Betting on the Weather Tells You Nothing About Climate Change



Baseball prognosticator and electoral pollster Nate Silver has issued a "challenge to climate change skeptics" in the form of a bet. He was evidently moved to do so by his irritation at conservative Powerline blogger John Hinderaker's grousing about the weather in Minneapolis as "a year without a summer." Being a southerner, Minneapolis is far from climatically optimum (average annual temperature 45 degrees) for me. Silver points out that for the last month temperatures in Minneapolis have been totally typical for the city. 

Silver is also annoyed that some conservative bloggers imply that climate change is overblown by citing recent low temperatures in their neighborhoods. Clearly, such bloggers are confusing weather with climate. In a quest for "accountability" in the climate change debate, Silver offers the following bet:

1. For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.

2. The challenge proceeds in monthly intervals, with the first month being August. At the end of each month, we'll tally up the winning and losing days and the loser writes the winner a check for the balance.

3. The challenge automatically rolls over to the next month until/unless: (i) one party informs the other by the 20th of the previous month that he would like to discontinue the challenge (that is, if you want to discontinue the challenge for September, you'd have to tell me this by August 20th), or (ii) the losing party has failed to pay the winning party in a timely fashion, in which case the challenge may be canceled at the sole discretion of the winning party.

Of course, Silver's bet also confuses weather with climate. It's a bet on nothing other than the random fluctuations of local temperatures around seasonal averages. If Silver really wants to wager on climate change there are a number of open bets available over at the Long Now Foundation's Long Bets site. 

Just for the record, between June 21 and July 20, AccuWeather reports that the average temperature has fallen one degree or more below average in Charlottesville, Va., for 25 days and was above by one degree on just 5 days. 

If Silver and others want actual information on global temperature trends visit the University of Alabama at Huntsville's satellite data site here and here or to the Remote Sensing Systems' data site