Cool Words on Alabama's 2013 Summer by the State Climatologist

Cool Words on Alabama's 2013 Summer by the State Climatologist

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From the Mobile National Weather Service... Mobile recorded 23.25" inches of rain in the summer (June, July, August) of 2013. This was 2.93" inches above the normal summer rainfall of 20.32". The wettest summer in Mobile was way back in 1900 when 35.70" was recorded.

Our wet summer kept temperatures down. In fact, the state of Alabama was cooler than average. I recently spoke to Dr. John Christy, the state climatologist for Alabama. Here’s his perspective on the cool summer and other long-term changes.

Well, we see this throughout the State of Alabama; that the cloudiness goes hand in hand with the temperature and there's been rain, north to south in the State. Mobile is a little different from the rest of the State. Even so, going back, many, many years, we see that Mobile has had one of it's wettest and coolest- especially on the temperature, the coolest summer, in long time. ...maybe about the 6th or 7th coldest that has ever happened in Mobile and that's interesting, especially when you look at the time series you can see it rose up until about the early 50s, then fell into the current decade.

This was pretty normal. In fact, the entire State of Alabama has actually had a downward temperature trend in the last 131 years, and there really is no correlation between what happens in Alabama and what happens in the global temperature. I've actually looked at that and thought maybe there was a connection but there really isn't.

The global temperature has risen somewhat in the last 130 years. Here in our State, we've actually declined in the last 130 years. In fact, the ten coldest years have all happened since 1960 in our State.

Now it is a bit curious that the last 16 or 17 years the globe has not warmed, the temperature has been pretty flat. Here in Alabama we do not go along really with what the global temperature is. There are other places, of course in the globe, that have warmed dramatically, for example, the Arctic- that's another region that has warmed quite a bit.

So we know the Earth has warmed in the last century. I asked Dr. Christy for his climate forecast...

That's one thing I'd like to try to stay out of. As a climatologist I look in the rearview mirror, you (meteorologists) look out the windshield. You have a harder job, let me tell you that!

I agree on that! Small changes make big changes in any forecast. In climate studies, how you look at data can change what you see. For example, should you focus on daytime temperatures, nighttime temperatures, or overall average temperatures?

The reason I use only the daytime high temperatures is because in the daytime the air is much more mixed with the deep atmosphere. Nighttime it's only the shallow layer that's being measured and that's affected by exactly the kinds of things you talked about- the urbanization, the parking lots, and so on. There is a clear signal of nighttime warming in the State, and that's, I think, due to the human influences on surface development.

Sea level is rising worldwide, but parts of the Gulf Coast actually have land that is sinking at the same time.

One of the problems on the Gulf Coast, the northern Gulf Coast where Alabama is, is the subsidence of the land. That is happening because of the extraction of minerals and natural gas and so on. The sea level is also rising, not very fast, about an inch per decade, and so the two together lead you to think, "Well, if I'm going to build some major infrastructure that's going to last 50 or 100 years, I'd better prepare for a little bit of sea level rise."

Long term changes in climate are critical to foresters and farmers.

Growing zones have actually shifted southward because we are in a cooling trend for that period. Now that can turn around, it can warm up again. Like I said, I don't predict the future, but that is the one thing we have seen where there are quite a few orange groves around the turn of the 19th, 20th century in Baldwin County, Mobile County, and now they are pretty much all gone because we've had these cool winters in the last 50 years.

Change of some sort is inevitable. Alan Sealls, News 5

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