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Twice as much Canada, same warming climate

Posted on 23 November 2010 by Ned

Guest post by Ned

Canada is the world's second-largest country, so obviously Canadian weather stations will be important in any global surface temperature reconstruction based on station data. Yet as many observers have noted, the number of Canadian weather stations included in the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) database has declined since the early 1990s.

Is this decline significant?

An answer to this question has been provided by the Clear Climate Code (CCC) team. The CCC project is an independent effort to replicate NASA's global temperature reconstruction using open-source software, with all code rewritten to emphasize clarity. Having successfully duplicated the results of the official NASA GISS temperature reconstruction, CCC is now able to perform new experiments using different data or alternative processing methods.

In a particularly nifty example of what can now be done, CCC recalculated the global temperature dataset using additional data obtained directly from the Environment Canada (EC) website. This new analysis includes many stations that are not listed in the GHCN database. While there still aren't as many stations reporting as there were back in the 1960s, the new data from EC more than doubles the number of Canadian stations available after 1990.

The result? Virtually no detectable change in the observed warming trend. Figure 1, from a new post at CCC, shows the surface reconstruction for the Arctic region (64 to 90 N), before and after the addition of the new data:


Figure 1. Surface temperature reconstruction for the Arctic, showing similarity between results with only GHCN stations (black) and with the inclusion of additional stations (red). Courtesy Clear Climate Code.

Note first the close match between the two lines -- it's almost impossible to distinguish the red line (with twice as many stations) from the black line (the original analysis using only those stations included in GHCN).

Is this result surprising? Not really. As discussed elsewhere on this site (e.g., here) previous claims of problems with global temperature reconstructions have been shown to be mistaken. Satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature and sea surface temperature all show the Earth is warming, as do analyses of weather station data by both "official" climate monitoring groups and "independent" citizen-science efforts such as CCC.

One last point from this CCC analysis of temperatures: it's also worth noting the magnitude of recent Arctic warming. The slope of the 30-year trend in this region is 5 to 6 C/century -- a rate of warming that's much higher than the rest of the world. Given the magnitude of this Arctic amplification, it's not surprising that sea ice is declining and Greenland is losing ice.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Clear Climate Code for both the specific work discussed in this post, and for the longer-term project of providing an independent set of tools for global climate science.

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Comments 51 to 78 out of 78:

