Nature: Spectacular and Ordinary

The recent blizzard postponed my return to the wilds.  I was set to start mapping for a big Encana project but it looks as though I’m here for another day or so.  Being dangerously cold out  (-39 up on the Spray road) I spent some time data mining in the Environment Canada database.  It can be a bit of a dog’s breakfast on there as stations come and go into and out of service over the last 100 years.  By stupid luck, I found a continuous record at a location that has had very little land changes around it.  Most stations are in towns that have grown larger over the years making their data compromised as pavement adds more heat and decreases evaporative cooling effects.

The station I found is Jasper Gate.  The data set contains the lat. long. and using GoogleEarth, I discovered its location far away from a pavement and buildings.  Jasper Gate weather station

This data file contains mean monthly temperatures  as well as monthly precipitation from 1918-2006! (I use an exclamation point though I’m sure I’m alone in my excitement over such a lengthy record.)   From the downloadable CSV file, I converted it to Excel where it’s easy to extract all sorts of things.  I’ve been doing lots of precipitation research lately so I looked first at the big summer and winter rain and snow months of June and March.

Jasper Gate Marc precip 1928-2007Above: March is the big snowfall month in the mountains.  As you can see, precipitation data has a lot of variance to it.  Interestingly though, there is no statistically meaningful trend.

Jasper Gate jun precip 1918-2006

Above: June is the biggest rainfall month and again there is no significant trend.  In both these cases, I got Excel to plot a trend but in each case, the inter-annual variation was as much as 5 times the change in the hundred year trend!  Of course, your own eye can look at the data and tell you as much.  As statitician guru William M Briggs says, before you do any other analysis, look at your data.

Jasper mean july tempAbove:  Here are July monthly mean temperatures from 1918 till 2005 (the station went off line which is why the data doesn’t continue)  Again, in spite of we hear on a daily basis in the news, the Jasper station shows no increase in hot temperatures in nearly 100 years!  There is actually a mathematical trend of cooling,  but it isn’t significant as your eye can plainly verify.

jasper mean march temp


Above:  Lastly, I extracted March mean temperatures which does show a few early springs in the 1980s, but the trend line gives a change of a fraction of a degree spread over a century which is dwarfed by the inter-annual changes.

With more time,  I’ll run through more months. My favorite plot comes last.  I  compared mean July temperatures to CO2.  The CO2 readings come from the Mona Loa dataset which is the oldest and most-used  standard and can be found here.(starts in 1958)

JaspGate July mean v Co2 1958-2005Above:  I’ve plotted what the temperature was at various levels of CO2.  Perhaps it comes as no surprise that as atmospheric CO2 rose from the middle of the century, temperatures have not become any hotter at this location.

It’s worth noticing that there is no giant enclosure around this station  to keep all the added CO2 out.  The atmospheric CO2 around this station rose from 315ppm to almost 400ppm with no effect on temperature at all.

In casual life, we prove ourselves right by confirming our beliefs.  In contrast, Science is about falsification not confirmation.  If you go about testing your theory by only looking for confirming evidence, you are no closer to proving if the theory is correct.  The hundreds of weather stations that have urban sprawl growing around them  falls into this category.  Even rural locations have more pavement than they used to and certainly  many have land changes around them that alter the local micro climate.

Stations without these influences seem to falsify such scary CO2 theories (satellite data does an even better job.)  Data such as I have shown at least deserves explanation.  I’ve heard people musing when confronted with falsifying data that such-and-such an area isn’t affected as much by global warming or climate change.  If the theory states that more CO2 makes it warmer then it must make it warmer everywhere.  The CO2 molecules above Jasper must behave the same way as everywhere else.

The only possibility is that it is warmer than it would have been without the extra CO2 which would imply that this area is in fact cooling.  But without a description of the processes involved in this long term cooling, this is untested conjecture.    If data such as this is to be accounted for, then either we don’t understand regional natural variation, or the effect of CO2 is too small to notice.  Either way, those who speak of global warming or climate change are presenting a level of certainty and confidence that is invented rather than demonstrated empirically.

These data shows me that nothing is occurring other than the  progression of nature.  Which is a pretty spectacular and powerful thing all by itself.





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1 Response to Nature: Spectacular and Ordinary

  1. rainswept says:

    Although I rely on you to do the statistical “heavy lifting” on this issue, I still have a curiosity about the nuts and bolts of your process. Climate Data Mining for Dummies, if you will. Just a thought for a post topic if you ever run out of amazing photographs 🙂

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