Random thoughts

Various things that have come up today:
The “historic” blizzard on the east coast. As was noted by one speaker, how can you call historic before it even happens?

Second, how historic is it? Turns out not so much:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/winter_history.shtml
New York and the east coast get hit frequently. The nastier blizzards were back in the late 1800s, when there were less people to be affected. Perhaps back then the people simply called this weather and dealt with it.
I have no objection to the mayors and so forth shutting the cities down. Who wants millions of people who can’t drive on ice and in snow out in the way of emergency vehicles and snow plows? Seems very reasonable to me. I don’t see it as overreacting.
As for winds, Wyoming’s town of Clark has had 100+ mph winds twice this year. It’s not the intensity of the weather, it’s the planning for it that determines the level of damage. (Yes, the town had some damage. It was cleaned up and life went on.)
I have a hard time calling less than 12 inches of snow anything more than an average snowfall. Takes 24 inches or more to be heavy. If you add a lot of wind, then 6 inches can be a problem, but it’s not the snow, rather the combination. It bothers me that people have become so incapable of dealing with weather. It’s not climate change, it’s people change.

Next: “I don’t want to be here when all the ice is gone and winters are a thing of the past.” This comment was on Rachel Squirrel, happiness engineer’s blog. First what is a happiness engineer? Second, why is a happiness engineer writing on what she appears to consider a coming apocalypse? I cannot see how that increases anyone’s happiness, but maybe some people are happy being the bearers of apocalyptic news? I really don’t want her engineering my happiness.

Third, and this also came up on another blog: There are many hottest years in a row now. Yes, but looking at the GISS NOAA graph showing 2014 as maybe the hottest year, I find that there were 57 consecutive years below average between 1880 and 1937. Later, after 1970, there were 38 consecutive above average years. Why were 57 cold years not apocalyptic or apparently not bad in any way, yet 38 hot ones are? I have no answer.
Now, I will note, before someone sends a rude comment, that the average temperature used for the graph of anomalies was the 20th century average (57F). This obviously did not exist when the 58 cold years were occurring, nor did it exist for most of the hot ones (14 of them occurred after the 20th century). My point is that the 57 years in a row lead to no horrible outcomes. What is the justification for believing 38 hot ones will?
Also, there was a run of cold years between 1900 and 1915 where 4 out of eight consecutive years were the coldest on record. That would be 50%. Now, 4 out of 17 years have been the hottest. That would be 25%. While I’d like to claim this means something, statistics are really simple to create and get them to show whatever you want. I am, however, using an official graph, the entire graph (no cherry picking) and coming up with these questions. If one period shows danger (hot years) and the other did not (cold years), when the original cold was much longer and had a higher percentage of record cold years in a limited time, we seriously need to consider whether the current statistics and “trends, hottest, etc” mean anything.

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger

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2 comments on “Random thoughts

  1. Gary says:

    We got between 12 and 33 inches here in RI. For once the power stayed on (good job for a change, NationalGrid). Yeah, it was hardly historic if you can remember the blizzard of ’78 when the State was closed down for a week. Mostly Weather Channel and local tv weather guy hype. Roads were cleared within 24 hours. Nothing like the Buffalo, NY, lake effect storms. All in all, and ex post facto “Meh.”

    • I’m kind of jealous. Our snow is melting rapidly and there’s not a lot more forecast. Hopefully the weather will sneak in a big snowstorm soon! Happy to hear the power stayed on!

      I was in college in Iowa in ’78. I remember huge snow drifts and much cold weather. We still walked to night classes. It wasn’t a big deal.

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