9 June 2012
The National Climate Data Center made it official today: This has been the warmest spring on record. The folks at Climate Central made me this graph (Above) that shows how far above the 20th century average the temperature was. Not only was it the warmest for the USA as a whole but it was also the warmest for a slew of states. See the image on the right.
You might wonder if this is the warmest spring in say 200 or even 400 years and that question is more difficult to answer. There are not enough thermometer records to go back further for a region or a state so you have to use proxies. Tree rings, sediment core and ice cores are all proxies and the science on using these is quite good indeed. The problem is that you can say with some certainty a 2 or three-year period was unusually warm but not a period like 3 or 4 months with certainty.
That said, the best temperature reconstruction we have is from by Dr. Micheal Mann at Penn State Univ. and a look at that makes you realize that it is certainly possible that this was the warmest spring in several centuries and maybe longer.
There are sure to be questions about the relationship to climate change and I wrote about this for the National Center for Atmospheric Research earlier this year here. In short, We get hot springs from time to time and hot summers etc. This part of the normal cycles of weather and climate. Ocean, atmospheric patterns, and even the sun all play a role. The increasing greenhouse gases (now at 400 ppm in the Arctic) load the climate dice and make it more likely that mother nature will roll a double 6 and have a record year.
Not since Galileo perhaps has one scientist faced such persecution for his findings. Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest for insisting the sun, and not the Earth, was the center of the solar system. Dr. Mann’s simple and powerful graphic made him an enemy of those who found it incompatible with their political views. He has even faced what the majority of his colleagues have labeled a witch hunt by the Attorney General of Virginia.
So far the courts have ruled in Mann’s favor, and every scientific look at his work has said that his science is sound.. It has stood the test of time and if someone tells you otherwise you should suspect you are getting political opinion and not science. Mann has written a fascinating book about his experiences and I highly recommend it.
It is scary how history , that you would think could never repeat itself in this day and age, seems to do so…