President Obama’s new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” and recent Climate Action Plan directs federal agencies to ask the Climate Question and provide policy support and technical assistance to help federal, state and local governments, and private companies answer both parts of the Question — mitigation and adaptation.
The nexus between adapting to a changing climate and reducing GHGs is rarely approached in an integrated fashion. Many climate adaptation measures have GHG mitigation benefits and vice versa, yet too often the synergies only receive cursory attention. CCAP sees great opportunities in focusing on that sweet spot in the center of the Venn diagram.
Great question! Simplest answer: thermometers. Simple instruments such as thermometers and barometers have been used for centuries. Governments began to collect data from these instruments beginning in the early 1700s. (There are early data sets, but these focused on local or route specific locations rather than globally. For example, shipping companies collected ocean temperatures during the 1600s along specific routes to report conditions to insurance companies.).
The old-school instruments were placed in locations all around the world (locations ranged from trees, church steeples and clocks, tall poles, cliff faces, to just stuck in the ground). Governments collected the temperatures typically for military, farming, and shipping purposes.
The U.S. Weather Bureau, established in 1735, was sporadically managed by a few individual states (rather than the Federal Government). The bureau collected local information - not global.
In 1814, the U.S. Federal Government established the U.S.’s first nation wide weather service. Army doctors and ‘war’ hospitals were instructed to keep diaries of local weather. But, again, this was not a global system.
In 1870, President Ulysses Grant established the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS):
The beginning of the National Weather Service we know today started on February 9th, 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a joint resolution of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to establish a national weather service. This resolution required the Secretary of War:
“to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms”
After much thought and consideration, it was decided that this agency would be placed under the Secretary of War because military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations. Via NOAA
The NWS worked internationally. It collected data from its own instruments, and also from data shared by other countries, such as Denmark, France, India, and the U.K.
The NWS’s information was collected over time, and digitized into big data sets. These sets are used today!
The chart below shows temperature data over 1,000 years. (NOTE: This chart is from wikipedia entry “Temperature record of the past 1,000 years." I do not endorse this chart. I’m posting for illustrative purposes to help answer anon’s question about records from 1880).
Note the black line (far right). It shows collected instrument data from 1850 to 2004. Data prior to 1850 is collected by climate proxies.
Finally, if you’re interested, you can read about the weather data sets collected in the 1850s. This paper, Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new dataset from 1850, covers the history of that data, as well as issues with using it in modern climate models.
Hope that helps!
The American Meteorological Society released its annual “State of the Climate” report, a hefty, 258-page document chronicling changes in global warming data. Compiled by members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with 384 scientists from 52 countries, the report is used to set and influence domestic climate policy and distributes statistics that form the baseline for discussions of climate change.
This year’s report holds a wide roster of data—ranging from interesting to doomsday—and most major newspapers and wire serves at least ran something based on the report press release. But considering the importance, and acute detail, of the information contained in the release, the mainstream press provided a surprisingly limited amount of analysis.
Reuters filed a short summary, “Signs of new climate ‘normal’ apparent in hot 2012 report,” culling information entirely from NOAA’s press release, with one skeptical insertion framing the slowing surface temperature rise: “The decrease in temperatures has been noted by climate-change skeptics who question the impact of human activities.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate study puts 2012 among the 10 warmest years on record
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.
Sea Level Rise Maps
NOAA, in partnership with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has created a set of map services to help communities, residents, and other stakeholders consider risks from future sea level rise in planning for reconstruction following Hurricane Sandy.
These map services (click here for NJ and NY State counties andclick here for NYC) integrate the best available FEMA flood hazard data for each location with information on future sea level rise from two different peer-reviewed sources (click here for a visual guide to the data sources used in the tool):
- A NOAA-led interagency report prepared as input to the National Climate Assessment, Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment. Scientists from multiple federal agencies and academic institutions synthesized the best available science to create a set of scenarios of global mean sea level rise through 2100. This team considered both ocean warming and melting of mountain glaciers and ice sheets. For all areas in NJ and NY outside the five boroughs, the maps use these global scenarios combined with the best available FEMA flood hazard data.
- The 2013 New York City Panel on Climate Change report,Climate Risk Information 2013: Observations, Climate Change Projections, and Maps. Experts convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability developed regional sea level rise scenarios for the five boroughs in New York City out to 2050. These scenarios include sea level rise from both ocean warming and ice sheet melt, and factor in local conditions such as vertical land movement and regional climate variations. For all areas inside the five boroughs of NYC, the maps use these scenarios combined with the best available FEMA flood hazard data.