Record High Temperatures

One swallow does not a summer make, nor does a hot day mean that global warming is underway… but since climate change deniers in the US made a big deal of the snowstorms this winter, despite the fact that global warming should increase the chance of such storms, I can’t resist pointing out this item from the blog of meteorologist Jeff Masters:



June 2010 features an unprecedented heat wave in Asia and North Africa

A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity brought the hottest temperatures in recorded history to six nations in Asia and Africa, plus the Asian portion of Russia, in June 2010. At least two other Middle East nations came within a degree of their hottest temperatures ever in June.

The heat was the most intense in Kuwait, which recorded its hottest temperature in history on June 15 in Abdaly, according to the Kuwait Met office. The mercury hit 52.6°C (126.7°F). Kuwait’s previous all-time hottest temperature was 51.9°C (125.4°F), on July 27,2007, at Abdaly. Temperatures reached 51°C (123.8°F) in the capital of Kuwait City on June 15, 2010.

Iraq had its hottest day in history on June 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Basra. Iraq’s previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F) set August 8, 1937, in Ash Shu’aybah.

Saudi Arabia had its hottest temperature ever on June 22, 2010, with a reading of 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F), at Abqaiq, date unknown. The record heat was accompanied by a sandstorm, which caused eight power plants to go offline, resulting in blackouts to several Saudi cities.

In Africa, Chad had its hottest day in history on June 22, 2010, when the temperature reached 47.6°C (117.7°F) at Faya. The previous record was 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Faya on June 3 and June 9, 1961.

Niger tied its record for hottest day in history on June 22, 2010, when the temperature reached 47.1°C (116.8°F) at Bilma. That record stood for just one day, as Bilma broke the record again on June 23, when the mercury topped out at 48.2°C (118.8°F). The previous record was 47.1°C on May 24, 1998, also at Bilma.

Sudan recorded its hottest temperature in its history on June 25 when the mercury rose to 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Dongola. The previous record was 49.5°C (121.1°F) set in July 1987 in Aba Hamed.

The Asian portion of Russia recorded its highest temperature in history on June 25, when the mercury hit 42.3°C (108.1°F) at Belogorsk, near the Amur River border with China. The previous record was 41.7°C (107.1°F) at nearby Aksha on July 21, 2004. (The record for European Russia is 43.8°C–110.8°F–set on August 6, 1940, at Alexandrov Gaj near the border with Kazakhstan.

Two other countries came within a degree of their all time hottest temperature on record during the heat wave. Bahrain had its hottest June temperature ever, 46.9°C, on June 20, missing the all-time record of 47.5°C (117.5°F), set July 14, 2000. Temperatures in Quatar reached 48.8°C (119.8°F) on June 20. Quatar’s all-time record hottest temperature was 49.6°C (121.3°F) set on July 9, 2000. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be verified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO.) The source for the previous all-time records listed here is the book Extreme Weather by Chris Burt. According to Mr. Burt, the only other time as many as six nations set their all-time highest temperature marks in a single month was during the European heat wave of August 2003.

Perhaps more important than these scattered jaw-dropping hot spots are the following facts from the US National Climatic Data Center:

The world land surface temperature June 2010 anomaly of 1.07°C (1.93°F) was the warmest on record, surpassing the previous June record set in 2005 by 0.12°C (0.22°F). The anomalous warm conditions that affected large portions of each inhabited continent also contributed to the warmest June worldwide land and ocean surface temperature since records began in 1880. The previous June record was set in 2005. Separately, the worldwide ocean surface temperatures during June 2010 were 0.54°C (0.97°F) above the 20th century average—the fourth warmest June on record.

In fact, the whole year has been hot…



But even more important are the long-term trends…



Of course, you need to read the paper to understand how this graph was made.

26 Responses to Record High Temperatures

  1. Tim van Beek says:

    According to Mr. Burt, the only other time as many as six nations set their all-time highest temperature marks in a single month was during the European heat wave of August 2003.

    The highest temperature this year in Germany has been 38,8 degrees Centigrade (near Berlin, I think) which is a little bit lower than the record of 40,4 degrees Centigrade near Regensburg in 2003.

    …but since climate change deniers in the US made a big deal of the snowstorms this winter…

    Which was so ridiculous that I deemed it to be beyond satire, but the Daily Show proved me wrong.

