Hot Bets on Warm Weather
Odds are—this will be the warmest decade ever recorded. Find out why—and get a sneak peak at this winter’s weather prediction!
Bill Nye, popularly known as “The Science Guy,” recently offered to bet $60,000 with some of the most vocal of the so-called “climate change deniers” that 2016 will be in the top 10 hottest years on record and that this current decade will be the warmest ever recorded.
Warmest Decade Ever Recorded?
What struck my interest about these proposed bets, though, is that whatever the truth is about climate change, Nye is almost certain to win these bets.
The first 5 years of this decade were all among the warmest years since detailed global records have been kept (see “16 Warmest Years” table).
16 Warmest Years (1880-2015)
The following table lists the global combined land and ocean annually-averaged temperature rank and anomaly for each of the 16 (two tied at #15) warmest years on record.
Chart: National Centers for Environmental Information/NOAA
The first 3 months of 2016 each set a record: January was the warmest January ever recorded, the most degrees above normal averaged over the globe. February was not only the warmest February ever recorded, but also was more above normal than any month ever recorded—until March, which was not only the warmest March ever recorded, but also broke the record set in February as the most above normal of any month (see “January 2016,” “February 2016,” and “March 2016” graphics below).
Land & Ocean Temperature Departure from Average
(with respect to a 1981-2010 base period)
Data source: GHCN-M version 3.3.0 & ERSST version 4.0.0
Now, imagine that your favorite major league baseball (MLB) team starts the season by winning its first 86 games (which is proportionately the same part of a baseball season as the time that has passed in the present decade). Would you be willing to bet that your team, at the end of the season, would have the best won–lost record in MLB history? All they would have to do is win 37 and lose 39, and they would have the best season win–loss percentage in MLB history, ahead of the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who had a win-loss record of 116–36. And, if we limit the bet to the current 162-game season length, the record holder is the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116–46), which would mean that our team could win 30 and lose 46 and still tie their record for the best win–loss percentage.
I would take either of those bets in a second! Although it is not absolutely certain, if a team wins its first 86 games, it is very likely, in my view, that they will win at least 37 of their remaining 76 and nearly certain that they will win at least 30.
This scenario is akin to the bet of whether or not this will be the warmest decade ever recorded.
Warmer Than Normal
While it is not absolutely certain that it is going to happen, the decade thus far has been so much warmer than normal that it would have to be much colder than normal in the remaining years for this not to be the warmest decade ever.
And, given how much warmer than normal the first 3 months of 2016 have been, it would take extraordinary cold over the remainder of the year for 2016 not to finish among the 10 warmest years ever recorded.
So, unless we suddenly switch to one of the coldest periods ever recorded over the remainder of the year and the decade, Bill Nye will win both bets, whatever the truth about climate change.
Sorry if I lost you or bored you with that discussion, but I enjoy both playing games with numbers and following baseball.
Just as same say the key to success in baseball is pitching, the key to our upcoming weather is Solar Cycle 24: It is now well into its declining phase after reaching double peaks in late 2011 and early 2014. Despite having two maxima, this cycle is the smallest in more than 100 years, and solar activity is expected to continue to decline from these low peaks toward its expected minima in early 2019. Considering this, and with the strong El Niño of this past winter well on its way in the transition to a La Niña this summer (see “El Niño Transition” graph, which shows the track of the current El Niño compared with other strong El Niños), we expect temperatures in much of the nation to be hot this spring and summer; we expect an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season; and we predict that the winter of 2016–17 will be much colder than this past winter in most locations. You can bet on it.
Stay tuned! We’ll have our complete winter weather prediction in The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac—available in our online store in August/September.