A look at the temperature record of Alaska – any sign of global warming?

The public’s opinion about climate change have been shaped by the mainstream media’s highly selective presentation of climate science work.  Anything that does not fit their narrative tends to be either ignored or shown in a slanted way.  Many posts on this site show that there is a wider range of views among climate scientists, doing so by citing their actual words.  My conclusion from this:  the narrative that “the science is settled” is false, propaganda to prematurely close off further debate and force premature policy actions.  More research is needed — better funded and with third-party reviews.

Today we look at a page from the website of the Alaska Climate Research Center:

{A} research and service organization at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Our group conducts research focusing on Alaska and polar regions climatology and we archive climatological data for Alaska.

The following is their page on Temperature Change in Alaska.  The red emphasis was added.

The topic of climate change has attracted widespread attention in recent years and is an issue that numerous scientists study on various time and space scales. One thing for sure is that the earth’s climate has and will continue to change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.

This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949, the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 6 decades is 3.1°F. However, when analyzing the trends for the four seasons, it can be seen that most of the change has occurred in winter and spring, with the least amount of change in autumn.

Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period.


The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2008) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2008, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations.

The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.


For more information

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts on the FM site about climate science:

  1. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  2. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  3. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  4. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008 – More evidence of cooling.
  5. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  6. Watching the world change before our eyes, 29 November 2008
  7. This week’s report on the news in climate science, 7 December 2008
  8. The Senate Minority report is out: “More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims”, 12 December 2008
  9. Weekend reading recommenations about climate change, 13 December 2008
  10. An important new article about climate change, 29 December 2008
  11. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  12. Important new climate science articles, 11 January 2009
  13. Climate science articles which you might enjoy reading!, 18 January 2009
  14. How warm is the Earth? How do we measure it?, 28 January 2009
  15. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  16. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009
  17. Lost voices in the climate science debate, 22 April 2009



8 thoughts on “A look at the temperature record of Alaska – any sign of global warming?”

  1. I thought the argument was not whether there IS warming, but whether it’s caused by human activities. On the whether there IS question, it’s hard to argue with the steady reports of polar and Greenland ice-melting. That trend is uncontested, isn’t it? If it continued, many dire effects can be expected — like the failing of the Gulf Stream.

    Now, should we abandon all coal-fired power plants in the face of this? That’s another question, whose answer may be, according to some, that it’s already too late.

    When you call for “more research and better peer-review”, I get a queezy feeling and remember too many faculty meetings that resulted only in endorsing what was already decided.
    Fabius Maximus replies: All climate change is a matter of the time scale being considered. The Earth’s climate has been warming over the past 3 centures as we rebounded from the Little Ice Age. Current climatic trends (i.e., the last few decades) are uncertain, as usual (at least until we develop far greater understanding of climate dynamics). The real anomaly is that warnings of doom in the media are coincident with tentative indications of stabilization in many temperature-related metrics.

    (2) As for the polar ice melting, the trend is uncertain.

    (2a) Total polar sea ice area is now greater than the 1979-2000 average (near average in the arctic; above average Antarctic). See this graph from Cryosphere Today.

    (2b) Arctic ice extent has been trending down from its last peak in the late 1970’s, but in the last two years has spiked up to almost the 1979-2000 average. See the 4 May 2009 report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):

    Sea ice extent averaged over the month of April 2009 was 14.58 million square kilometers. This was 710,000 square kilometers (4.9%) above the record low for April in 2007, and 420,000 square kilometers (2.9%) below the 1979 to 2000 average.

    Esp note these graphs: April values and 2009 vs. average and the 2007 low.

    (2c) Antarctic ice extent is increasing and now greater than the 1979-2000 average as seen in this NSIDC graph of April values.

    (2d) For a broader perspective, see “The Top of the World: Is the North Pole Turning to Water?“, John L. Daly, at his website, undated.

    (3) As for your analogy to faculty meetings, I consider that unwarranted. Look at the tiny sliver of climate science research listed on the FM reference page about Science & nature – studies & reports. Much good work in progress. As the importance of climate research increases, however, the standards for replication and transparency must also rise — much as they have in drug development.

  2. anna nicholas

    I frequently get mailshots telling me Vetwonderin is a magic new drug , and should replace Petcurein , which is now proven to be not only inadequate but dangerous . References are quoted . A few days later I will receive mailshots ,also bristling with refences , on the superior activity and proven safety record of Petcurin .
    I like to know who sent the mailshot , and who financed the research ?
    There are , no doubt ,some economic interests slavering over the ‘ Green’ agenda , and the pseudo-Green spin offs of carbon trading , waste disposal taxes etc. But I’d imagine a lot more power and money lays with the ‘Brown ‘ agenda – oil, gas , coal , cars , planes , travel , growth.
    Fabius Maximus replies: What does that have to do with this post? Or with climate science in general (other than being a nifty way to filter out views that disagree with your own)?

