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Thomas R. Karl and Robert G. Quayle


Economic losses during the hot, dry summer of 1980 were estimated at $16 billion. Despite these substantial economic losses, analyses of historical (1895–1980) monthly temperature and precipitation data across the 48 contiguous United States indicate that conditions could easily have been worse. Much more hostile conditions have existed in the past, particularly during the 1930's and the 1950's. However, the summer of 1980 does stand out from the past two decades as an extreme anomaly across the southern and southeastern United States.

Analyses of Palmer's (1965) drought severity index, Paimer's soil moisture abnormality index, and values of precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration are used in the assessment of drought. Monthly mean temperature and population weighted cooling degree days as related to electrical energy consumption are used to assess the summer heat wave of 1980.

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Thomas R. Karl, Robert G. Quayle, and Pavel Ya Groisman


Several essential aspects of weather observing and the management of weather data are discussed as related to improving knowledge of climate variations and change in the surface boundary layer and the resultant consequences for socioeconomic and biogeophysical systems. The issues include long-term homogeneous time series of routine weather observations; time- and space-scale resolution of datasets derived from the observations; information about observing systems, data collection systems, and data reduction algorithms; and the enhancement of weather observing systems to serve as climate observing systems.

Although much has been learned from existing weather networks and methods of data management, the system is far from perfect. There are several vital areas that have not received adequate attention. Particular improvements are needed in the interaction between network designers and climatologists; operational analyses that focus on detecting and documenting outliers and time-dependent biases within datasets; developing the means to cope with and minimize potential inhomogeneities in weather observing systems; and authoritative documentation of how various aspects of climate have or have not changed. In this last area, close attention must be given to the time and space resolution of the data. In many instances the time and space resolution requirements for understanding why the climate changed are not synonymous with understanding how it has changed or varied. This is particularly true within the surface boundary layer. A standard global daily/monthly climate message should also be introduced to supplement current Global Telecommunication System's CLIMAT data. Overall, a call is made for improvements in routine weather observing, data management, and analysis systems. Routine observations have provided (and will continue to provide) most of the information regarding how the climate has changed during the last 100 years affecting where we live, work, and grow our food.

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Thomas R. Karl, Richard W. Knight, David R. Easterling, and Robert G. Quayle

A framework is presented to quantify observed changes in climate within the contiguous United States through the development and analysis of two indices of climate change, a Climate Extremes Index (CEI) and a U.S. Greenhouse Climate Response Index (GCRI). The CEI is based on an aggregate set of conventional climate extreme indicators, and the GCRI is composed of indicators that measure changes in the climate of the United States that have been projected to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

The CEI supports the notion that the climate of the United States has become more extreme in recent decades, yet the magnitude and persistence of the changes are not large enough at this point to conclude that the increase in extremes reflects a nonstationary climate. Nonetheless, if impacts due to extreme events rise exponentially with the index, then the increase may be quite significant in a practical sense. Similarly, the positive trend of the U. S. GCRI during the twentieth century is consistent with an enhanced greenhouse effect. The increase is unlikely to have arisen due to chance alone (there is about a 5% chance). Still, the increase of the GCRI is not large enough to unequivocally reject the possibility that the increase in the GCRI may be the result of other factors, including natural climate variability, and the similarity between the change in the GCRI and anticipated changes says little about the sensitivity of the climate system to the greenhouse effect. Both indices increased rather abruptly during the 1970s, a time of major circulation changes over the Pacific Ocean and North America.

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Robert G. Quayle, David R. Easterline, Thomas R. Karl, and Pamela Y. Hughes

During the past five years, the National Weather Service (NWS) has replaced over half of its liquid-in-glass maximum and minimum thermometers in wooden Cotton Region Shelters (CRSs) with thermistor-based Maximum–Minimum Temperature Systems (MMTSs) housed in smaller plastic shelters. Analyses of data from 424 (of the 3300) MMTS stations and 675 CRS stations show that a mean daily minimum temperature change of roughly +0.3°C, a mean daily maximum temperature change of−0.4°C, and a change in average temperature of −0.1 °C were introduced as a result of the new instrumentation. The change of −0.7°C in daily temperature range is particularly significant for climate change studies that use this element as an independent variable. Although troublesome for climatologists, there is reason to believe that this change (relative to older records) represents an improvement in absolute accuracy. The bias appears to be rather sharp and well defined. Since the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) station history database contains records of instrumentation, adjustments for this bias can be readily applied, and we are reasonably confident that the corrections we have developed can be used to produce homogeneous time series of area-average temperature.

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L. M. Bastiaans, D. R. Smith, R. A. McPherson, P. A. Phoebus, J. M. Moran, P. J. Croft, M. J. Ceritelli, G. V. Rao, J. T. Schaefer, F. J. Gadomski, K. A. Kloesel, R. G. Quayle, and J. W. Zeitler

The American Meteorological Society held its Sixth Symposium on Education in conjunction with the 77th Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California. The theme of the symposium was “Atmospheric and Oceanographic Education: Teaching about the Global Environment.” Thirty-eight oral presentations and 37 poster presentations summarized a variety of educational programs or examined educational issues for both the precollege and university levels. There was also a joint session with the Eighth Symposium on Global Change Studies and a special session on “home pages” to promote popular meteorological education. Over 200 people representing a wide spectrum of the Society attended one or more of the sessions in this two-day conference where they increased their awareness of teaching about the global environment.

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