  2. Blake Stacey says:

    The second link in the first paragraph doesn’t work (the a is missing its href).

    • John Baez says:

      Hi, Blake! Thanks, fixed. I saw you mentioned this blog on yours. The show is just starting… music playing as the lights slowly dim. Wait until “week301″.

  3. David Corfield says:

    I see you use the term “climate change deniers”. Perhaps you aren’t aware that its use has upset plenty of people with its associations with Holocaust denial, or perhaps you know of the upset, but feel justified to use it anyway.

    It seems to me to be too unnuanced a term. Presumably it’s not supposed to designate people who believe that the climate never changes. So then is it supposed to capture those who think that humans have had no effect on climate? Are there really any such people? Or is it just those who think that the human influence is likely to be quite limited?

    Do you count Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaever, Robert Laughlin, Edward Teller, Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow and William Nierenberg as deniers?

    • John Baez says:

      David wrote:

      I see you use the term “climate change deniers”. Perhaps you aren’t aware that its use has upset plenty of people with its associations with Holocaust denial, or perhaps you know of the upset, but feel justified to use it anyway.

      I know about this; my use of the term ‘climate change denier’ has nothing to do with the Holocaust. It refers to someone who denies that the world is warming up now.

      It seems to me to be too unnuanced a term.

      It’s an unnuanced term for an unnuanced position. When I said “climate change deniers in the US made a big deal of the snowstorms this winter,” I was referring to childish behavior like this:

      • Senator Jim DeMint saying “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle'”.

      • Senator James M. Inhofe building a six-foot-tall igloo on Capitol Hill and putting a cardboard sign on top that read “Al Gore’s New Home”.

      • The Republican Party of Virginia creating a video advertisement “12 Inches of Global Warming”, showing scenes of snow and criticizing Representatives Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello for supporting cap-and-trade legislation last year.

      This sort of demagoguery dominated the news in the United States for about a week, and seems to have had a noticeable effect on public opinion. Maybe you didn’t notice, living as you do in England — lucky you!

      Given that these politicians thought a few snowstorms on the east coast of the United States were a big deal, we should be hearing them reconsider after the record-breaking heat across the globe for the last four months. But no…

      • David Corfield says:

        There’s plenty of silliness to find anywhere you want to look:

        According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

        “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

        Independent, Monday, 20 March 2000.

        • John Baez says:

          David wrote:

          There’s plenty of silliness to find anywhere you want to look…

          True. To me what matters more than silly statements per se is the harm they can cause. You seem to be focused on the possible harm caused by people who overestimate the dangers of human-caused climate change. I’m not sure why. I seem to be focused on the harm caused by people who underestimate it. The senators I mentioned are among the people blocking the passage of a carbon tax in the US, or taking any other sort of meaningful action. I think delaying measures of this sort could cause the extinction of many species, as well as plenty of human suffering. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences seem to back me up.

          On the other hand, I don’t think it does the world any good to have a climate scientist suggesting that snow — in England? worldwide? I can’t tell from that quote — will soon be a thing of the past. Then it snows and people think climate science is a bunch of rot.

        • Steve Bloom says:

          Distorting the meaning of that article is a standard denialist talking point.

          It is referring to England specifically. Note this passage:

          ‘Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.’

          That sounds remarkably like what just happened this last winter. Funny, that.

        • Steve Bloom says:

          I wanted to add that the projection of mostly minimal-snow winters for England may be under revision due to the appearance of a new meteorological phenomenon called the Arctic Dipole. It’s associated with the continuing warming Arctic and sea ice decline, although cause and effect may be a little murky as yet. The Dipole has been tagged with responsibility for the very warm Arctic and colder/very snowy northern temperate latitudes of this last winter, and I’ve seen some commentary to the effect that we should expect more of the same in the future. This recent post by Jeff Masters of Weather Underground discusses the basics and has links to some of the research.

          Anyway, David should be happy since he has an at least arguable model failure to snark about, the only downside being a major shift in atmospheric circulation. What could possibly go wrong?

        • David Corfield says:

          I wonder if it’s psychologically possible for discussion of climate to take place without offence being provoked. I had rather hoped it might be possible here, but we’re not off to a good start.

          Perhaps it’s not worth attempting. You’d be spending all of your days deleting comments.