  1. Daniel Bailey (#36), Thanks for the welcome! I have been too busy to blog lately even though my visit to NOAA was very informative with regard to what is going on at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere. Yes, I did read all the links on this thread but was not persuaded. The weighing of extreme cold vs. extreme heat depends on who is doing the weighing. Taking the big picture, by which I mean "Ice Age" vs. "Interglacial" there is nothing to debate. North America was a very inhospitable place during the last ice age owing to the extent of the Laurentide glacier. Looking at the present day things are not so clear cut as there are plenty of studies that support Ned's thesis. However, for a contrary point of view take a look at this:
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  2. Re: gallopingcamel (51) Thanks for the link to CO2Science's take on Christidis, N., Donaldson, G.C. and Stott, P.A. 2010. This is CO2Science's position on the paper:
    "Warming is highly beneficial to human health, even without any overt adaptation to it. And when adaptations are made, warming is incredibly beneficial in terms of lengthening human life span."
    Cross-referencing back to Christidis, N., Donaldson, G.C. and Stott, P.A. 2010, this is what they have to say:
    "The need for a formal statistical tool when one attempts to make attribution statements that link impacts of climate change to possible causes is clear. A less stringent approach could be very misleading. For example, it would be easy to compare the recent decrease in cold-related mortality with the increase in temperature and make the seemingly logical assumption that fewer people have died because of milder winters. Our work, however, shows that this is not the case.
    Underlining and bolding added. I think it's quite clear that we have a "skeptical" spin on an attribution study that is at odds with its conclusions from those of the authors of the study. Based on CO2Science's miss-take of the attribution study in question (which doesn't conclude what CO2Science says it does, according to the study itself), CO2Science then states, based on one study, that:
    "Clearly, the IPCC's "very-high-confidence" conclusion is woefully wrong.
    The conclusion I draw is clear: CO2Science should change its name to CO2CrapScience. PS: My understanding is that we're in an interglacial of an ongoing ice age. Kinda like remission from cancer (with CO2 being the "cure"). The Yooper
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  3. Daniel Bailey (#52), You said, "PS: My understanding is that we're in an interglacial of an ongoing ice age. Kinda like remission from cancer (with CO2 being the "cure")." Are you saying that changing CO2 concentrations caused the glaciers to recede?
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] My comment was half-based in fact (technically we are still in an ice age; see here) and half-throwoff-humor. However, mankind does have it within its power to keep the return of the glaciated portion of the ice ages at bay by (in the absence of changes in other forcings) keeping atmospheric CO2 levels elevated. And no, I'm not saying that changing CO2 concentrations caused the glaciers to recede; that one was you.
  4. 52: "CO2Science should change its name" The principals behind CO2Science have a rap sheet at sourcewatch, including a name on the good ol' Oregon Petition. At Arizona State, they did some early research into urban CO2 domes -- Phoenix had 200ppm more than Mauna Loa back in 2000 -- and they maintain a nice collection of urban CO2 dome papers. See the human fingerprints thread for some examples.
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  5. Daniel Bailey (#52), The Christidis, N., Donaldson, G.C. and Stott, P.A. 2010 paper says: "The decrease in CRM [Cold Related Mortality] far outweighs the moderate increase in HRM [Heat Related Mortality] after 1976." This is what CO2Science is saying and it is contrary to the IPCC position. The quote you cited as a refutation relates to causation. Is the observed effect (CRM >> HRM) a result of temperature alone or is adaptation an important factor?
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Read the Christidis paper for that answer.
  6. The warming is confirmed by glaciers all across Canada it is not just some Bugaboo's. Somebody needs to be at the Helm who understands the implications or there will be few glaciers to steer around.
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  7. Re: mspelto (56) Thanks, Mauri, for taking the time to share here. It's always nice to hear the voice of an expert armed with irrefutable evidence. Given that much of Helm (judging from the terrain map) seems to lie in a flatter, more recumbent position, does it have enough mass (thickness) to survive long under the incremental warming expected in the pipeline? How would you expect that to look: stagnation & mass wasting in situ, retreat or a combination of the two? Any thoughts on its "expiration date"? Thanks! The Yooper
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  8. #56: "The warming is confirmed by glaciers all across Canada" Lakes, too. From the new NASA study, quoted here: an average warming rate of 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The warming trend was global, and the greatest increases were in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Hope The Yooper enjoys ice fishing... while it lasts.
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  9. It's fine to argue about which of cooling or warming would have a more harmful effect. However, neither is desirable (beyond the normal bounds of climate variability) and only one of them is in our immediate future.
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  10. Re: muoncounter (58) Thanks for the shout-out. Ice fishing is indeed getting dicier here in the UP. People with more than 30 years experience in ice fishing on the inland lakes were crashing their pickup trucks through 12+" (30+ centimeters for you metricians out there) thick ice last winter. The ice, despite the thickness, was decrepit, honeycombed with melt cavities. Like in the Barber video, to some degree. In normal years, 6-8" of ice was sufficient to pull their tip-ups or shanties out onto the ice. A bit rough on the locals when a lifetime of experience in reading ice conditions is thrown out the window. Even the big lake (Superior) was extremely warm this past summer. Normally, all one can tolerate is about 15-20 minutes exposure to the frigid waters. I spent 4 1/2 hours (single immersion) in Lake Superior on a family outing this summer; it was like bath water that day. The Yooper
