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US Cold Winters Mysteriously Disappear!

January 15, 2018

By Paul Homewood


Bob Ward has taken exception with Booker’s column last week on the severe cold weather this month in the US, with this letter in today’s Telegraph:

SIR – Christopher Booker, discussing climate change, is wrong to claim that this year “is the latest in a succession of recent record cold winters” in North America.

According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the coldest winter on record for the contiguous United States was in 1978-79, followed by 1935-36, 1898-99, 1909-10 and 1904-5.

Seven of the 10 past winters have been warmer than average, including the warmest winter on record in 2015-16. The winters of 2007-08 and 2013-14, which Mr Booker highlights as particularly cold, were respectively only the 68th and 33rd coldest since records began in 1901. The mean temperature for the US in December 2017 was above average.

Bob Ward
Policy and Communications Director
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
London School of Economics


As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, NOAA’s official record, which Ward quotes from shows no sign of any unusually cold winter weather in recent years, even in the Northeast.


What Ward omits to tell you though is that this NOAA record has been heavily adjusted, to cool the past.

Furthermore the record seems to bear little resemblance to what scientists have been saying about how severe several recent winters have been in the US.

For instance, in 2014 we had that notorious video from John Holdren, during which he clearly stated:

But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.

In the same month, New Scientist reported:

DON’T blame the polar vortex. The real reason for the cold snap that paralysed North America this week was a slow jet stream.

The cold was extreme, and deadly. In Minnesota, the wind chill was down to -51 °C. Weather channels warned that frostbite could set in after just 5 minutes of exposure, planes were grounded after fuel froze, schools closed and Indianapolis banned driving. Key crops like wheat were also at risk.

It is 20 years since the entire mainland US was affected like this, says forecaster Brian Korty of the NOAA Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

As temperatures fell, some blamed a mysterious polar vortex, but this is a system of winds in the stratosphere that spins around the Arctic and Antarctic during their respective winters, many kilometres above the weather. There was nothing unusual about the polar vortex, according to the UK Met Office. Instead, cold Arctic air reached North America thanks to a weakened jet stream.

Dr Jennifer Francis has frequently claimed that extreme cold weather is being caused by Arctic sea ice reduction. For instance, at a conference in September 2014, she stated:

The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change may be to blame for more frequent prolonged spells of extreme weather in Europe, Asia and North America, such as heat waves, freezing temperatures or storms.

These are relatively short-term periods of bizarre weather, like the cold snap that paralysed North America earlier this year, rather than longer-term rises in temperature.

Also in 2014, a paper by Kim et al found:

Successive cold winters of severely low temperatures in recent years have had critical social and economic impacts on the mid-latitude continents in the Northern Hemisphere. Although these cold winters are thought to be partly driven by dramatic losses of Arctic sea-ice, the mechanism that links sea-ice loss to cold winters remains a subject of debate.

Over the past two decades, the Arctic Ocean has warmed significantly in conjunction with conspicuous increase in global surface air temperature (SAT) and rapid decline of Arctic sea-ice1,2. A growing number of studies have found pronounced changes in atmospheric circulation due to Arctic sea-ice loss, including changes in the tropospheric jet stream that may lead to cold extremes over Eurasia and North America

Jennifer Francis was in the news again last year:

Residents of Anchorage, Alaska, found themselves enjoying a stretch of relatively balmy weather this past December, with temperatures at times climbing above freezing. More southerly cities near the Canada-U.S. border, meanwhile, sat in the grip of a deep freeze, with some double-digit temperature drops triggering extreme cold weather alerts.

You can blame the dreaded “polar vortex,” a term popularized in early 2014, when record low temperatures descended across Canada and the United States.

What’s less clear is whether the polar vortex is changing because of a warming Arctic – and whether North Americans are going to have to get used to those frigid winter temperatures.

There’s a lot of things we’re realizing now have never happened before,” said Jennifer Francis, a research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

And just this month, we have another scientist, Marlene Kretschmer, saying that winters in North America have been trending cooler over the last quarter century, again with a warmer Arctic the supposed culprit:

Much of the Northern Hemisphere is cold this time of year (it’s winter, after all). Cold snaps have occurred throughout history — certainly long before industrialization resulted in large emissions of greenhouse gases. And as with any single weather event, it’s difficult to directly attribute the influence of climate change to a particular cold spell.

But scientists have been puzzled by data that at first seems counterintuitive: Despite an undeniable overall year-round warming trend, winters in North America and Europe have trended cooler over the past quarter-century.

“We’re trying to understand these dynamic processes that lead to cold winters,” Ms. Kretschmer said.

And Kretschmer’s paper specifically confirms that recent winters in the US Northeast have been “anomalously cold”:



And now the Union of Concerned Scientists has jumped on the bandwagon:

 The polar vortex, or stratospheric jet stream, is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of Earth’s poles. It can expand or shift, such as during the very cold winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, when it sent cold, Arctic air down into the central and eastern US, all the way to Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

During the winter of 2013/2014, an opposite shift of the jet stream left parts of the US with freezing weather and parts of Russia experiencing much warmer weather than usual. Similar conditions in the winter of 2014/2015 saw Boston break its all time seasonal snow record, as well as a record stretch of 43 days with temperatures below 40⁰F.