        • John Baez says:

          David wrote:

          I wonder if it’s psychologically possible for discussion of climate to take place without offence being provoked. I had rather hoped it might be possible here, but we’re not off to a good start.

          Yes, I’ve been feeling a bit sorry about how it’s going so far. I should start by telling everyone here: David Corfield is a friend of mine, a philosopher of mathematics, and normally a very reasonable person. We do, however, appear to differ in our assessment of how serious a problem human-caused climate change will be.

          David: do you want to try a thread where we talk about this, or do you think it’s a bad idea? I sort of dread it, because of the flames it may generate. But maybe we should get it over with. If you start by stating your position, it may go over better than your comments so far, which feel to me a bit like veiled jabs. (Perhaps I’m being hypersensitive?) Or, you could just ask a bunch of questions: that would make it a bit harder for people to become offended.

        • bane says:

          At the risk of jumping in prematurely, I think one important question that I’d think would be informative would be “What is the minimum you would have to be convinced of in respect of AGW in order to take the position that AGW-model-based mitigation actions ought to be undertaken?” (which is obviously not the same question as “What would … in order to believe AGW is a true theory”). That might help define which areas of the big topic of climatology are important. (I can answer the question from my converse perspective in detail, but for me abandoning “mitigation efforts” basically comes down to being convinced that any influencable temperature changes will be small enough that large-scale agriculture capable of feeding the globe’s population will remain viable.)

        • Steve Bloom says:

          That would be great, David. Just bear in mind that 10-year old newspaper articles may not be the best reflection of the science, even at the time. You don’t need me to tell you how to look up the relevant results.

  4. Florifulgurator says:

    John explained it perfectly.

    I would add that I sometimes use the term “climate holocaust denier” for 2 reasons:
    1) What is quite probably ahead, this very century, will dwarf any c20th holocaust.
    2) Being German and having had much direct experience with holocaust deniers (of both types explained below) I see much parallels in the psychology.

    “We” Germans can’t be so evil vs.: “We” Hominids can’t be so evil.

    There are two types of denial: psychological and criminal. Some just don’t have the guts to face reality. (E.g. what they believe may be determined by what money they earn. Or, it might be contrary to a life’s worth of visions on a bright supertech future. In the latter box I would sort old Dyson.)

    Others are clearly capable of looking into things, yet produce propaganda to the contrary. This is what I regard the unethical, if not criminal, scientist. The tobacco industry had hired some such “consultants”, and some are now continuing for the fossil fools. (R.I.P. Fred Seitz.)

    • John Baez says:

      I don’t think bringing the Holocaust into the conversation is helpful. The future will have plenty of time to judge our sins; for now, I’d be happy if I could convince David and others that human-caused climate change is:

      1) real, and

      2) a serious problem, and

      3) demands action on their part.

      But I’m more focused on taking people who believe 1) and getting them to believe 2) and 3), than getting people to believe 1) and then 2). One could easily spend ones whole life arguing with “climate change skeptics”, persuading none or almost none of them, and have little to show for it. It’s not clear that demonizing them is useful, either.

      It’s interesting reading the statements that David linked to. Rather than presenting a unified front, these scientists have radically different positions. Teller simply says “jury is still out” on whether humans are causing climate change. Jastrow says it’s a natural phenomenon; one of his publications seems to argue that it’s caused by variations in the behavior of the Sun, a claim which should be easy to disprove. Laughlin says its hopeless to try to control the climate. Giaver complains that climate science has become “the new religion”. Nierenberg says “theoretical estimates of the greenhouse problem have greatly exaggerated its seriousness”.

      Seitz, who really seems to have been a climate change denier in the worst sense, argued that carbon dioxide is good for the environment. He also doubted that chlorofluorocarbons are the main cause of the ozone hole, and claimed that there’s no good scientific evidence that passive inhalation of cigarette smoke is dangerous under normal circumstances”. But hey: he was working for a tobacco company at the time — so what do you expect?

      Among this small and motley crew, Dyson is the one I personally respect the most. He says “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models.” Here he neglects the fact that a very solid case for human-caused climate change and its seriousness can be made without complicated computer models, just physics and the climate record. He also seems to assume that just because models are fallible the problems are likely to be less than predicted. There is no reason to assume this; the problem of “long tails” means it’s also possible that the problems will be much worse than predicted. And curiously, it doesn’t seem he’s done any serious work to support his claim — like publishing a paper on it. He seems content to make brief remarks here and there.