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  11. #60: "I spent 4 1/2 hours (single immersion) in Lake Superior on a family outing" Hey, a new unit to measure climate change: 4 1/2 hours on a bath water day in The Big Lake = one Yoop. Interesting article from the Science Museum of Minne-sodahere, including time lapse satellite photos of the lack of winter ice. Temperature ranges on Superior have been recorded for more than three decades. In recent years, the normal average surface temperature for Lake Superior during the month of August has been only 55°, so this dramatic rise [68° F in the second week of August] in the average is unusual.
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  12. Re: muoncounter (61) Thanks for the links. Dunno the next time I'll get to complete a "Yoop" (I was picking rocks to be used in keepsake necklaces for the participants in the 1st Annual Marquette Marathon held over Labor Day Weekend this year - my wife was the organizer and Race Director). Neat video. Strange that it was just back in June of '96 we still had chunks of ice floating in the bay... The Yooper
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  13. #60: "Even the big lake (Superior) was extremely warm this past summer. Normally, all one can tolerate is about 15-20 minutes exposure to the frigid waters. I spent 4 1/2 hours (single immersion) in Lake Superior on a family outing this summer; it was like bath water that day." For having once dared to enter the waters of Lake Superior in the summer (1986 to be precise), I have to say that is a dramatic development indeed.
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  14. In my years at Michigan Tech, I am sure I never managed even 4 minutes, and I am pretty cold tolerant. Your question motivated me to find a new image for Helm Glacier and add to that discussion. The additional explanation is near the bottom of the post. The bottom line Helm Glacier does not have a consistent accumulation zone and cannot survive without it.
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  15. Re: mspelto Michigan Tech, eh? Thought your name fit in with all da udder Yoopers. :) Thanks for that new image of Helm. Horribly clear the changes time hath wrought. The gap between the existing glacier and the former ice-line shows the massive amount of newly-revealed rock exposed by the demise of Helm. Clearly, not long for this world. I must stress that the weather we experienced this summer was just that: weather. It tie in with the other markers of warming in evidence throughout the world and in my small corner of it. But it is a sample size of one. But a clear result of: little winter ice w/ daily temp anomalies running 6-10 degrees F above historical, coupled with little snowfall and an early spring followed by an early summer (believe it or not, 70s & 80s typical in mid-April to mid-May followed by 90s in May with 70s & 80s throughout the end of August, when I did the "Yoop". There must be some positives in a warming world, eh? Thanks, for all you do, A Yooper
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  16. Daniel Bailey, At the risk of shooting my own arguments in the foot, it would be very strange if Christidis et al. had failed to conclude that CRM [Cold Related Mortality] is much greater than HRM [Heta Related Mortality] in England. The country is situated at high latitudes (50N to 55N), so dangerously high temperatures are rare. A similar study done in Australia (26S to 41S) might show quite different results.
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  17. Re: gallopingcamel (67)
    "At the risk of shooting my own arguments in the foot, it would be very strange if Christidis et al. had failed to conclude that CRM [Cold Related Mortality] is much greater than HRM [Heta Related Mortality] in England."
    I must respectfully point out that Christidis et al. concluded no such thing. From the Abstract:
    "Cold related mortality among people aged over 50 in England and Wales has decreased at a rate of 85 deaths per million population per year over the period 1976–2005. This trend is two orders of magnitude higher than the increase in heat-related mortality observed after 1976. Long term changes in temperature-related mortality may be linked to human activity, natural climatic forcings, or to adaptation of the population to a wider range of temperatures. Here we employ optimal detection, a formal statistical methodology, to carry out an end to end attribution analysis. We find that adaptation is a major influence on changing mortality rates. We also find that adaptation has prevented a significant increase in heat-related mortality and considerably enhanced a significant decrease in cold-related mortality. Our analysis suggests that in the absence of adaptation, the human influence on climate would have been the main contributor to increases in heat-related mortality and decreases in cold-related mortality."
    CG, the point of Christidis et al. was to: 1. Measure the trends of the changes (if any) in CRM and HRM 2. To see what portion could be explained by human adaption (if any) and what could be attributed to climate change (if any). At no point do the authors conclude that CRM is higher than HRM. Apples and oranges. Comparing widely diverse areas by latitude is a bit of a strawman as well. The climatic variables impacting the United Kingdom and those impacting Australia as they relate to CRM and HRM are completely different. Apples and breadfruit. In the absence of every variable except for latitude, then yes, I would support your conclusion about the study. If they had made that conclusion (CRM > HRM). Which they didn't do. Apples and Na'vi. The Yooper
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  18. Daniel Bailey (#67), Thank you for quoting Christidis et al. They are comparing a change of 85 deaths per million due to cold [CRM] from 1976-2005 to a change of less than 1 death per million due to heat [HRM]. I hope we can agree that 1976-2005 was a period of warming so they are saying that the increase in mortality due to rising temperatures is orders of magnitude smaller the decrease in cold related mortality (at least in England). Anyone who has lived in England for any length of time (as I have) will agree that a contrary conclusion would be risible. When it comes to adaptation, very few households in the UK have air conditioning whereas most have excellent heating systems. That should tell you something about the dangers of heat vs. cold in that country. I am puzzled by your comments about apples, breadfruit and Na'vi. This is about heat vs. cold.
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  19. Re: gallopingcamel (68) The portion of your statement
    "I hope we can agree that 1976-2005 was a period of warming so they are saying that the increase in mortality due to rising temperatures is orders of magnitude smaller the decrease in cold related mortality (at least in England)."
