GISS Data Confirm Winters Definitely Getting Colder Over Northern Hemisphere Continents Since 1995!

Also in the Alps! (See GISS Figure 2 below).

Are Winters Getting Colder?
By Ed Caryl

There is much denial disbelief going around about our ever changing world. Are the winters getting colder? Are the summers getting hotter? Are the ice-caps melting? What’s going on?

Fortunately there are systems keeping track. And there are simple ways of plotting the data. One plot, available from Goddard Institute of Space Science (GISS), is a temperature trend plot by month of the year. Here is a plot of temperature trend by month of the year (horizontal) by latitude (vertical) for the last 17 years.


Figure 1 is a zonal trend plot by month for the period 1995 to the present. Horizontal axis = months of the year Jan – Dec; vertical axis = latitude.

Note that temperatures for latitudes 40 to 60 degrees north are trending colder for most of the winter, from mid-November to mid-February, the coldest period for a month centered on the 1st of February. On the rim of Antarctica, the trending-colder month is June, the Antipodes mid-winter.

So, yes, winters are getting colder. Here is the corresponding map showing precisely where the winters are getting colder.


Figure 2 is a global map of the trends plotted in Figure 1.

Note that nearly all the continental areas in the northern hemisphere where people actually live, with the exception of India, are experiencing colder winters. The chart also shows Europe’s Alps region is getting significantly colder in the winter time, too, just as German meteorologist Dominik Jung found when evaluating data from the Austrian Weather Service, read: Austrian meteorologists stupefied.

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to look at the cooling pattern in the Southern Hemisphere winter. Note that it looks a lot like the pattern for the southern hemisphere summer. Now ask why the Antarctic sea ice is expanding.

Now for those who get all excited about Arctic warming, I would like to point out the dearth of weather stations in that region, and my previous article about bias in the surface measurements. There are exactly three weather stations used by GISS that are north of 80 degrees. Alert on Ellesmere Island is one of them. It is that light blue rectangle at the top just left of center in Figure 2. It is getting cooler in the winter. One other is a Russian station on Hayes Island in the Franz Josef Archipelago. It is getting cooler in the summer. The third is Nord on northern Greenland. It is getting warmer in all seasons. I believe it has siting issues.

The continents warm and cool faster than the oceans. The continental cooling we are observing will be followed by ocean cooling. It is already happening in the southern ocean in all seasons and in the summer tropics.


29 responses to “GISS Data Confirm Winters Definitely Getting Colder Over Northern Hemisphere Continents Since 1995!”

  1. Ed Caryl

    No, it’s not. With so few stations, it’s easy (and tempting) to fudge the numbers.

  2. Neven

    You might be interested in this paper by Cohen et al. (2012): Arctic warming, increasing snow cover and widespread boreal winter cooling (PDF)

    Tamino discusses it here and says:

    “Their proposed theory is that the root cause is warmer summers and autumns. This increases Eurasian snow cover during Autumn (especially October) due to greater atmospheric water vapor content. This in turn promotes the cold phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) in winter, leading to colder winter temperatures over much of the northern hemisphere.”

    It’s an interesting premise to explain why winters are getting colder whereas the year as a whole is not. Perhaps you have another explanation.

    Oh, and Pierre, I don’t think it’s wise to wipe Arctic amplification off the table that casually. With the much faster rate of Arctic sea ice loss so far, it makes sense that things are heating up faster than elsewhere on the globe. Stunning anomalies in Alaska, or Svalbard or coastal Siberia are part and parcel nowadays. The Arctic has been warming very fast in the last couple of years.

    Whether it will continue to do so remains to be seen. Maybe if the warming in the Arctic stalls, NH winters will get warmer again?

  3. Neven

    “But why is it when there’s lots of snow, it’s a sign of warming? And when there’s little snow, that too is claimed to be a sign of warming.”

    Here’s my two cents: When lots of sea ice melts (which is due to warming), there’s a lot of open water at the end of the melting season. To be able to refreeze, this water has to release vast amounts of heat and moisture. When this moisture comes into contact with cold air (over land masses that cool down faster) it turns into snow. It’s akin to a phenomenon called lake-effect snow, and we’re increasingly seeing it in the data (like this NH winter snow extent bar graph from Rutgers University Global Snow Lab). More moisture due to warming leads to more snow in winter.

    Of course, when there’s little snow, it’s a sign that air is too warm and moisture precipitates as rain. This will probably happen on a global scale if AGW is real and continues, but not any time soon, although it has recently been happening in places like Greenland and Svalbard.

    Another theory, which is espoused here by global warming skeptic Tom Wysmuller, is that this feedback will cause a new ice age. He bases himself on a theory from the 50’s by Maurice Ewing and William Donn (the former a very important figure in the historic development of climate science) that explained the coming and going of ice ages.

    It’s an interesting theory, but it seems to negate the (growing) influence of CO2 as a forcing. Right now I’m not convinced, but I might be if snow lingers longer in spring and summer, and Arctic sea ice starts to show signs of recovery.

