Cold Nights and Shoddy Science Journalism at the Guardian

Over at the Guardian, whose webpage proclaims it as "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize," we have yet another climate alarmism article on "How winter is losing its cool in US cities."

"Climate models project that freezing temperatures will become even less frequent as greenhouse gas emissions further increase global temperatures. What will these warming winters feel like? For our Winter Loses Its Cool interactive we have projected the number of nights below freezing for the end of this century for 697 cities, and then showed which US city currently experiences that number of freezing nights. Several striking examples are highlighted above, but explore the interactive to find out how the cold season will be affected in your city.

By 2100, winters in New York will see around 29 nights below freezing rather than the 79 it sees now, if global warming continues at current rates. By the end of the century, assuming current CO2 emissions trends continue until the end of the century, Helena, Mont, will see about 85 fewer freezing nights, which is comparable to Lubbock, Texas, today. Buffalo, NY, which currently experience about 124 freezing nights each year, will only see about 57 a year in 2100, making it more like Charlotte, NC. Ann Arbor, Mich, will see less than half its current number of nights below freezing (131), which is more like Huntsville, Ala (60)."

Using the NOAA National Weather Service database, I checked the historical trends in the number of nights below freezing for a few of these cities mentioned in the article and presented in the accompanying "interactive." The results are, as climate realists might expect, not promising.

We can start with Great Falls, Montana. According to the "interactive" on the Guardian's website, it is expected to see a massive decline in the number of nights below freezing over the remainder of this century because of climate change.

Critical thinkers can then go to the NOAA National Weather Service database and look at how climate change has influenced the number of nights below freezing for this city up to the present.

So, Great Falls has seen a massively statistically significant increase in the number of freezing nights since records began in 1893, with positive correlations continuing up to the post-1970 and post-1985 periods (indeed, the last three decades nearly have a significant increasing trend). And yet, we expect a complete reversal of this 120-year long trend and a subsequent catastrophic drop-off during the next eight decades?

Well maybe, but predictions are particularly difficult about the future, and it is abundantly clear from looking at the chart above that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to date are in no way leading to a decline in the number of freezing nights for this area. Perhaps the Guardian's readership should have been informed of this basic historical fact, rather than just being given excessively simplistic projections that appear to have no relationship to historical trends in the region?

Then there is Lubbock, Texas -- specifically mentioned in the Guardian's article. Over the last three decades there has been a positive correlation towards increasing numbers of freezing nights in this city, and nearly a perfect non-correlation since 1970. Yet, the Guardian's piece is projecting a fourfold decrease in freezing nights by 2100. Completely at odds with recent trends as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have increased exponentially.

Huntsville, Alabama is another city highlighted in the article. Once again, no significant trend in freezing nights since records began in 1908, and nearly a perfect non-correlation over the last three decades. But over at the Guardian, freezing nights in this region of northern Alabama are supposed to decline by more than three-fold in the coming decades.

Seattle's freezing nights are predicted to essentially disappear entirely, from 25 per year at present to 3 per year by 2100. Trend over the past several decades? Nonexistent. Not even a hint of significant trends since either 1970 or 1985.

Gainesville, Florida is projected to have its freezing nights decline from 11 to just 2, even though it has a correlation towards more freezing nights since complete annual records began in 1949. Chicago nearly has a highly statistically significant trend (p=0.0001) towards more -- not less -- freezing nights since its climate records began in 1872, and no significant trend over the last three decades or since 1970. Despite those facts, the Windy City's freezing nights are predicted to be cut to less than half current levels by the end of this century.

We could go on and on, but the point has been shown. The demise of freezing nights has been greatly exaggerated. Media outlets that uncritically reproduce these types of alarmist predictions without full historical context aren't practicing responsible journalism in the public interest, they are instead engaging in irresponsible activism that undermines the public's faith in objective science.