maximal warming in high latitudes, this is very surprising, bumps and all.

I have to admit that the fact that
Recent late springs in the Hudson Bay area have been more frequent than normal: 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1997.
is not something I for one would have expected. I would have expected the warming by now to have outweighed the bumps. So I'm scratching my head about this one.

Is there some dynamical or climatological explanation beyond handwaving about bumpy rides? Would this have any relationship to the sea ice sweepstakes either as cause or as effect?

Update: In comments David Duff advises me to stock up on longjohns.

Indeed, it looks to be relatively chilly on Saturday. So I appreciate the solicitous advice.

Update: Sure enough Morano takes the bait, links this article. Calls me a "fear promoter"; hrmph. And here I thought I was promoting courage and decency.

It's amazing how much traffic Climate Depot drives. Quite a spike here. (Not sure Depot readers will have much interest in sticking around, but have a look around anyway.)

Update: Make that Monday. And by the way Thursday's heat ended up rating its own posting.


Steve Bloom said...

Something to do with the jetstream? I seem to recall it being tagged with responsibility for the cool spring in the north-central U.S. We'd also want to know about the whole Arctic, noting that it's been pretty warm in Alaska Alaska.

Steve Bloom said...

Per GISTEMP for May there was a strong cold anomaly centered over Hudson's Bay and covering much of Canada. Overall the Arctic looks to have been on the warm side.

Steve Bloom said...

On the broader topic, Weather Channel chief meteorologist Stu Ostro thinks we're seeing an increased frequency of a variety of extreme and unusual events due to an increase in atmospheric ridging that's in turn a result of the documented poleward shift in atmospheric circulation. He's put together an impressive amount of material in support of the idea and says he's collaborating with some scientists to get it all into publishable shape. I'd be interested in your opinion on this, Michael.

Steve Bloom said...

Not that this is necessarily related, but this spring has seen a developing drought in the western prairies.

Anonymous said...

"I would have expected the warming by now to have outweighed the bumps. So I'm scratching my head about this one."

Michael, you are in severe danger of requiring re-education!

(Drops voice to deep, growly baritone.)

Be afraid, be very afraid!

David Duff

Michael Tobis said...

David, are you confusing intellectual honesty with "switching sides"? I'm disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Michael, it is precisely those gleams of "intellectual honesty" shining through the fog of AGW hot air that keeps me visiting your blog. I look upon you as the bellwether of the 'warmers' flock.

Here's a tip: don't bother watching the weather or the global temperature statistic (a mythical figure if ever I heard one), just keep watching the sun. He has not (for a considerable time now), and does not, have his hat on and is definitely not coming out to play. Therefor . . .

Second tip: so long as that holds true, buy long Johns - even in your part of the world!

David Duff

bigcitylib said...

El Nino will fix it:


Michael Tobis said...

David, your loyal belief in the solar cycle is inspiring, but a bit confusing.

Have a look at the map Steve posted in the second comment. Please explain why the solar cycle is mostly in Canada. Note the sign of the global anomaly.

Dano said...

Is there some dynamical or climatological explanation beyond handwaving about bumpy rides? Would this have any relationship to the sea ice sweepstakes either as cause or as effect?

The large-scale, macro answer is that adding energy to the system increases chaoticality, and such behavior is to be expected. Whatever this event's causation is, there is no guarantee anomalous behavior will be caused by the same factor next time.

Surely you knew this, and I'm just waving some fog away.

BTW, word verification likes the topic and my reply, as it reads 'spactic'. ;o)



Michael Tobis said...

"[T]here’s a deeper kernel to the neocon mind, and that is an inability to cope with the ambiguity of information; or, to say the same thing, the ambiguity of reality; or, to say the same thing, the multiplicity of human subjectivity. The neocon mind is binary: Saddam either does or does not have WMD. If he has WMD, we must invade. The Iranian people either do or do not support their government. If they do not, then they will welcome American efforts to overthrow it. Neocons find it difficult to handle the discounting one must apply to large quantities of complex information drawn from different sources in order to come to a reasonable conclusion."

