In the endless media coverage of climate change, we are bombarded with a lot of pseudofacts, so it’s nice now and then to come across just plain facts — cold facts, so to speak — and some of those became available a few days ago.
A pseudofact is something that sounds like a fact but is actually a mental construct. For example, the other day we heard that this past November the average world temperature had been the highest on record. But the “average temperature” is not real. It’s the result of arithmetic. The average temperature might be a 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which sounds pleasant. But it could be derived from one measurement of 120 and another of zero, neither one conducive to human comfort.
How about some real numbers? Mark Albright, a climatologist based in Seattle, looked up the number of days from 1940 to 2013 when the summer temperature at the Eugene Airport was 95 degrees or greater. He listed the summers with zero 95-degree days (there were five, from 1947 to 2011), the five summers with the greatest number of 95-degree days, and the mean number of 95-degree days per summer by decades.
The 1940s averaged four summer days that hot, the 1950s 4.2, the 1960s 5.4, the 1970s 6.9, the 1980s 4.6, the 1990s 6.2, the 2000s 5.1, and the 2010s so far 4.2. There were 5.1 days that hot per summer from 1940 through the 1970s. And the number since then? Also 5.1. Albright’s conclusion: “This heat wave climatology shows no significant change in the summer frequency of days over 95F over the past 74 years from 1940 through 2013 at Eugene, OR.”
As long as real number show little change, you can relax. And this winter, which starts today, dream of summer, when the sun shines and the thermometer climbs to near 95. (hh)