JH weather data gaps make analysis tough
Lower 48 states had warmest year on record.
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 2, 2013
National Climatic Data Center records show that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the Lower 48, but it’s impossible to say if Jackson Hole’s climate followed suit.
The valley’s three weather stations — in Jackson, Moose and Moran — all turned in year-end reports with at least three months of data gaps. That makes a statistically significant assessment impossible, Jackson meteorologist Jim Woodmencey said.
“In my opinion, there’s no way to draw any comparison to the rest of the country,” Woodmencey said. “There’s not enough months of data to do it for the Jackson Hole valley, all the way from Jackson to Moran.”
At the Moran station, administered by the Bureau of Reclamation, the months of June, July and August are missing from the record, Woodmencey said. In Moose, where readings are taken by the National Park Service, the months of March, June and October are missing. At the Jackson station, which changed locations this year, there were no manual readings taken for seven months, from February until September, he said.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest had acted as the official observer in Jackson since 1936, but forest staffers stopped taking readings early this year. That prompted the Weather Service to move the station a block north to the visitor center.
Readings from all three climate stations are taken by volunteers, and none of the stations is considered “first order” by the National Weather Service, Woodmencey said. At the Moran station, however, there was a continuous record from 1948 through 2010. The years 2011 and 2012 are the only missing months of data.
The data holes have been frustrating for the meteorologist.
“We may never know if it was or was not [the warmest year], because the data isn’t there,” Woodmencey said. “I don’t know how they’ll deal with that. Like missing teeth, it just looks bad.”
Last year was Wyoming’s warmest in 118 years of record keeping. The average temperature in the state inched up by 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the period from January through November, data from the National Climatic Data Center shows.
The margin was larger on a nationwide scale.
At an anticipated 55.34 degrees Fahrenheit, the 2012 average temperature for the Lower 48 shattered the previous record, set in 1998 at 54.32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Climate scientists attribute warming global temperatures primarily to human activities, including the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.
Environmental Protection Agency officials say the Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century.