-Matt Steinglass via Andrew Sullivan.

Michael Tobis said...

Dano, I hate to disagree or be disagreeable, but that is a non-explanation.

"the macro answer is that adding energy to the system increases chaoticality"

is not, to my way of thinking, even well-defined, and there are certainly cases where it is untrue.

An ice sheet is vastly less predictable on century or longer time scales than the water it is replaced by if you melt it. But predictability and variance aren't the same thing. If this has happened several times it would seem to have a physical basis other than just random wanderings through phase space.

Meteorology is not entirely lacking for useful theory, and the observational dataset is, in the present case, rich. So what has been happening in the subarctic lately that accounts for this, and does it accord with expectations?

I am asking a meaningful question. I'm not sure whether anyone has looked at it. Maybe one of my readers has an actual publication to refer to?

Hank Roberts said...

Did you look at Ostrow's page?
Recently updated, on June 17th:

David B. Benson said...

I recently saw an article about digs in the Middle East demonstrating that the Akkadian Empire collapsed in 2190 BC +- 6 years. Due to a megadrought. What caused that? What cuased the one a thousand years previously?

Asking about late snow cover at Churchill suggests one ought to look at historical records; there ought to be just more than 200 years of such. Is this late snow cover actually that unusual?

MT, I suspect you are asking an unanswerable question. It reminds me a little of the commentaries of unnamed weather reporters attempting to explain today's unusual weather in in Shangri-La or whereever.

But finally, yes, we are experiencing the longest solar minimum in about a century. I'm sure this has some effect, but just what in detail I, at least, could not begin to answer.

Michael Tobis said...

The solar minimum is small beer and certainly does not affect all the years mentioned.

A climatic anomaly appearing once is, admittedly, hard to diagnose.

For one appearing several times within the instrumental record, the first step (well not exactly, but sort of) is to average the pressure anomalies and sea surface temperature anomalies across the events to look for anomalous patterns there. This will give you a hint of the sort of dynamics you are looking for.

It is really a bit discouraging to see how little confidence people have in geophysical fluid dynamics when push comes to shove.

Michael Tobis said...

Wow, that Ostrow thing is just endless.

I think that someone like that who actually looks at the weather in detail every day has a lot to tell us. It's a bit overwhelming but it's certainly interesting.

Thanks, Steve. (I'm also going to use that sea ice slide in my talk!)

Dano said...

Come now Michael. Chaoticality induces more chaotic (unusual) wx. Like I said, the synoptic answer this time to the unusual wx may be, say, a shift in jtstr due to La NiƱa retreating. Unusual wx - heat - in Siberia may be the N Atl semipermanent low staying put. The next wx event may have a different cause. Macro. It's a meaningful question on a particular scale. Not across all scales.

(word verif says 'caters'...hmmm...)



Michael Tobis said...

"Chaotic" in a mathematical sense is not remotely the same as "unusual"; rather it means unpredictable sequences of the usual stuff.

"Chaoticality" doesn't mean anything to me, Either a system is sensitive to initial conditions or it isn't; there isn't a matter of degree.

Perhaps you are using "chaotic" in some informal sense. I think you mean weirdness, not chaos. Fine, but then you can't really base a formal argument on it, unless you come up with a formal definition of weirdness that has useful properties for reasoning.

Intuitively, yes, things will get weirder, but they will also get hotter. If the wierdness outweighs the hotness especially in one of the places that is supposed to warm up the most, there is something to explain.

And just because things are getting weirder doesn't mean we stop trying to understand them and explain them.
Weirdness in itself is not an explanation. At some level the laws of physics still apply.

bigcitylib said...

I would be curious as to how much traffic Climate Depot drives.

Basically, I go there myself now (and Icecap) because you can pretty much find all the nonsense in one place.

Michael Tobis said...

