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.
Flagstaff’s average annual temperatures for 1950 to 2012. See text of article for data sources.
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.
Flagstaff’s average annual temperatures for 1950 to 2012 with trendline
How are Januaries trending compared to the annual numbers? They look very similar to the annual temperatures.
Flagstaff’s average annual and January temperatures for 1950 to 2012 with trendline
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.