We are told by people who at this point would look darn silly saying anything else that 2020 is the hottest year on record or so close as makes no difference. But according to the online weather enthusiast “Ottawa Weather Records”, we in Canada’s capital are now tied for the fourth-highest number of days above 0°C in a year since records began in 1872, having been tied last week at 10th. But don’t go saying “Gotcha” or assuming the other top years were post-2017 etc. because in fact the rankings are, in descending order, 1953, 1998, 1990, 2020 and 2012, 2006, 1973, 1913, 2016 and 1889. So it’s true that the last decade has seen three of the 10 hottest years in the past century and a half, by this measure at least. But even so, fourth place feels like a bit of a letdown.
In fact it’s not important, for three reasons. Well, four if you count that records were kept at the Central Experimental Farm until 1938 and after that at the airport, potentially problematic because airports are notorious urban heat islands. But here are the three fundamental ones.
First, there’s no apparent pattern and if warming were an accelerating crisis there would be. Second if there were an apparent pattern, it still wouldn’t prove much of anything because it would also have been true in, say, 1940 that many of the hottest years on record were in the last 20 and mighty few people think that the temperature surge from 1900 until 1940 was man-made, or proof of anything. Especially since they know it then got colder for 30 years.
But here’s the third, and it may already have occurred to you. Ottawa is just one place. If Canada’s capital is currently having a year that’s supposedly warm (if snowy) but by no means hottest ever, and meanwhile it’s cold in Australia and the American Midwest and various other places, what can it mean that 2020 is the hottest ever?
Clearly it requires that the weather here in Ottawa, and everywhere else it’s not abnormally warm, is anomalous. So consequently there must be a whole lot of places that are seeing their longest-ever stretch of warm days, as part of a pattern of such years in the last two decades. So where are they?
We’ve made the point previously that everywhere can’t be warming faster than average no matter how persistently journalists say the place they live is doing so, and scientists say the place they are studying is. But on exactly the same grounds, just as everywhere can’t be warming faster than average, everywhere also can’t already be warmer than average. Or, for that matter, cooler. So where is it hotter to make up for all the places currently not actually setting records? Other than in a computer that arguably needs a better fan or perhaps a better modeling program.
It’s almost as though there’s the actual temperatures in all the places people live as a kind of sideshow for the rustic, and then the secret gnostic world temperature that’s like way high man. And if that secret temperature is the result of satellite measurements, bear in mind that we’ve only had those for about the last 40 years. So we’re comparing microwaves to tree rings if we make dogmatic statements about how recent readings compare with older ones.