About 25 visitors an hour this afternoon, mostly first-timers, coming from Morano.

I'm sure he'd like someone for an archrival and there would be benefits. It's tempting. But I'm not actually interested in that sort of conversation.

EliRabett said...

Although NN tried to dump on Eli, the pattern this month is interesting. It looks like the Northwest passage might open up before Hudsons Bay. It is pretty warm up on the Arctic shore. Weatherunderground has some interesting stuff.

bigcitylib said...

25 is pretty good for a Climate site. Interesting. I've been linked to by most of the Conservative A-holes. Mark Steyn is about 1,000 per day, for example.

On the more scienc-y side, Deltoid is probably 25 or more an hour, which is encouraging, because Watts os about the same. CA probably a bit more, as of a few years ago.

Denialist sites should be treated as subsets of Conservative sites. There's this vast floating pool of Conservative losers out there that follow exactly the same path through the sites. The good news is they don't really stand in for a larger group. They are all there is. Big enough group for astroturfing, though.

Dano said...

And just because things are getting weirder doesn't mean we stop trying to understand them and explain them.

Right. I'm addressing your new e-journalist mode above, not your empirical testing mode.



Anonymous said...

I am no warmist but having discovered this blog I'll make sure to visit it more often...yes I can tell the difference between intellectual honesty and "switching sides"...

(who cares about switching sides anyway...this should be about climate, not rooting for a football club)

If only more people would allow themselves the luxury of scratching their heads instead of pontificating unilaterally!!!

I can assure you that the other half of the world, contrarily to bigcitylib's fantasies, doesn't end with Marc Morano. In fact, there being no "alternative" theory to AGW, the skeptics are as varied as they can get. And yes I know there are very strange people on "my side". That's what you get whan you walk around the fringes.

Michael Tobis said...

I don't write off CA so easily; that's a different stripe of skeptic and not one to dismiss too lightly.

The traffic spike from a casual mention on Morano's site is comparable to being headline news at Climate Audit.

It's weird and discouraging. However, childishly mocking the opposition is not a sport limited to rightwingers. In principle I don't like it no matter who does it. In practice I admit that I get some pleasure and amusement from things like Governor Sanford's current embarassment.

One step toward grownup democracy would be for us to stop sniggering about each other like schoolchildren.

Bob Armstrong said...

Textbook 19th century physics shows earth's temperature is constrained to be about 1/21st whatever the sun chooses to be ( see my http://CoSy.com for the implementation ) . The sun's cooling perhaps 10c , so we're cooling 0.5c . The very minor change in spectrum of the planet caused by the bit we are adding to the already quite saturated CO2 lines makes an equally minor change in mean temperature . Bottom line , the idea that our restoring to the atmosphere from previous very lush ages a bit of the "green" gas upon which all life is built is having a detectable effect on our mean temperature - is rubbish . To see the alarmists call us educated realists "flat earthers" , etc , would be a laugh if their arrogant delusions were not so dangerous to our economic welfare , and in deed , the planet's agricultural productivity .

Michael Tobis said...

Mr. Armstrong is invited to explain the situation on Venus.

Bob Armstrong said...

Read the implementation of the basic Stefan-Boltzmann/Kirchhoff relationship at my http://CoSy.com . It's now been translated into a couple of relatively accessible array programming languages . Essentially SB says objects radiate energy proportional to their temperature to the 4th power . Kirchhoff 150 years ago this year realized that simply painting a ball white won't make it colder . Venus , the most reflective inner planet , is about twice as hot as any object in its orbit can be simply from the radiance of the sun . Thus it is radiating about 16 time as much energy as it could possibly be absorbing . It must have an internal source of heat . Incidentally , Mars has a 95% CO2 atmosphere but is at its SB/K computed temperature within observational error .

Thanks for the question . This IS a crucial fact for people to understand the level of BS they have been fed .

Michael Tobis said...

Excellent. Venus has an internal source of heat. Thanks for clearing that up.