  3. Well said, AN. The sponsors of a solution should be considered along with the merits of it. (follow the money!)
    Fabius Maximus replies: What “sponsors” of what “solution” are you discussing? Or is this just chanting “La, la, la, la” in the face of evidence contradicting your deeply held beliefs?

  4. anna nicholas

    I think FM just puts these sort of comments to stir us up and keep it interesting . He is not actually a Texan SUV dealer , but a teacher of handicapped children in Bangladesh .
    Fabius Maximus replies: These posts all cite work of our major scientific institutions. On what basis do you mock them like this? To rephrase this, who are you to be mocking these scientists?

    My guess is that such comments show a faith-based viewpoint. Like Oldskeptic’s belief that scientists whose work he dislikes must be ignorant in their own field of expertise (here), or Mclaren’s name-calling in response to citations from the scientific literature.

    Like those believing in creationism, these demonstrate viewpoints apparently immune to the data and reasoning which drives science. It’s sad to read these, but science will advance nonetheless — as will America, despite these forces of irrationality that hold us back.

    I suspect this is useless, but here’s a suggestion: try reading some of these articles. These scientists might have something to teach you.

  5. See this scientific paper: “Meteorological trends (1991-2004) at Arctic Station, Central West Greenland (69º15’N) in a 130 years perspective“, Birger U. Hansen et al, Danish Journal of Geography, 2006


    “When data are compared to other data series it becomes clear that meteorological observations at Arctic Station are in line with other longer records including data Ilulissat/Jakobshavn, which makes it possible to estimate data from Arctic Station back to 1873. Over this long time period, estimated winter temperatures correlate significantly with NAO and reveal that although the documented climate changes the last decade are dramatic, they are on the same order as changes occurred between 1920 and 1930.”

    The world has been around for a VERY VERY long time. This “artic ice/temp” is a perfect example of what the FM website is all about. We must look much further than just our own experience for the deeper truth in life. Do you “believe” that man can directly influence the climate? You would have to “believe” it, because it is not proven. Accept that belief just because of your own personal experience, you watched a few bad hurricanes on TV or saw some pictures of ice free water in the Artic? You are fed this stuff daily by the new media looking for a story and then some are looking for profit, as Al Gore obvious is. Read The Little Ice Age, cheap used on Amazon. There were actually dramatic changes to the climate before man may have influenced them with CO2. Yes, that pesky CO2, one extra molecule per 10,000 molecules of air, that is what we are talking about! 1 extra per 10,000.

    As FM said, the ocean currents and these oscillations are very important. To many of us, global warming is fascinating, because it is an excellent example of the sheep being led around by the nose, and the sheep don’t even bother to shake their head and say “hey stop that”.

    Artic Ice now: This will not be a story! Just about back to normal level. Some ice free water in the Artic. No big deal. Happened in the middle of the century. “Ice at the North Pole in 1958 and 1959 – not so thick

    Glenn @ http://nofreewind.blogspot.com/

  6. Fabius has a point: if a person believes the Earth has an optimal temperature, and that nasty humans are polluting the climate and forcing the planet far from that optimal temperature, they are like creationists who accuse humans of sinning against god’s creation.

    Earth has no optimal temperature. Over geologic timescales, the planet has swung wildly back and forth, from one strange attractor to another. Polar ice is rather new to the planet, and the level of CO2 currently is far lower than the average concentration through history. In fact, most plant types evolved at much higher CO2 levels, and are currently CO2 starved.

    Once the true believer’s mind is set, prying his beliefs away from him is almost impossible.

  7. mark mcfarland

    Anna Nicholas gives us a typical example of ‘Whatabourery’; the currently fashionable style of non-argument which tries to bore the original opinionist into silence by quoting anything, however vaguely related, as a counter argument – but without even attempting a rebuttal of the original opinion. It can be extremely successful providing that the audience is as stupid and vain as the Whatabouterist.

    FM, I find your notes here very refreshing. There is indeed a considerable degree of variance and period-sensitivity in evidence purporting to show that man is responsible for his impending extinction – e.g the lack of change of sea levels, declining world temps for the last few years, the singular failure of climate to have become more violent…

    Personally speaking, I find the idea that a complex eco system can be adequately explained and controlled by computer simulation to be without credibility. I say that as someone with an advanced degree in econometrics. There is not a single area of science that I can think of where central assumptions remain unchanged from the Enlightenment, yet the science of Climate Change acts as if the diagnosis and remedy have been conclusively identified after a mere 20 years. That surely is historically absurd and intellectually dishonest.

  8. Pingback: Alaska’s climate scientists tell us the rest of the news, what Obama forgot to mention | Watts Up With That?

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