2007: A Year of Extremes?

dogsnow.jpegThe AP recently ran a piece looking back on the Weather of 2007. The article included many of the stories that made headlines throughout the year, from the Australian drought to the drought in the Southeast US, the Arctic sea ice, and others. The article focused on the extremes that were reached: record highs, precipitation records, storms, etc…

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the calendar turned to 2007, the heat went on and the weather just got weirder. January was the warmest first month on record worldwide — 1.53 degrees above normal. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe’s average temperature has been so far above the norm for any month of the year.

And as 2007 drew to a close, it was also shaping up to be the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere.

U.S. weather stations broke or tied 263 all-time high temperature records, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. weather data. England had the warmest April in 348 years of record-keeping there, shattering the record set in 1865 by more than 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

It wasn’t just the temperature. There were other oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring the tabloid headline: “This ain’t Kansas!”

No 2007 weather summary would be complete without raising the alarm on arcitc sea ice:

Worst of all — at least according to climate scientists — the Arctic, which serves as the world’s refrigerator, dramatically warmed in 2007, shattering records for the amount of melting ice.

…or included the requisite Al Gore nod:

2007 seemed to be the year that climate change shook the thermometers, and those who warned that it was beginning to happen were suddenly honored. Former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar and he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of thousands of scientists. The climate panel, organized by the United Nations, released four major reports in 2007 saying man-made global warming was incontrovertible and an urgent threat to millions of lives.

Precipitation data was looked at in extreme snapshot form rather than an annual analysis:

And it wasn’t just the heat. It was the rain. There was either too little or too much.

More than 60 percent of the United States was either abnormally dry or suffering from drought at one point in August. In November, Atlanta’s main water source, Lake Lanier, shrank to an all-time low. Lake Okeechobee, crucial to south Florida, hit its lowest level in recorded history in May, exposing muck and debris not seen for decades. Lake Superior, the biggest and deepest of the Great Lakes, dropped to its lowest August and September levels in history.

…and back to the Arctic sea ice (with no mention of the record build-up of Antarctic sea ice this winter:

And yet none of those events worried scientists as much as what was going on in the Arctic in the summer. Sea ice melted not just to record levels, but far beyond the previous melt record. The Northwest Passage was the most navigable it had been in modern times. Russia planted a flag on the seabed under the North Pole, claiming sovereignty.

The ice sheets that cover a portion of Greenland retreated to an all-time low and permafrost in Alaska warmed to record levels.

And then it was time for commentary, worthy of the opinion page rather than the science column:

Meteorologists have chronicled strange weather years for more than a decade, but nothing like 2007. It was such an extreme weather year that the World Meteorological Organization put out a news release chronicling all the records and unusual developments. That was in August with more than 145 sizzling days to go.

Get used to it, scientists said. As man-made climate change continues, the world will experience more extreme weather, bursts of heat, torrential rain and prolonged drought, they said.

“We’re having an increasing trend of odd years,” said Michael MacCracken, a former top federal climate scientist, now chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington. “Pretty soon odd years are going to become the norm.”

The article failed to mention that in many ways, 2007 failed to live up to the extreme expectations of many forecasts (not the hottest year on record, relatively quiet hurricane season, etc…). But we’ll leave that to the reader. Here’s to a great 2008!

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