2010 weather in Saskatchewan and Canada – and some thoughts on global climate

Late in 2010 Environment Canada issued its annual Canada’s Top Ten Weather Stories, and Saskatchewan is featured in two of the stories. Garnering 1/5 of the country’s weather stories is not bad for a province with about 1/35th of the country’s population.

The Saskatchewan stories are:

#3. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies; and

# 6. Saskatchewan’s Summer of Storms.

I live in Saskatchewan, and I can verify that where I live had a cool and wet summer.  In fact I have had discussions with a couple of people this year who used that fact to argue that global warming is a hoax.  So why do I continue to agree with the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) view?  I guess it’s because I recognize the fact that although Saskatchewan is relatively big,  it’s a small fraction of the planet’s surface.  In fact I have no problem believing Environment Canada when they state in the article that, “In 63 years of weather reporting, 2010 was the nation’s warmest ever with milder weather throughout the year. It featured the warmest winter and spring ever, the third warmest summer and the second warmest fall.”

Environment Canada has some really neat graphics if one digs around their website for them.  Like this one showing Winter 2009/2010 (warmest on record):

Winter temperature anomalies - Saskatchewan was the cool spot

And then there’s this graphic of Spring 2010 (warmest on record):

And this graphic of Summer 2010 (3rd warmest on record):

And this graphic showing Autumn 2010 (2nd warmest on record):

All four of those temperature anomaly maps show that although most of Canada, and especially the far north, was much warmer than normal, the southern half of Saskatchewan tended to be slightly below average.  This kind of information helps me to understand the difference between annual temperatures at a provincial vs. national scale.

And of course Canada comprises a relatively small proportion of the globe, so it isn’t safe to infer that just because Environment Canada informs us that our nation had the warmest year on record means that 2010 was the warmest year on record globally.  It will probably take the climatologists awhile to analyze the global data, but I am interested in seeing the results.  Who knows, perhaps the analysis might provide support to the theory that the globe is cooling – it must be, after all New York City had a big snowfall.

5 Responses to “2010 weather in Saskatchewan and Canada – and some thoughts on global climate”

  1. Clinton says:

    Hey Phil,

    I don’t think AGW is a hoax, although there certainly have been supporters of AGW caught falsifying data like Jim Salinger (altering 100 years of temperature data from New Zealand which originally showed no temperature change to an increase in 1 degree).
    http://www.suite101.com/content/legal-defeat-for-global-warming-in-kiwigate-scandal-a294157

    I think AGW is extremely illogical and based on an ad hoc fallacy. We both agree that the earth has warmed and cooled many times in the past to extremes greater than the 20th century has known, either warmer or colder. That was well before humans could have any impact on climate. To measure temperatures over such a slim portion of the history of the climate (like the past 100 years or so) and then conclude we are causing it to do something that we already know it has done many, many, many times before, and to greater extremes, is the first breach in logic. The very best case for AGW would be that the climate naturally goes through cycles and just maybe humans have nudged it ever so slightly so that the colds aren’t as cold as they may have been and the warms are slightly warmer than they may have gotten. That’s the best case scenario for AGW believers.
    http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=266543

    The ad hoc mistake is associating CO2 with perceived increases in temperature.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/01/new-peer-reviewed-paper-absence-of-correlation-between-temperature-changes-and-co2/

    Next, the forecasting unreliability of climate models is astounding. I know there are experimental errors and acceptable margins of error in any model but these models are wrong all the time. When known data from the past is put into these models, the predicted climate (also in the past) is wrong. It is a leap of logic to think they can actually predict the future, which we don’t know, when they can’t even predict the past, which we do.
    http://www.ecowho.com/blogs/126/Climate_models_are_just_wrong../-a6bee
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/05/new-peer-reviewed-paper-shows-just-how-bad-the-climate-models-are/

    And finally, the very raw data fed into the climate models is subjective and error prone itself. Over 80% of the tested temperature stations in the US have errors of greater than 2 degrees. How can anyone say with any certainty that the temperature has increased a couple degrees in the last century when the margin of error is equal to or greater than the claimed increase? It is like playing marbles with a bowling ball. You will always hit the target you want. Here is a link to a temperature surface station monitoring site for the US.
    http://www.surfacestations.org/

    Until it was proven that peptic ulcers were caused by bacteria 95% of all doctors believed they were the result of stress, alcohol and spicy food. Until Copernicus put forth his heliocentric model of the solar system 95% of all astronomers believed Earth was the center of the Universe. I know you have said that 95% of all scientists believe in AGW. However, Homer Simpson said it best when he said, “People can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.” First, having the majority agree to something doesn’t make it true. Second, the stat which you have quoted before is itself manipulated and extremely unscientific. The fact that it is a part of http://www.skepticalscience.com/ speaks poorly of the site that they would link to it. The survey excluded solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers. (I’m sure some conspiracy theorists may call into question the motives of the 2 researchers who put this survey together.) Ultimately, only 75 scientists, of the 3146 screened and contacted scientists, completed the 2 minute electronic survey which produced the stat on skepticalscience.
    http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/home/8408-what-does-it-take-for-a-worldwide-consensus-just-75-opinions
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/originals/climate_qconsensusq_opiate_the_97_solution.html

    A 2003 poll by German researchers of 530 climatologists in 27 countries showed just 34.7 percent endorsing the AGW hypothesis, while 20.5 percent rejected it – with the rest undecided. In a 2006 survey of 793 members by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals, 41 percent disagreed that recent warming “can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.”
    http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/home/8385-no-proof-man-causes-global-warming

    The NY snowfall is a straw man. Then again, maybe AGW is correct – it must be, after all the Rideau Canal didn’t freeze over a couple years ago, and I remember all the news programs talking about how this was a sign of AGW.

