Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Warming Calculations

While researching a novel I hope to write, which involves climate change among many other things, I decided to use the Farmer’s Almanac web site and do some investigating of my own. 

Let me state right off that my degree’s in English. What math I know I learned 30 years ago and the science is self-taught. Undeterred by these shortcomings, I wanted to see if my zip code had warmed at all in my lifetime and what I might be able to make of it, based on a very simple set of data over an admittedly microscopic span of time, geologically speaking.

The approach I took was necessarily simple: I looked up the pertinent weather history on the Almanac web site by entering my zip code and date and, in a couple seconds, the high, low and average temperature, dew point, wind speed, and precipitation—its type and amount—pop up. Also, in my zip during the winter months, it will tell you how many inches of snow were on the ground. 

Keeping things simple I decided to record the average temperature each year on my birthday. I gathered 52, and then broke them down into decades. 

Including the year I was born, 1962, the decade ending:

·         1971, the average temperature was 29.05 degrees Fahrenheit.

·         In 1981 that temperature was 29.58 degrees, +.55 over 10 years and accelerating at a rate .0275 over 20 years.[i]

·         In 1991, the average was 30.25, +.67 over the previous decade and accelerating at .0406 over 30 years.

·         The decade from 1992 to 2001 seems an anomaly, as the average temperature was 30.13, down .12 from the previous decade, and acceleration slowed to .0275 over 40 years.

·         The fifth decade, however, makes up for that with an average temperature of 32.54, +2.41 from the previous decade and accelerating at .0702 over 50 years.

It appears factual that the average temperature in my zip code on my birthday has, according to my English major math, risen at an accelerating rate over the course of my lifetime. 

I believed the science going in, but wanted to see how my own meager calculations might stand up against what I’ve been hearing for 25 years. I encourage you to do the same. Look for yourself.  Do your own math. Mine seems to echo what I've heard from experts over and over again. I was hoping to come up with something different, something to give my contrarion spirit hope...

[i][i][i] I’m sorry about my math and lack of proper terminology. For rate change I took the average temp of 1981, subtracted the average from 1971, then divided by 20. I followed that procedure to calculate the rate for each decade: 1991-1971/30=rate; 2001-1971/40=rate, etc. If my method’s incorrect—I know it’s crude—let me know in the comments.

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