    that I agree with I have underlined. At no point in the study do the authors characterize the difference in CRM and HRM at terms similar to what you describe. Because human's ability to adapt is remarkable, it would be difficult to compare and contrast properly actual CRM and HRM even within one country (let alone expanding the scope to other areas). The focus of the study was narrow: to examine changes in CRM, changes in HRM, delineate any of the attribution of the change to adaption (if any) and to the warming of winters and summers due to AGW (if any). They did find that, even with milder winters, human adaption to cold was significant. But they also found that human adaptation to heat was less so (perhaps for the reasons you delineate). The authors also posit that
    "With regard to heat-related mortality, future changes in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves also pose a concern and raise the question whether adaptation will manage to keep pace with such changes. In the UK there has been little adaptation to warmer temperatures."
    Future warming (if any, even unattributed warming) will be a bad thing for HRM in the UK. It is often difficult, even for experts in statistical analysis, to make proper comparisons (i.e., apples-to-apples comparisons). Hence my point about apples and oranges, breadfruit, and Na'vi. The further one gets from what the actual study was powered to detect, the further one gets from making apples-to-apples comparisons. It would have been nice if the study had been powered to directly compare HRM to CRM, changes therein, and potential impacts of climate change (human-caused) upon HRM and CRM. Since it wasn't, one has to appropriately use what one has. The expected increase in temperatures still in the pipeline will adversely affect much more than the UK or Canada. But I think we actually have less differences between us now with regards to the Christidis et al. study than when we began this exchange. Thank you for the pleasant dialogue and quality of discussion. It has been a breath of fresh air, unlike many others I have participated in on SkS or elsewhere. The Yooper
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  20. #69: "if the study had been powered to directly compare HRM to CRM," Here is a UK study that seems to have done just that and found it's pretty much a wash: a mean relative risk of 1.03 was estimated per degree increase above the heat threshold, defined as the 95th centile of the temperature distribution in each region, and 1.06 per degree decrease below the cold threshold (set at the 5th centile). And yet the mis-conception lives on, thanks to sloppy work such as: Lomborg postulates that rising temperatures will cause fewer people to die. He postulates that in Europe and North America today, many more people die due to excess cold compared to those that die due to excess heat. And with global warming, the decline in numbers of cold-related mortalities will be much larger than the rise in heat-related mortalities. No wonder confusion is rampant. If you see it in the movies (or worse on TV), it must be true.
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  21. Daniel Bailey (#69), If we have a disagreement it appears to be in semantics. We seem to draw slightly different inferences from the Christidis et al paper. If you are saying that the paper is of limited value owing to covering just one country, I agree with you. In fact I would go further and say that such studies of countries in high latitudes are bound to show what they found. To put it in layman's terms, temperature increases in high latitudes make countries more livable by lengthening the summers (when "the living is easy" according to at least one song writer) and shortening the winters. The adaptation issue is a complex one. Mankind has been wearing clothes and heating dwellings for many thousands of years, so we have had plenty of experience at adapting to cold conditions. On the other hand, when it comes to high temperatures, the ability to adapt through air conditioning and drinking Gatorade is relatively new. Like you, I enjoy the "pleasant dialog" and must congratulate John Cook and the good people who post on this blog for making it possible.
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  22. Re: gallopingcamel (71) I think the Christidis et al paper is of tremendous value, as it documents a unique (thus far) way to determine the attribution of climate change's effects on both CRM and HRM. That is what it set out to do and the authors accomplished that mission. But the making of any inferences above and beyond what the study was designed to do is simply wrong. What CO2Science is doing, using the Christidis et al paper to support its contention that warming (not that it's happening, mind you, just if it hypothetically is) is good for people because it lengthens lifespans (which is clearly different from lowering mortality) is flat out deceptive and wrong. That is what all on both sides of intelligent discourse should be challenging and decrying, deception and manipulations of sources to say things that they simply don't do. But it has been a pleasure, GC. Hope your mission to NOAA was enlightening. Which center did you visit? The Yooper
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  23. Daniel Bailey, Thanks for your comment. This is a great blog as it does not censor non-conformists (such as camels and BPs). I visited NOAA in Asheville; the most senior person I met was Tom Peterson. What he told me was "very enlightening" and I am still trying to digest it all, especially climate change at high latitudes such as Greenland and arctic Canada. I hope to have my ideas organized in a few weeks with the idea of posting them on "Digging in the Clay".
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  24. Re: gallopingcamel (73) Let me know or send me a link. I'd be interested in hearing your ideas on those topics. Thanks! The Yooper
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  25. GC - me too.
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  26. Tamino has a new post up: Spring training's going to be rough on dos' playing da outdoor hockey up der, eh? The Yooper
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  27. Yooper: Didja notice that appears to be 5 degrees in approx 20 years? One of them natural cycles we hear so much about, I guess. Or maybe the Arctic Amplifiers are turned up to 11?
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  28. muoncounter Yeah, not yet so blind as to have missed that. Nice segue from Arctic Amplification to Spinal Tap! Dunno if you follow Arctic ice developments much, but Patrick Lockerby over at Neven's Sea Ice blog just linked to his March Arctic Ice post here. Patrick is explaining his rationale as to "...why I expect the central Arctic to be essentially ice-free by the end of this Arctic summer 2011". Also says the 2011 melt season has already begun... (Gonna have to find amps that go to 12) The Yooper
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