By David Kowalski
The front-page illustration titled “The big chill” in The News on Feb. 20 was an eye-catching reminder of the extremely cold temperatures we experienced at the beginning of 2015. January’s high temperatures of all but seven of the days were below the long-term average, as were all but two of the 20 days in February thus far.
Some may interpret such extended cold spells as evidence against global warming. However, that view is incorrect.
Global warming is assessed by measuring temperatures at numerous locations on land around the world as well as in the oceans that make up more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface. Measurements are made over time and the global average temperature is determined.
The Buffalo area comprises only a tiny fraction of the surface of the globe, and so local temperatures make only a small contribution to the global average temperature.
Despite the local “big chill,” the planet continued to warm in January. In fact, the global average temperature was the second-highest since records began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This finding follows in the wake of 2014 as the hottest year on record and the 38th consecutive year of above-average global temperatures.
NOAA displayed its global analysis of January temperatures on a world map showing that the New York State region, including Buffalo, was “cooler than average.” In contrast, however, the Western United States and even parts of Alaska showed above-average warming, as did most other regions on land and in oceans around the globe.
NOAA’s map is below.
[Click image to enlarge]
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This post originally appeared in The Buffalo News on March 1, 2015 as a letter to the editor. It can be viewed at BuffaloNews.com