Long Hot Summer?

One good way of looking at weather in the developed world is by looking at energy consumption. It tells you how much air conditioning people are using in the summer and how much heating they’re willing to pay for in the winter.

Last year Japan was patriotically conserving energy, as they had shut down most of their nuclear generating capacity because of the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami, and hadn’t yet figured out how to replace it.

So the fact that power demand rose 2.1% in August compared to the previous year is not a big deal–Japan is importing lots of oil and it’s a rich country.

However, in developing countries such as China, variations in energy consumption have more to do with economic conditions than responses to the weather.  China’s  energy consumption between March and June grew by ‘only’ 5% per month compared to the same months a year ago. This caused great concern amongst China watchers. They don’t believe China’s statistics about the economy, so they watch energy consumption as a useful proxy for what is happening in the larger economy.

Energy consumption in the United States is, well, interesting. We keep better statistics than most places and can say things about our energy consumption that other countries cannot.

In May 2012, for example, the U.S. consumed 7.675 quads, slightly up from May 2011′s 7.609, but slightly less than May 2010′s 7.678.

I’m looking at this because I’ve been reading discussion about hot summers and their causes (is it climate change, natural variability or some combination of the two).

With that in mind I offer a link to a chart of Heating Degree Days by Month from 1949 through 2010. This is a metric used widely to estimate demand for energy. The link is here: http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec1_16.pdf

Since 1949, the records for highest demand for each month has been 1978 or earlier, with the exception for December, when the record was 1989. There is lower demand for heating in recent years than previously measured. This tracks global warming theory–the number of very cold days in winter has been expected to decrease.

However, the records for lowest demand for each month has only 3 of recent vintage–November’s record for lowest demand was in 2001, January’s in 2006 and March in 2000. Two records were set in the 50′s and one in the 60′s. Recent years have not been uniformly warmer than those in the modern record as measured by the DOE. Interesting.

Cooling degree days use a similar metric to measure demand for energy for air conditioning. The Department of Energy also publishes a record of CDD’s from 1949 through 2010.

Here the data shows that recent years have been warmer in the U.S., with record high demand for 5 of the 7 months measured being recorded in the past decade. See: http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec1_18.pdfMost of the records for low demand are relatively ancient, with the most recent record low month being 1992.

It has been getting warmer recently. But it doesn’t seem to be happening according to plan. Global warming theory has been clear that it should be happening primarily in the winter months. Explanations or educated guesses are welcome.

4 responses to “Long Hot Summer?

  1. The heating/cooling degree data averages are population weighted.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/documentlibrary/hcs/hcs.html

    The population weighting procedure assures that degree- day averages for the states as a whole are biased toward conditions existing in the more populous sections of the states. Degree day data in this publication are presently available for the 48 conterminous states with the District of Columbia treated as part of Maryland. Upcoming data values subsequent to the June 2002 data month will use the new 2000 census data (Bureau of Census, 2002).

    The population of the US is urbanizing and shifting Southward. Less heat but more cooling when ‘population weighted’.

  2. Some of the warming is natural, but there has to be a man made, non co2 component for several reasons. If the US population is flocking to suburbs, one obvious culprit is the urban heat island effect. And it is time that it got its due attention. A recent study on Pielke’s site showed that metro Pheonix was warming at 4 times the rate as similar geography in Arizona.
    Also if we use a technique like Scafetti’s to estimate the natural component of warming (he gets 66%), and subtract that from an anomaly map like Huntsville’s then almost all of the man made warming takes place in the northern hemisphere where most industrialized activity takes place. This is the strongest evidence for man made climate change and the strongest for it not being primarily co2.
    Also, the primary driver of wind and weather are temperature gradients, not temperature itself. The greenhouse model destroys gradients on both the spatial and temporal scales. )Warming at the poles and at night) Remember when AGW was going to stop the winds like on Venus. The most likely culprit of weather “weirding” is most likely land use/land cover changes which exaggerate temperature gradients.

  3. Che Cazzo Stai Dicendo?

    Or maybe the usage data is proof that those annoying old farts were: folks today are pussies who can’t handle a little bit of heat or cold like they used to (when such things, especially AC, were relative luxuries).

  4. Love your user name, Che Cazzo…

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