Yet none of these extreme cold events or cooling trends appear in the NOAA record.

So, who is right? Is it all these scientists who have spent years researching ways to blame cold weather on melting Arctic ice? Or is it NOAA’s temperature record?

Perhaps Bob Ward might like to tell us!

  1. Ian Magness permalink
    January 15, 2018 1:04 pm

    Do unreconstructed records that can be overlain on the type of graph shown exist?
    Or do NOAA keep reconstructing the reconstructions such that all original data fades away into nothing?

    • January 15, 2018 1:16 pm

      Unfortunately NOAA simply overwrite old stuff.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        January 15, 2018 1:52 pm

        Oh for an FOIA person on the inside as at the UEA to store and release the raw data.

  2. John Peter permalink
    January 15, 2018 1:52 pm

    Tony Heller has an article about US January 14 temperatures here
    using the US historical climatology station network showing a decline since before 1920. Apparently there is a difference between this network and the adjusted figures Bob Ward uses. I can’t judge Tony Heller but I tend to think since he is repeatedly attacked by the alarm crowd he is probably closer to the facts.

  3. Alan Davidson permalink
    January 15, 2018 1:56 pm

    Tony Heller at frequently posts graphs showing how adjusted NOAA records compare with NOAA unadjusted redords. Also on the huge and increasing number of temperatures in NOAA’s records that are estimated rather than actual recordings. Also on the remarkable correlation between the number of adjustments trend and the trend of atmospheric CO2 in ppm!

  4. Sheri permalink
    January 15, 2018 2:59 pm

    Most states have records of highs and lows. I don’t know if they are adjusted or not. I do know for a fact that 74 -78 when I was in college, wind chills were -70F when I walked to night class in Iowa. 82-84 where below zero much of December in Wyoming, with -40 being common. I have photo documentation of the snow amounts in Iowa and later in Wyoming. That is one way to help dismiss the misinformation. Photos show what was going on—in one small area, but combine a bunch of photos and you get as much accuracy as a Yamal tree ring, at least. 🙂

    • Colin permalink
      January 15, 2018 5:50 pm

      I doubt if they’re adjusted, as no climate “products” are derived from them alone. For what it’s worth 24 out of US states show absolute record low temperatures at an earlier date than highs, in itself hardly indicative of long term warming.

  5. January 15, 2018 3:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  6. Jack Broughton permalink
    January 15, 2018 3:27 pm

    In the far off past when I was involved in R&D, it was the primary rule that raw data was preserved no matter what adjustments could be technically justified, as adjustments can be argued later. In a litigious country like the USA, it is hard to conceive destruction of the raw data other than as a criminal act. One suspects that the NOAA are just refusing sensible access to the original data, (similar to Mann’s defence in Canada?).

  7. jim permalink
    January 15, 2018 4:15 pm

    They lie, Paul, over and over again.
    At least the graph you showed was supposed to show temperatures rather than the anomalous anomalies. But exactly how did they calculate ‘average temperatures’ for the US? It would be almost impossible to calculate an average temperature for the house in am typing this from, never mind the garden outside. The USA? BS!

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      January 15, 2018 4:32 pm

      I have proved that moving the sensor on my outdoor thermometer by barely 12” can vary the recording by 0.5°.

      I have a freestanding max/min which gets noon sun and even at this time of year can range from 24° to -4°. The temperature in the suntrap beside the garage has been known to exceed 50° late on a summer afternoon and my wife has often used that corner for natural drying of figs!

      All of which proves nothing except just how meaningless “average temperatures” can be and just how useless they are as a climate metric. Aren’t we yet ready to call “time” on this stupid game?

  8. songhees permalink
    January 15, 2018 4:45 pm

    A different perspective.
    ‘The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science’.

    My website is
    “Human Caused Global Warming”, ‘The Biggest Deception in History’.
    Awaiting court decision in Dr Andrew Weaver vs Dr Tim Ball in Supreme Court, in Vancouver, BC

  9. dennisambler permalink
    January 15, 2018 4:58 pm

    “Recently I have been researching connections between rapid Arctic warming (aka Arctic amplification, AA) and weather patterns in mid-latitudes. We hypothesize that AA will lead to more persistent weather regimes, such as the recent multi-year drought in California followed in 2016/17 by record-breaking precipitation.”

    These scientists never think to look back in history. If they did they would find there is nothing extraordinary about weather events of the last few decades and we have in fact been through a fairly benign period.

    How about this for a persistent weather regime in California and how would she explain it?

    “In the Americas, the climatic period 1000-1300 AD saw the culmination of very different changes to its climate. These had begun in the first half of the first millennium; a slow drying that developed over the following centuries and reached its apogee between 900-1300 AD.

    In both California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and in Patagonia, evidence recovered from the beds of deep lakes (trees that grew for well over a century or two on the lake-floor and died when the waters returned, human artefacts etc) show these lakes had dried out. Analysis provides dates for these epic dry periods: between 892–1112 AD (220 years) and 1209-1350 AD (141 years). There were other periods of great drought elsewhere in N. America between 900-1300 AD.