  4. Ulric Lyons

    Arctic amplification is nonsense, temperatures there move in oppostion to the mid latitudes. Nearly all the ups and downs here are in opposition to CET:

    Around 4600BP was very warm, and around 4200BP and 1200BP are known cold periods in the temperate zone that collapsed the major civilisations, Greenland ice core proxies show the complete opposite:
    That means around 1000AD was cold for the temperate zone, and they have the sign of the 8.2Kyr event wrong globally, it shows up warm in the Antarctic as does around 4400-4700BP.

    Colder periods have more negative NAO/AO conditions, that means the jet stream is more southerly, and that transports warmer water further north, plus the vortex weakens and there’s more atmospheric exchange between the frigid and temperate zones. Global cooling makes the Arctic warmer.

    You can see it at monthly scale in the UAH NoPol Ocean warming strongly when the NAO is well negative:

    And icreased ice extent this summer was due to more posivite NAO/AO conditions in those months. Summers 2007 and 2012 had very negative NAO conditions.

  5. Graeme No.3

    We know that the arctic ice was noticeably reduced in area around 1660 and 1810-183? Both were cold times in Europe and in North America. That would seem to make arctic amplification a possibility.

    But we also know that there was much less arctic ice 1000-120?AD and from about 1910 to 1945, both of which were warm periods in the northern hemisphere. Does that mean there was a missing arctic oscillation?

  6. Ulric Lyons

    @Graeme No.3
    Reduced sea ice extent and cold times in Europe and in North America is the opposite of polar amplification, and a reality. 1816-18 is noted from shiping to have been very low on ice extent.

    1. Graeme No.3

      I was relying on Neven’s description that less arctic sea ice was the cause of more snow in Europe etc. After all they have to explain those recent cold winters in Europe and North America (and China, Siberia, and the southern hemisphere).

      That is at odds with traditional Global Warming theory that less arctic sea ice means the Earth is warming, hence less snow and ice in Europe.
      So what ever happens the believers in man made global warming can claim it is all explained.

      1. Ulric Lyons

        The moisture for the snow doesn’t come from the Arctic. The short term deviations in sea ice extent follow the atmpsheric and oceanic changes, they don’t lead them.

  7. John F. Hultquist

    The map projection exaggerates the area in high latitudes and makes the dark colors seem more scary than they would seem on an equal area or polar projection. Back in another time the USSR was shown in red and being at generally higher latitudes seemed big and frightening too.

    The GISS and other agencies present maps with this default projection. That’s why we see it so often. It is just not the best cartography has to offer – unless it fits the agenda. “How to Lie with Statistics” incorporates map projections and other interesting spatial aspects.

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  9. G Mitchell

    Your headline is not supported by the GISS data presented.

    Clearly, the Figure 1 GISS graph shows significant warming in the Northern Hemisphere during winters over the last 17 years, particularly at the Arctic.

    1. Ed Caryl

      Where people live and experience winter, winters are getting colder. And, as Jeremy says below, much of that red is shown as at least one degree warmer than it should be. I will address that in a future analysis.

      1. G Mitchell

        “Where people live and experience winter, winters are getting colder. ”

        Then I suggest you adjust your headline and claim just that.

        Because right now the GISS date does not support that winters in the Northern Hemisphere are getting colder since 1995. Quite the opposite actually.

        1. Ed Caryl

          The title says continental temperatures. Exclude the Canadian and Russian Arctic islands. And wait for my next article.

        2. Ed Caryl

          What is it about Continental Winters that you don’t understand?

    2. DirkH

      “Clearly, the Figure 1 GISS graph shows significant warming in the Northern Hemisphere during winters over the last 17 years, particularly at the Arctic.”

      Keep in mind that the areas in question, even if they warmed as maintained by GISS, are much smaller than it seems in the graphic due to the cartographic projection.

  10. Jeremy Poynton

    Given that GISS have been adjusting temperatures in recent decades upwards (see Real Science), does that mean that winters have in fact been even colder than plotted above?

    1. Ed Caryl

      Jeremy, yes. Details coming.

      1. BobW in NC

        Cannot wait to see this data!!!

        Given that WUWT has found that temperatures of >85% of surface stations in the US should be reduced by at least 1°C (~24% of those by 2°C; see ), yes, it would seem that temperatures are really getting colder.

        But that such properly adjusted data should become available will be breathtaking to the max!

  11. Marcy Coffey

    The winter ranked 43rd coldest since 1910, and continues the trend towards colder winters. In the last five years, only 2011/12 has been above the 1981-2010 average. The average over these five years has been 3.03C.

  12. Paul Homewood

    Most Antarctic stations show a cooling trend since 2001.

    The only exceptions are West Antarctica and McMurdo.

    (The latter showed “over the period 1986 to 2000, reporting a phenomenal cooling rate of approximately 0.7°C per decade So perhaps it is not surprising it has rebounded)

    1. Ed Caryl

      IMHO McMurdo has a heat-island problem. It is a large (for polar regions) base, with lots of heat sources. Rothera is interesting, it had one very cold year, but if you go back to 1990, it is cooling also. Rothera is on the west side of the peninsula. Winds close to the continent tend to be east winds. Both Rothera and McMurdo get downslope Katabatic winds, from the east for Rothera, from the south for McMurdo. As the continent cools, these will tend to increase, resulting in warming of these locations.

      You might be interested in:

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