      Indeed, it’s notable how few papers these authors seem to have published detailing their views… unless I’m missing some of them.

      Dyson did publish a paper on his claim that we can easily correct a CO2 excess by planting trees. This is something that can and should be checked, and probably has been studied in many papers. It would be worthwhile comparing this strategy to biochar.

      • Florifulgurator says:

        Indeed, bringing the Holocaust into the conversation is not very helpful.

        When I do, this is to state a (psychological) fact, to stir some emotion, to tease the Ego of those beyond persuasion.

        Methinks emotion sometimes is quite helpful. It can help motivate a closer look at things you love. At least it’s a diagnostic tool: when you can make somebody scream there’s a sign that not all is lost and you might revisit the patient in some years or decades and try again.

        Who still is a “climate change skeptic” today is an almost hopeless case: This is the year 2010, not 1990. The “skeptic” (if of sufficient age) has neglected essential homework for more than a decade. There are some valid excuses: 1) being a victim of industrial disinformation (e.g. average U.S. citizens) 2) having no idea (or a distorted idea) of natural sciences (e.g. economists) 3) not having the guts to stand reality (e.g. parents. Or an Ego stuck in a thick suit of armor – paraphrasing Chögyam Trungpa, “Ego is able to convert everything to its own use, even rationality.”)


        On the fallibility of climate models: Meanwhile (2010) it is clear that they underestimate things: The glaring example-menetekel is arctic melt – something not even biological. This amplifying feedback kicking in so quick was quite a surprise to climatologists. And then, there are feedbacks from the biosphere, like forests burning away (look around Moscow today), outgassing permafrost etc. (Dyson actually seems to get this point, but his denialist reaction is to advocate bio-tech.)

        Not one dampening feedback had been found today (e.g. no iris effect a la Lindzen).

        So, serious skepticism of climate models should be a pessimistic one.

      • Nullius in Verba says:

        “But I’m more focused on taking people who believe 1) and getting them to believe 2) and 3), than getting people to believe 1) and then 2).”

        This suggests that you’re interested in communicating with sceptics about evidence, as opposed to conferring only with believers about ways to respond. (Which is what I thought it was about.) If you want to do the latter, then I’d suggest (wishing to be helpful) avoiding getting entangled in the former. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do right.

        The problem I’ve found is that climate physics is actually a lot more complex and subtle than the general public sees. I have talked to a lot of people on both sides of the debate, and I have found that believers in general have no better understanding of the scientific evidence than disbelievers. The main difference appears to be in how much they trust professional scientists as authority figures. Even scientists from other areas seem to rely more on trust in and solidarity with their colleagues than any detailed knowledge. That sort of thing is fragile in the face of a well-prepared sceptic.

        So if you want to argue evidence with sceptics, you should be prepared to do a lot of preparatory work first understanding the details of the science, and exactly what the sceptics’ objections really are. Don’t assume.

        But if I was you, I’d stick to responses.

      • John Baez says:

        Nullius wrote:

        John wrote:

        But I’m more focused on taking people who believe 1) and getting them to believe 2) and 3), than getting people to believe 1) and then 2).

        This suggests that you’re interested in communicating with sceptics about evidence, as opposed to conferring only with believers about ways to respond. (Which is what I thought it was about.)

        I’m of mixed minds — in my first draft of that comment, I had sliced the pie differently, saying I only wanted to talk to people who think climate change is 1) real and 2) a serious problem, so that I could convince them to 3) help do something about it.

        But I don’t think either of these formulations expresses my desire correctly. I don’t want to spend a lot of time debating ‘professional climate change skeptics': people who have already made up their mind and are committed to finding any shred of evidence they can to advance their case — as if science were a court of law, they were defense lawyers, and carbon dioxide had the presumption of innocence on its side.

        The sort of people I do want to reach are scientists with an open mind who haven’t been convinced either way. I have a lot of friends of that sort. So, I’ve felt some need to learn the science of climate change, and I feel some need to explain it.

        I have talked to a lot of people on both sides of the debate, and I have found that believers in general have no better understanding of the scientific evidence than disbelievers. The main difference appears to be in how much they trust professional scientists as authority figures.

