Announcing the 1st Place Winner of the WUWT Essay Contest, Student Division

After an arduous judging process, we have selected a first and second place winner. We received over 20 submissions, but because some essays didn’t meet the criteria for what would be considered an essay of “original work,” there were 19 valid entries to the contest. We received entries from the USA, Canada, Britain, and Australia.

I commend everyone who submitted an essay. All were read and appreciated, and it was very difficult to choose a winner as final scoring had some ties, and required a second round of scoring, which caused a week of delay.

The first place winner is a college student in Alberta, Canada, and the second place winner is a student in Tennessee, USA. As we noted in the contest announcement/rules, students had the option to remain anonymous due to the fact that some school systems and universities are openly hostile to the idea of climate skepticism. Both winners have been vetted to verify their identity.

Below is the first place essay from, Canada. The second place winner will be published in the next few days.


Choosing the Baseline Reference Period

Author wishes to remain anonymous,

The convention when calculating an anomaly is to select a 30-year period to serve as the baseline, against which to calculate the temperature anomaly (or residual in ‘statistics speak’). In practical terms, the handiest reference point would be a timeframe where there was little to no industrial activity (i.e., GHG emissions low), but there were actual temperature data being collected. The timeframe I would propose for this analysis would be the 30-year period spanning January 1890 to December 1919, inclusive. There are a few good reasons why this timeframe works well for this purpose, but most imporantly:

  1. All of Canada’s provinces and territories had been settled, and all contemporary or future provincial/territorial capital cities had been established;
  2. This period long precedes the widespread extraction of carbonaceous fuels in Canada and industrial activity was confined to Southern Ontario;
  3. It precedes the sudden upward trend in atmospheric CO2 seen in the mid to late 1950’s
  4. Relatively accurate and standardized temperature records were being kept that were generally representative of all inhabited regions (Table 1).

Table 1. Number of sites (and percentage of total) reporting homogenized monthly mean temperatures for the years 1890, 1920 and 2021. (Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada)

Year Pacific coast (BC) Prairie Provinces Central Canada Maritimes Northern Canada Total
1890 4 (6%) 16 (25%) 33 (52%) 10 (16%) 0 (0%) 63
1920 54 (19%) 87 (31%) 104 (37%) 32 (11%) 7 (2%) 284
2021 91 (16%) 146 (26%) 180 (32%) 61 (11%) 77 (14%) 555

The data

The temperature data (in degrees celcius) used in my analysis are adjusted homogenized mean monthly temperatures that are available from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website[1]. One of the nice things about these data, is that a single mean temperature is reported for sites where multiple stations are present. In other words, the mean monthly temperature for Toronto, Ontario (population ~ 2.8 million) is weighted the same as Gjoa Haven, Nunavut (population ~ 1350). This feature likely mitigates against undue influence of the urban heat island effect.

Analysis methodology

Since Canada is a big place, it is probably useful to break things down by region. As such, I will present the historical temperature trends for the Pacific Coast (BC), the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba), central Canada (Ontario and Quebec), the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island), and the North (Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories). Doing so should maximize our ability to resolve the signal from the noise.

My first step was to calculate the baseline average temperature for each region in each month for the 30 years spanning 1890 to 1919 (Table 2). Next, I calculated the regional mean temperature for each month from 1920-2021 and then converted this to an anomaly by subtracting the respective baseline average temperature for that month.

Table 2. Average temperature (°C) in each month for each Canadian region, 1890-1919 reference period.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Pacific Coast -4.5 -2.4 1.4 6.2 10.3 13.3 16.1 15.8 11.5 7.0 1.4 -1.9
Prairies -16.2 -14.8 -7.7 3.2 9.3 14.1 16.9 15.5 10.4 4.3 -5.2 -11.3
Central -9.7 -10.2 -4.1 4.1 10.7 16.3 19.1 17.7 13.9 7.6 0.3 -6.8
Maritimes -7.5 -7.9 -3.3 2.3 7.8 12.4 16.6 16.4 12.7 7.6 1.8 -4.5
North -29.4 -25.5 -18.2 -4.4 5.2 11.6 14.6 12.6 6.2 -2.5 -16.3 -23.3

To keep things accessible to the largest possible audience, rather that loading up on fancy statistics, the temperature anomaly graphs include dashed lines representing +/- 2 standard deviations from the mean anomaly. Statistically, if temperature anomalies are normally distributed, about 95% of the observed values should fall within this range. Any beyond this would be ‘extreme’ values.

The way I will proceed will be to use these data to consider certain key claims. More specifically, I will show you what I’ve found, provide my two cents on what it looks like to me, and then leave it to you to determine whether you agree or not.

Claim 1: Canada is in the midst of an ‘unprecedented’ warming trend

Do historical climate data actually support the claim that Canada is experiencing unprecedented warming? The following figures show the temperature anomaly (1890-1919 reference) since 1950 in 4 of the 5 regions (we’ll save the north for the next section).

Figure 1. Temperature anomaly (°C) Pacific coast of Canada relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1950-present.

Figure 2. Temperature anomaly (°C) in the Prairie provinces of Canada relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1950-present.

Figure 3. Temperature anomaly (°C) in Ontario and Quebec relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1950-present.

Figure 4. Temperature anomaly (°C) in the Atlantic Maritime provinces of Canada relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1950-present. 

