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GreehouseTruth Blog  ::  The heat is on...or is it?



The heat is on...or is it?
Is our recent heat wave linked to global warming?
Posted July 21, 2006 by Nathan Cool

As I write these words, I find myself as merely one of several citizens sweating it out in abnormally high temperatures sweeping across the U.S. like a flood of fire--a bounty of blaze containing copious combustion that's bringing an uncomfortable wave of warmth across the land. Compared to March, when the normally sunny region of Southern California actually saw snowfall, a glance at the mercury right now could convince any critic that global warming is a reality. But is this recent trend in temperatures actual proof of human-induced global warming? We are in the middle of summer after all, and warm days are known to occur during this season of fun, sun, surf, sand, ice cream, barbeques, and ice cold drinks. But is this a sign of the times? Is our recent surge to swelter a harbinger of higher heat yet to come?

The answers to these questions, like so many of the issues I covered throughout my latest book, Is it Hot in Here?, fall under the category of middle ground, where depending on how you want to look at it, can make sensationalistic headlines of gloom and doom, or merely mild mannered ho-hums for those who'll never change their stance on this controversial subject. In fact, in this case, there's a little truth in column A, and some truth in column B, which combined, make an unusual answer, C.

If you were to ask Australians right now about global warming, many, who are enduring a severe cold snap at the moment, would likely look at you as loony. In the past few days, temperatures in the southern portions of Western Australia have dipped to 23°F, and day time highs are only hovering around 43°F. This "cold snap" is putting agriculture at risk, which you can read about here.

According to the most recent climate report by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (which you can find here ) Australia was affected in June by unseasonably cold temperatures, breaking their all time records. According to a recent climate report by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (which you can find here ) the land down-under is suffering from very frosty conditions.

Interestingly enough, when thinking of heat, it's somewhat surprising to find out that Hawaii will likely be seeing below-average temperatures this summer. This is just one of many findings discussed in a NOAA News article published today, which you can find here. Hawaii cooler than normal as I hear my A/C struggling to keep up with the searing rays of the Sun? Is it really Hot in Here?

So as I continue to sip my ice tea, and realize that all the ice cubes have melted in the few short minutes of this writing thus far, I wonder if a trip to Hawaii or Australia might help me escape the 108°F temperatures that are expected to affect the southland I'm living in at the moment. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration I suppose--the San Fernando Valley's Woodland Hills is expected to reach 108, but the coast should stay around 80 or so. Still, it is duly noted that not all regions of the planet--including the normally balmy islands of Hawaii--are enduring the ravages of our most recent roaster. But others are.

According to NOAA's recent NCDC report mentioned earlier, the average January to June temperature this year for the lower 48 was 51.8°F, which is 3.4°F above the 20th century average. Five states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri) experienced record warmth during this period, and no state was near--or cooler--than average. Also, June 2006 was the second warmest June on record for the entire United States. The warmth was focused though on the West, where 11 states were much warmer than average. It's also important to note that five states (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and South Carolina) were cooler than normal for the month of June. Additionally, the average temperature for Alaska was near average.

Globally, so far this year, things have been warmer. According to the NCDC, this past June was the second warmest June on record for global land and ocean surface temperatures since records began in 1880, clocking in at about 1°F above the 20th century average. This year's June was also the sixth warmest year-to-date (January-June, 0.9°F above normal).

Overall, it seems that temperatures this year are on the rise. Yet they were last year as well (and the year before that too). But was anyone complaining about an extended heat wave last year around this time? The Atlantic had an abundance of hurricanes, but heat waves weren't as drastic as this year, where barely any Atlantic cyclonic activity has swirled up enough to action to become named storms (only Beryl so far as of this writing). So is our recent heat wave a harbinger of global warming? The answer once again falls into the gray area where "maybe" is the prudent watchword. Bear in mind that global warming refers to climate, and heat waves are a product of weather. Still, it would be safe to say that our tilt toward torridity falls under the category of global climate bellwethers.

More information on climate change bellwethers, temperature considerations and other topics addressed in this blog are discussed in greater detail in my new book, Is it Hot in Here?. To get your copy, Click Here.