Record warmest winter in Cleveland

Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer front page headline is that the past winter was the warmest on record ever since data was kept beginning 141 years ago, being a whopping eight degrees higher than average. This past week the daytime highs have been in the mid-70s, when the normal temperatures should be in the mid-40s. Yesterday it was over 80 degrees. People are wandering around in shorts and t-shirts, unthinkable for March.

The news of a record warm winter will not be a surprise to local residents. The constant topic of conversation over the entire winter has been how mild the weather was, with little snow, no blizzards, and no sustained cold spells, the kinds of things that make up our usual winter experience.

This mild winter did produce one mildly amusing outcome. Usually around the coldest period of a typical Cleveland winter, as predictable as the sunrise, Kevin O’Brien (a local editorial page columnist) and his fellow global warming deniers would be yukking it up with letters to the editor about how frigid temperatures and snow on the ground in February ‘prove’ that warnings about global warming are a massive hoax perpetrated by the scientific community. This year’s unusually warm winter seemed to have silenced them, for which we can be grateful

But just as a cold winter does not disprove global warming trends, a single warm winter does not confirm it either. We should keep in mind that what is relevant are global and long term trends, such as changes in temperature averages over the Earth over long time periods, and the frequencies of anomalous weather patterns.

Once we realize that single events like a blizzard or a warm day in winter have almost no effect on those averages, then perhaps we can put an end to the kinds of silly arguments that serve no purpose other than to confuse the scientifically naïve about such an important issue.


  1. unbound says

    Yep. A single warm or cold winter doesn’t mean much. However, the consistently over all warmer (and wetter for us) weather has resulted in shifts in the hardiness zones. The maps have been updated by all major groups as of this year (AHS in 2003, National Arbor Day Foundation in 2006, and USDA this year) due to the overall warming trend.

  2. jamessweet says

    Yup, I am extremely reluctant to cite any lay observation as evidence of global warming. Climate != weather, as they say. There is plenty of actual evidence for AGW and it’s potentially catastrophic effects without having to cite dubious evidence like a warm spell.

    My understanding is that this year’s very mild winter in the US actually had to do with colder temperatures over the oceans, causing a lack of precipitation…?

  3. Dan-o says

    As an avid snowmobiler I was very limited this year but wih last years extra snow I can’t complain. Dog on global warming…:(
    Now that NASA says we expect to see a 1/2 degree cooler temps over the next 11 yrs due to fewer solar flares perhaps we will see some global cooling to bring us back to even. Cheers

  4. Dean says

    I’m a weather forecaster and one thing that has been interesting about the past two winters is that La Nina hasn’t been the main driver.

    There is a second, less known weather pattern called the arctic oscillation that has been dominating the northern hemispheric weather patterns. It lead to the crazy cold last year, and the crazy warm this year (at least until the last three weeks when a more typical La Nina has arrived in force).

  5. M.Nieuweboer says

    Shouldn’t you, as a theoretical physicist, use Kelvin instead of Fahrenheit? ISU and such. Me being Dutch have no idea how hot or cold 40 and 70 is. Of course I could calculate, but I would first have to look up the exact formula (something with 5/9, 32 and evt. 273) and as soon as I have gotten that far I have lost interest.

    OK, more seriously: cold winters in The Netherlands. For the zillionth time the Elfstedentocht has been cancelled this year. Many of you probably have no idea what that is:

    What is relevant for the subject of this article is the paragraph Winners and especially their years. Compare the period 1910-1960 with 1960-2010.
    I wonder how the Kevin O’Briens of this world address that?

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