There’s a couple of common themes to all 4 of these above regions. First, the long-term trend in the temperature anomaly has stayed remarkably consistent over the past 70 years. Second, in virtually all of the cases where the measured temperature anomaly falls outside the 95% confidence interval, it is during the months of December through February. In other words, spring, summer and fall in Canada have stayed remarkably stable over the past 70 years. Cooling or warming trends therefore seem to ultimately be the result of unusually cold or warm months during the winter. On this basis, I would argue that the claim that Canada is experiencing unprecedented warming is not supported by historical climate data. In fact, it isn’t even clear that there is any significant warming at all.

Next, let’s look at a specific claim made about Canada’s north.

Claim 2: The north is warming disproportionately faster than anywhere else

A recent report from the Government of Canada[2] claims that our artic region is warming at about 2 to 4 times the rate as the rest of the world. There are all sorts of ways of interpreting this claim, but for the purposes of this discussion what we are looking for is a steeply increasing trend in the value of the temperature anomaly (…perhaps something hockey stick shaped?).

Figure 5. Temperature anomaly (°C) in Canada’s northern territories relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1950-present. 

Well, no hockey stick. What is also notable is that despite claims of extreme warming in Canada’s north, the temperature anomaly is, on average, still well below the 1890-1919 baseline. While the 12-month smoothed average does appear to have a positive trend, the anomaly is still within the historical 95% confidence interval. Further, when you zoom in on the graph, the reason for this upward trend appears to be slightly less severe winter temperatures.  

Claim 3: This decade is the warmest in history

A problem with adjudicating this claim is that it is virtually impossible to understand the basis used by claimants to arrive at this conclusion. In service to my objective and in the interest of clarity, Figure 6 charts the mean temperature anomaly in each region for each of the decades spanning the 1920 – 2019 period. The shaded area in each graph is the 95% confidence interval for the temperature anomaly metric.

Figure 6. Decadal trend in temperature anomaly (°C) in each Canadian region northern territories relative to the 1890-1919 reference period, 1920-2019. Shaded area represents the historical 95% confidence interval for the temperature anomaly measurement.

What becomes clear is when long term variation is taken into account, the decadal temperature anomalies all fall within the 95% confidence interval. In other words, it is impossible to claim that one decade is warmer or colder than any other over the past 100 years. What is also interesting to note is that compared to the 1890-1919 reference period, the Pacific Coast appears to be consistently warmer, while both Central and Northern Canada are consistently colder.

To further interrogate this claim, Table 3 summarizes the top 10 warmest months on record in each region based on the monthly temperature anomaly.  

Table 3. The 10 ‘hottest’ months on record for each region, based on maximum positive temperature anomaly relative to the 1890-1919 baseline.

Rank Pacific Coast Prairie Central Maritimes North
1 Jan 2006 Feb 1931 Dec 2015 Jan 1956 Jan 1981
2 Feb 2016 Feb 1984 Feb 1998 Feb 1981 Feb 1920
3 Jan 1931 Jan 2006 Feb 1981 Feb 1960 Jan 2016
4 Feb 1991 Feb 1998 Mar 2012 Dec 2010 Jan 1944
5 Feb 2015 Feb 1977 Mar 1946 Jun 1930 Jan 1985
6 Feb 2010 Feb 1954 Feb 1984 Feb 2010 Jan 1940
7 Jan 1981 Jan 1931 Mar 1945 Dec 2020 Jan 1977
8 Jan 1992 Feb 1991 Mar 2010 Jan 1958 Jan 2021
9 Jan 2015 Feb 1987 Feb 1954 Feb 1954 Jan 2017
10 Jan 2010 Jan 2001 Dec 2001 Mar 1936 Nov 1928

Table 2 confirms what was suggested by Figures 1 – 6: that most of our unusually warm months in Canada occur during the Northern Hemisphere winter. This suggests that what drives differences year-to-year in the temperature anomaly is not excessively warm summers, but rather warmer weather in the winter months.

Given that Canada receives anywhere from 0 to 7 hours of sunlight (at a steeply southern angle mind you) for most of our winter, it is difficult to envision a scenario where winter warming could be driven by an extra few ppm of CO2 (which is absorbed more rapidly into cold oceans anyway). It is far more likely the result of a meridional flow pattern of the jet stream carrying pockets of warmer air further north and other atmospheric circulation phenomena.

The takeaway

I hope I have convinced you that in the Canadian context at least – whatever the climate is doing, it does not seem to be heralding the end of days (sorry Greta).

I believe that the credibility of the whole scientific enterprise is in jeopardy due to the careless and irresponsible sophistry of activist ‘climate science’. The post-Enlightenment era saw the erosion of organized religion’s authority as a pathway to truth in favor of the rationalism of modern science. If science loses its credibility in the same way: what will take its place?   

References:

[1] Government of Canada. 2022. Adjusted and homogenized Canadian climate data. Environment and Climate Change Canada webpage. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/science-research-data/climate-trends-variability/adjusted-homogenized-canadian-data.html [Last accessed: Aug 2022]

[2] Government of Canada. 2019. Canada’s Changing Climate Report. E. Bush and D.S. Lemmen (Eds,). Ottawa, ON. 444 p. Available at: https://changingclimate.ca/CCCR2019 [Last accessed: Aug 2022]

via Watts Up With That?

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September 7, 2022 at 08:40PM

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