Warm thoughts on chilly night

As Peter Mucha's online story points out, the first nine months of 2012 constituted the warmest such period in the contiguous United States in 118 years of recordkeeping,

This was not a big surprise, given the sequence of warm months since the first of the year across the country.

March and July were the warmest on record, May was No. 2, April, 3, and January, 4, according to the National Climate Data Center's scorecard.

The January-March period finished with average temperature of 58.9, a full 3.8 degrees above the 20th Century average.

It finished first even though last month was no great shakes, placing No. 23 on the all-time list of Septembers, and in the middle of the pack among Septembers of the last decade.

What jumps out in the January-September figure is just how the warming far-exceeded worldwide warming.

The climate center says the planet is warming at a rate of about 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.

The lesson here is an obvious one: The effects of worldwide warming aren't linear. That's evident in the melting of Arctic ice, while last month the South Pole had quite a cold spell, according to satellite data.

The online story also mentioned a global-warming survey. We found a few of the findings quite peculiar, not to mention the survey itself.

For example, it found that Northeasterners are "more likely to say they personally experienced an extreme heat wave." One would hope so, if they've been around the last few summers.

The other stumper was the finding that "fewer Americans say that very heavy rainstorms have become more common." I guess they didn't see those studies.

People's perceptions aside, common sense would say that background warming would affect weather.

If common sense isn't enough, the National Climate Data Center tracks temperature and extreme-weather trends, and makes it all publicly available. Check out the extremes index.