  2. Phil L says:

    Hi Clinton,
    Sorry your post took awhile to appear. My blog software doesn’t like comments with a lot of hyperlinks and it took awhile for me to notice that it was caught in the spam filter.
    I won’t address each of your links because they are mostly from blogs of dubious scientific quality and I do not care to waste a lot of time a lot trying to verify opinions provided without citations.
    Re the New Zealand temperature records, here is a statement from NIWA defending the integrity of their scientists:
    http://www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/news/all/niwa-stands-by-its-scientists
    Check out the graph of raw unadjusted vs. adjusted data, at the upper-right corner of that page. I don’t see huge differences – in fact the unadjusted seems warmer for recent years.
    I believe that the science behind the AGW theory is sound. Releasing carbon into the atmosphere in decades which took millions of years to form is increasing atmospheric CO2. The effect of CO2 in trapping heat has been documented for 150 years. You can find a PDF of John Tyndall’s 1861 paper at
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/papers-on-laboratory-measurements-of-co2-absorption-properties/

    Clinton, in our earlier Facebook discussion you stated that you never see skeptics using truncated graphs beginning with 1998, but your first Wattsupwiththat link includes just such a graph.

    You provided a couple of links to blogs discussing a journal article questioning the value of global climate models. The article was by a hydrologist wanting to model precipitation and subsequently flooding etc. Global climate models do a better job with temperature than with precipitation. That same issue of that journal has two other articles on the topic:
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a928044622~frm=titlelink
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a928044062~frm=titlelink

    I agree that global climate models need improvement. However the debate is over magnitude, not direction of trends. I think it’s reasonable, based on the empirical evidence of past and current conditions to conclude that the 30-year rolling average temperature will continue to rise unless atmospheric CO2 is reduced.

    Regarding the raw data, climatologists correct for the urban island effect. Of course if they adjust their data they’ll be criticised, and if they drop some data they’ll be criticised. I think your stats such as “over 80% of the tested temperature stations in the US have errors of greater than 2 degrees” are suspect. I have more confidence in the empirical data collected by thermometers in the nation’s official weather stations than in some blog’s numbers.

    Your argument about peptic ulcers etc. is illogical. Science is always making discoveries, and the scientific method requires testing and verifying new discoveries. There is still a small minority who question germ theory, the moon landing, and whether smoking causes cancer. I would rather side with the National Academies of Sciences than with the last vocal hold-outs.

    Regarding the 97% figure, if you don’t like the fact that only 75 scientists of the 3146 fit the category of actively publishing peer reviewed research in the climate change field, you might be interested in this study:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

  3. Phil L says:

    Further to your Wattsupwiththat link that seems to show no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature anomaly, check out this graph which starts in 1900 instead of 1998.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/images/co2_temp_1900_2008.gif
    Full explanation at
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-temperature-correlation.htm

    By the way, you may not be aware that Watts, and the surfacestations.org website, is closely associated with the Hearland Institute. Their two biggest issues are climate change and the dangers of second-hand smoke – they use bad science to confuse people on both issues.

    UPDATE: Typo … make that Heartland Institute.

  4. Marc says:

    While I was convalescing at my in-laws over Christmas, I caught parts of a couple of episodes of Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Ventura. One episode argued that global warming was a hoax perpetuated by some elitist group as some kind of money-making scheme. Unfortunately I didn’t see the whole episode to see how that would make them money. Of course, the show is pure entertainment (another episode argued that there is a plan by an elitist group to exterminate 90% of the earth’s population, which, when given a few moments’ thought, isn’t very convincing).

    Anyway…

    I appreciate the level of research you do on the subject, Phil. I can’t make heads nor tails of all these statistics and graphs, yet I’m inclined to side with those who are trained in the sciences.

    Two questions that always come to mind when I hear/read climate change debates:

    1. Why should I trust scientists less than non-professional individuals? Perhaps it’s a symptom of postmodern thought that everything promoted by authorities and professionals (elitists?) must be a conspiracy and that it’s only “normal” individuals (like, say, the Lone Gunmen, hackers and conspiracy theorists on “The X-files” TV show) who write from their home-offices who are telling the truth.

    2. From a Christian perspective, what harm could there be in seeing the need to be a more careful with how we treat God’s created world? Are we looking for an excuse to pollute creation? Why oppose climate change theory and environmental policy when it will ultimately benefit us, our descendants and our world?

  5. Phil L says:

    Those are two excellent questions Marc.
    1. I’m no friend of postmodern thought, and I think that you might be onto something there. Unfortunately I am really worried that the earth’s ecosystems may become irreparably damaged while all the postmodernists argue about whose truth is equally as valid as the truth of those elitist scientists.
    2. I was saddened by the title of a book I found in a Christian bookstore in Saskatoon before Christmas. “Global Warming and the Creator’s Plan”. It repeated all the standard AGW skeptic arguments that have been thoroughly debunked by climate scientists (e.g. the earth is cooling), but made the arguments in the name of Jesus.