Fewer Cold Nights on the Northern Great Plains? A Risky Prediction

Among the numerous concerns in the Risky Business Project report co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer entitled "The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States" is the following projection for massive declines in the number of "extremely cold days" on the northern Great Plains over the coming decades:

"The northern parts of the [Great Plains] region will likely see a significant decrease in extremely cold days: from the average of 159 days per year of below-freezing weather over the past 30 years, to between 117 and 143 freezing days at mid-century, and between 79 and 122 freezing days by the end of the century."

That seemed like an interesting prediction to probe, given that I live just a couple hours drive north of the Montana border, and in this Canadian section of the northern Great Plains there isn't a trend towards fewer freezing days. Perhaps something different is going on just to the south of me in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska?

Nope. As expected, the story is the same on both sides of the border. No recent climate change.

These are the trends -- more precisely, the overwhelming lack thereof (n/s=not significant) -- in the number of freezing days per year "over the past 30 years" across the American portion of the northern Great Plains.

Out of 26 climate sub-regions, one has a significant increasing trend in number of freezing days over the past three decades, two significant decreasing trends, and 23 sub-regions with no significant changes. In other words, the number of freezing days has simply not changed during the last 30 years in the northern Great Plains. And yet we are somehow expecting massive declines over the next few decades?

What is even more interesting is that the current number of freezing days throughout much of the northern Great Plains is higher now than it has been at any point in the historical record dating back to the 1800s. That seems odd given the hysteria over how much the entire United States is supposedly warming due to anthropogenic forcing (aka, greenhouse gas emissions).

Here are the annual number of freezing days at Williston, ND (directly in the heart of the Bakken oil rush), North Platte, NE, Valentine, NE, and Helena, MT since their records begin.

Note that even though Williston and North Platte don't have significant trends over the past 30 years, when we look at the historical record, both regions have seen highly significant increases in the number of freezing days since the late 1800s. And while both Valentine and Helena have significant declining trends during the last three decades (recall: they are the only two regions in the entire northern Great Plains with such declines), both of these regions also have massively significant increasing trends in extremely cold days over the past 120 years.

As with so many other predictions in documents like the National Climate Assessment and the Risky Business Project report that the mainstream media just uncritically lap up and regurgitate as gospel, current and historical trends appear to be entirely at odds with where the climate models have us headed.

Maybe they should be flaring even more natural gas in the Bakken to reverse these century long trends towards more freezing days in the northern Great Plains? We could use the extra heat to help stave off the historically high number of chilly nights we are presently experiencing.