You wouldn’t know it by looking outside today—or even looking outside last month—with the cold weather in full swing in the D.C. area. But believe it or not, 2011 was the 9th warmest year on record. It had been largely suspected that 2011 would be one for the books. Last week NASA made it official in announcement stating that in fact 2011 was the 9th biggest scorcher since record keeping started in 1880.
Adding to that heat explosion, NOAA announced on Thursday that two more extreme weather events topped the $1 billion-in-damages mark. We reported earlier last year of the 12 extreme weather events that rocked the year (and rocked FEMA’s budgetary capacity). NOAA is now adding two new events to that list: Tropical Storm Lee, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast on September 2 causing wind and flood damage across the Southeast and a Rockies and Midwest severe weather outbreak on July 10-14 that included tornadoes, hail, and high winds. The New York Times reports that these two events resulted in the loss of 23 lives (21 from Tropical Storm Lee and 2 from the Rockies/Midwest outbreak).
And 2012 is already shaping up to challenge that. In case you missed it, last night brought about more tornados to Alabama. Yes, more tornados. Recall the tornadoes that struck down last year in Alabama (as well as several other southeastern states), killing over 300 people and suspending finals at the University of Alabama. The outbreak was the second deadliest twister outbreak of all time.
Given these intense weather events, which will only continue, it is increasingly more important that we not only have and continue to develop the right tools and techniques to track weather, but that we also can trust our local news teams to report and accurately assess these types of disasters.
Unfortunately, it is a well known fact that meteorologists are among the most skeptical in the scientific community when it comes to climate change. Think about it: they study and report on short-term (daily and weekly) weather changes. Climate, on the other hand, is the study of atmospheric events that take place over a longer time period (generally thirty years). If your head was wrapped the short-term, breaking features of the day, you may have a little difficulty changing gears to analyze long-term patterns.
For us common folk out in the land, it’s important to know when there’s a bias in our weather reporting. These people are our source of climate news and how to understand climate. Think about it: knowing of bias is very important when considering the facts of anything in life, such as trusting various studies or a cable news network…. Think Progress’ Brad Johnson has done a tremendous job of compiling the known skeptics in the meteorological community. See the least here and find out if you have reason to question your local weatherman.
For those in the DC area, you do. Topper Shutt has been quite vocal in stating his concerns with climate change data.
So as the winter rolls through once again and you hear calls that “today proves Al Gore wrong,” we here at Spinach advise that you consider your source.