        I’m somewhat familiar with that from debating ‘relativity skeptics’ and ‘quantum mechanics skeptics’ on physics newsgroups in my youth. It can be a great way to sharpen ones skills, for a while — but then it becomes a waste of time. You never convince the people you’re arguing against, but you can learn how to convince the crowed of onlookers.

        One difference is that oil companies do not pay think tanks to dream up arguments against special relativity and quantum mechanics. So, the ‘climate change skeptics’ are a lot more slick and professional than the ‘physics skeptics’. They make fewer obvious mistakes.

        So if you want to argue evidence with sceptics, you should be prepared to do a lot of preparatory work first understanding the details of the science, and exactly what the sceptics’ objections really are. Don’t assume.

        I’ve spent some time over the last two years trying to understand the science… but I certainly haven’t focused on learning all the skeptical objections and how to refute them, like: what to do if someone says Dr. David Viner of the University of East Anglia claims that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. I’ve been trying to understand the actual situation, not prepare myself for the role of ‘climate gladiator’.

        But if I was you, I’d stick to responses.

        Thanks for the advice. I’m sort of trying to figure out what I want to do in the process of actually doing it. It’s sort of messy, but it’s a lot like being younger again, so it’s also really invigorating. I could have gone on doing the same old stuff practically in my sleep — math gets pretty easy after a while… but it’s more fun to try something new.

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          I think I see what you mean. You would be prepared to talk about evidence, but not argue about it.

          (I think the “presumption of innocence” is what scientists would refer to as a null hypothesis. But that’s just semantics.)

          I’ve debated a few relativity sceptics in my time, too. Although I found the black hole sceptics a better case study. You no doubt remember the famous Eddington/Chandrasekhar debate. You are right about sharpening ones skills, and indeed, one’s own understanding. Personally, I think it’s only time to give up when none of the arguments are new any more, which I haven’t got to in climatology yet. But I understand your position.

          I don’t think silly arguments about what Dr David Viner said are what you should worry about – it’s arguments about decentered principal components analysis, failed R2 verification tests, and whether unit roots in time series indicate the existence of purely stochastic trends that would pose the difficulty.

          Personally, I find some of the sceptic maths to be quite interesting, although perhaps it isn’t at your level. I certainly shan’t bother you with it. Nevertheless, I shall watch your progress here with interest.

        • Steve Bloom says:

          niv, somehow I don’t think John will be interested in turning this into a Climate Audit outpost. But even so it’s a good object lesson in missing the forest for the trees in that the issue of late Holocene temperature variability is only important to climate science in the most general sense. Once it’s been established that global variability was on the low side (which it has been, incontrovertibly), arguments about exactly how low cease to be very interesting. At this point, people who remain unconvinced about climate science because of problems with a 12-year old paper will have no problem finding something else to be unconvinced by.

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          Steve,

          That isn’t at all why sceptics see those issues as a problem. We’re looking at a *bigger* forest. But as you say, we don’t want to drag it all up again here.

        • Florifulgurator says:

          n.i.v. can you explain in short what *bigger* forest you are looking at?

        • John Baez says:

          Steve Bloom wrote:

          niv, somehow I don’t think John will be interested in turning this into a Climate Audit outpost.

          I’m actually quite eager to learn about ‘decentered principal components analysis, failed R2 verification tests, and whether unit roots in time series indicate the existence of purely stochastic trends that would pose the difficulty’, as long as people can talk about them in a civil manner and in a suitable place — i.e., in a blog entry devoted to related topics. I guess right now ‘breaking temperature records’ is the most relevant entry, but later there will be better ones.

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          Florifulgurator,

          Probably best if I leave it, at least until an opportunity arises to discuss it properly. (If John would like to. I don’t mind if he chooses not to.)

  5. Graham says:

    John said “I certainly haven’t focused on learning all the skeptical objections and how to refute them”

    Somebody has. The “A few things Ill-considered” blog at Science Blogs deals mainly with climate change. In particular the “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic” link (top left) seems a useful resource. The 400 comments on it give an idea of what you might get if you’re not careful.

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/?utm_source=bloglist&utm_medium=dropdown

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php

    The genius at comment #65 has solved the problems of quantum gravity and climate change in one paragraph!

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