This morning the Climate Prediction Center issued a new 90-day precipitation outlook. All of Arizona is in the above average precipitation zone.
The monsoonal flow will shift a bit to the east for today and the weekend. This means less rain for western Arizona. As you can see in the satellite water vapor image below, an orange knuckle of dry air has moved into the state. Not to worry, next week we should see more rain.
A lot of discussion, in one-on-one conversations and on the internet, about next winter’s El Nino. Retired climate scientist Bob Tisdale has been tracking the development of the this year’s El Nino. You can visit his blog via that link to catch up on the deep details. As of his last update, the El Nino conditions seem to have not fully developed. It’s not just the temperatures that drive El Nino, it’s the winds. Currently, the trade winds haven’t shifted to sustain El Nino conditions. Stay tuned, it could still happen.
January 2013 was exceptionally cold and wet. It was the 16th coldest January since 1898. The 6th coldest since 1950. It was just Flagstaff, Prescott and Winslow were cold and wet, too.
While 2012 was a warm year by recent standards, the longer term temperature trend doesn’t look as warm and toasty.
The good news is that it looks like February will be warmer than average.
Yesterday seemed absolutely beautiful and warm. Back to reality, the average temperature for the day was a single degree above normal. But, it was the first time in January that temperatures were above normal. For January, we are still 9 degrees below normal. There is good news and bad news with this warming trend.
The good news is near normal temperatures. The bad news is that the first storm system to move through at the end of this week and into the weekend will be warm. Snow levels will be high. Flagstaff will probably get rain, not snow. The first round won’t bring much moisture to Flagstaff. The moisture will scoot around to the west and east of us.
The second round will hit on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. This storm will be cooler and wetter. We will go back into the cold temperatures for this storm. Flagstaff could receive several inches of snow.
The National Weather Service has cut their warming outlook for the next few days. Their current forecast doesn’t have our temperatures rising to normal levels. Currently, their outlook has our highs reaching 43 F, and our lows in single digits. The high is near normal. The normal low is about 16 F. This leaves us 3-5 degrees below normal on the average. Other forecast outlets have our temperatures returning to near normal levels in a couple of days.
While not a record, the last 5 days are the coldest for 22 years. I think we are on our way to the coldest January since the 1980s. From the National Weather Service -
It has been unusually cold, but it has been colder. The conversion point between above average to below average temperatures happened after the first week of December. A turn around is ahead.
The last couple days have been the coldest. But this is the deepest part of the could. After today, the forecast is for temperatures to return to near normal levels. If we stay near normal for the rest of the month, we will end up 4.5-5 degrees below normal for the month. This is significant, but I doubt it will be a record breaker.
Over night lows will remain very cold below 20 degrees. Moisture will be scarce to non-existent for the rest of the month. Clear night skies will continue to hold the overnight temperatures to low levels. It’s going to be very dry.
You may have heard that 2012 was the warmest, or one of the warmest on record. Probably not completely accurate, but absolute statements rarely are. But now, we are looking at a very cold January, about 7 degrees below normal so far, and even colder weather on the way for the next week or so. As a result of all this news, I started wondering about looking back into Flagstaff’s long-term temperature trends.
There are two temperature databases I have used to prepare this post. First, I used the 1950 – 2005 temperature database for the Flagstaff Airport from the Western Regional Climate Center. If you ever wonder about an Arizona location’s climate data, give their site a glance. Second, I used the Preliminary Monthly Climate Report from the National Weather Service’s Flagstaff Climate page. However, you will notice that this database only goes back to 2008. I have downloaded and recorded their data back to 2004. For 2004 and 2005, the databases are closely matched.
I looked at the annual average temperature from both datasets. Here is the resulting graph.
First, 2012 wasn’t the warmest year during this time. It’s the fourth warmest according to these temperature records. When I look at this data, it seems that the temperature trend for the last 20 years have been fairly constant. Also, the first 20 years of this record seem fairly constant. I applied a 3rd degree polynomial trend line to this data using Microsoft Excel’s function. This produces an interesting result.
How are Januaries trending compared to the annual numbers? They look very similar to the annual temperatures.
The year to year variability is roughly on the same scale as any long-term trend. In the past, I have written about the concerns that many solar science experts have about the current and future solar cycles. The current cycle has had a lower than expected level of activity and a much decrease. Predictions for the next two cycles are for weaker conditions. This could result in a 30-50 year cooling trend for everyone, including us. Which will win, anthropogenic global warming or a cold star?
Looks more and more like we could get more than a couple of inches of snow over the next few days. It will be windy and much cooler. If you need to do anything outdoors, do it today.
In the last month or so, there have been 3, maybe 4, significant event reports.
First, while we enjoyed a beautiful and warm September, the El Nino which had built in the Pacific vaporized. Since the oceans cool by evaporative processes, using the word “vaporized” isn’t a stretch. See the sea surface temperature animation below. This could be insignificant.
Second, record low amounts of Arctic sea ice occurred in September. Third, record high amounts of Antarctic sea ice occurred in September. Keep in mind that the total sea ice for Antarctica is smaller because of the land mass that covers so much of the South Pole. See image below.
Fourth, the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, reports that global warming stopped nearly 16 years ago. See image below.
In the mean time, we have more beautiful weather ahead.
One of the curiosities about weather data is the difference between misreported highs and misreported lows. Quillayute logged a record temperature this week on Tuesday. I blogged about it this in a earlier post. I should have suspected something. Its reported daily high came at 12:15 am. It is totally possible for temperatures to drop through the night and not recover the next day. But according to the thermometer at Quillayute Airport in Washington State, it was 34 degrees 15 minutes before and after.
I tried to find a blog post about temperature measurements that go awry from another site. I couldn’t find the more comprehensive article I wanted, but this will do: Watts Up With Nuuk? Goofy things happen in the measurement and reporting of data. Oddly, most errors result in elevated temperature measurements. Manually entered data ends up missing minus signs for negative temperatures. Heat sources like trucks are parked nearby. Occassionally a tree is planted nearby and slowly grows to shade the station. For the United States, this has been documented very well at SurfaceStations.org.
I looked for images of the weather station at Quillayute to see if the siting would have made it susceptible to errors from jet blast or other sources. A similar event happened on January 23, 2012.
December’s record had a downward spike. There are lots of data missing for the station. The good news is that it looks like someone is removing the bad data from the record before making the official record. The bad news is that the station is probably failing. This station isn’t part of the official climate data network in the US. But there are lots of other stations that have similar issues. Take a look at SurfacesStations.org.