    The most striking aspect of the period of American climate, between the 2nd and 16th Centuries, is the incidence, extent, prevalence, duration and severity of droughts, throughout the Americas; particularly – but by no means exclusively – over western and central regions of the Americas.

    These droughts often lasted for a decade or longer and have been dubbed meagadroughts. Two droughts, in California and Patagonia, each lasted for well over 100 years and have been described as epic droughts.”

    Persistent indeed…

  10. January 15, 2018 5:29 pm

    Current US winter weather looks similar to Jan. 2014

    • mikewaite permalink
      January 15, 2018 10:32 pm

      Indeed it is Oldbrew and the 2013/4 cold winter in the NE of USA was significant enough to give rise to this paper

      Cold Winter Over North America: The Influence of the East Atlantic (EA) and the Tropical/Northern Hemisphere (TNH) Teleconnection Patterns

      The abstract reads:
      Anomalous cold temperatures and strong cyclonic circulation were observed during winter 2013/14 over North America. In this article, we propose for the first time that positive East Atlantic (EA) and positive Tropical/Northern Hemisphere (TNH) patterns were dominant in the winter of 2013/14. The values of the EA and TNH indices for winter 2013/14 were the highest and the second highest for the period of record 1951-2014, respectively. The combined EA and TNH pattern is similar to the corresponding atmospheric circulation observed in the winter of 2013/14. The regression patterns of air temperatures on the EA and TNH index show negative anomalies over North America and the North Atlantic Ocean and positive anomalies over the North Pacific Ocean and the mid-latitude Atlantic Ocean. The regression pattern is similar to air temperature anomalies in winter 2013/14. In addition, the combined EA and TNH pattern correlates with sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the North Pacific and North Atlantic that are similar to the winter SST anomalies in winter 2013/14. The EA and TNH teleconnection patterns have contributed to the anomalous atmospheric circulation associated with the extreme cold winter over North America in 2013/14.

      It is an open access article and places part of the cause at anomalous sea surface temperatures . Ironically this may be indeed related to AGW but the analysis is a world away from the amateur , simplistic comments from Ward . The fact that the current cold spell comes only 3 years after the 2013/4 example suggests that there is a persistent effect operating , but I fear that the trivial response from Ward indicates that it’s investigation may be beyond the capabilities of the Grantham people..

  11. Reasonable Skeptic permalink
    January 15, 2018 5:40 pm

    ….and that is the logical inconsistencies that arise when you adjust data. The raw data says it is cold, the news says it is cold, the media says it is cold, but once it is put into the homogenization process, poof it disappears and nobody thinks otherwise.

  12. Chris Lynch permalink
    January 15, 2018 6:12 pm

    Thanks for addressing this canard Paul – I was enraged when I read this in the Telegraph when I read it yesterday – particularly given the source of the letter. The problem is that too many readers will go away thinking that Ward is the final and definitive view on the matter. Hopefully Christopher Booker will respond in his article next week.

  13. john cooknell permalink
    January 15, 2018 9:38 pm

    It is meaningless to state that a particular winter is warmest or coldest, because by definition the temperature record has been adjusted by making the past cooler.

    This means that all recent years must appear warmer in the record than past years.

    Another robust and reasonable way NOAA could have chosen to adjust the temperature record ( to allow for UHI etc.) would be to subtract the hypothesised UHI etc and cool the recent years. But that would maybe be ridiculous and meaningless.

    The record is just a reconstruction with very little real meaning in the real world, We haven’t experienced adjusted temperatures, we have experienced the real temperatures.

  14. Athelstan permalink
    January 15, 2018 11:24 pm

    WOT? fiddling the data – oh no……………..not again!

    For years they’ve scrubbed measuring stations, dumped data, fixed the data, adjust figures up and down to suit.

    Its all about par for the course with the artists of post modernism, statistical sleight and jiggery pokery is done to fit the meme, ie, man made CO2 = runaway warming blah bloody blah…………….

    And erm anyone can do it and lets all recall how some charlatans disappeared the MWP, hell if they are can even contemplate such departure from the truth, these NOAA adjustments are to be expected.
    What focuses the minds of these soothsayers of alarmism, is that, the whole shebang is going down the chute into the midden whence it came, along with all the other fake bull mongering; acid rain, ozone holes, Arctic ice in death throes, Y2K, man made global mythologizing……………..

    When Donald J. Trump eventually turns his eyes onto NOAA and the global BS industry, they had better start running for the hills and you too – Bob the engineer of inveterate lies and promulgator of the green BS.

  15. January 16, 2018 4:48 am

    So Polar Vortex was coined in 2014 as another way to describe the jet stream. Presumably because Polar Vortex sounds scarier?

    I will continue to refer to the jet stream as the jet stream. 🙂

  16. January 16, 2018 10:18 pm


  1. Global warming theorists are tripping over themselves to explain America’s cold winters – Behind The Paywall

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