several observations prompted by coolwx.com

I picked up the fact that Nome had had its coldest Jan 5 on record at the very impressive coolwx.com.

Unfortunately somewhere between me and WordPress most of the rest of the article got eaten up when I posted it. So that fact was inadvertently left as the whole article, though it was intended as the bait in a modest bait-and-switch joke. So I took the article down, though it had already gone out on the RSS feeds. ( * )

The switch was that on the same date as Nome Alaska set the sole all-time cold record for all the observation stations of the world, over a hundred stations set all time hot records!!!!

See the map below if you don’t believe me. And I intended that map to be the punch line.

It was an easy shot, almost too easy, but the underlying fact is so worthy of note that a cheap shot had the benefit of drawing attention to a very interesting fact. To say the least. So I took it.

But somehow either I or WP blew it and the story and its title vanished tracelessly. All that was left was the opening sentence. Too tired to retype the whole thing, I made the posting invisible, but the RSS feed had gone out and the link was still valid. After all, it was a true statement, so why take it down?

Anyway my punch line was outdone when Tom Nelson ran the story.

(My hunch that Tom Nelson is an AI is reinforced by this blunder. Impressive work, really, on the part of the dev team, but we’ve caught them out this time.)


In addition to the possible bot-hood of Tom Nelson, a couple of other interesting points are raised:


First, I will admit that I had never heard of coolwx.com before, which to me is odd because because (if the site is what it appears to be) it is an extraordinarily impressive contribution to public understanding of climate, and I plumb missed it for years. Has anyone in our circles mentioned it much?

Anyway, let’s rectify this now with due recognition of coolwx’s achievements in the climate information space.

Secondly, the map, which coolwx redraws and links daily is a very revealing visualization. (I foolishly saved only the map, not the whole page, so I don’t recall the exact number of hot records, but I am confident it was over 100. The number I am remembering is 119, but I am less sure of that.) , This changing pattern might fruitfully examined for trends and perhaps statistically mined effectively using relatively subtle but computationally inexpensive algorithms. (*)

It’s a lovely problem, and it would be a lovely visualization.


I have made the original “Nome” piece as mispublished visible again. I added a title, which the glitch also ate.


(*) i.e., The question of what the record of records is is raised. One can imagine several classes of record record in the records record!


 

Images: a partial-width screen grab from Tom Nelson’s, and a map downloaded from coolwx. And a hat tip to @RyanMaue for pointing to the record records record.

 

Comments:

  1. There seems something slightly odd about the graphic - is it realistic that there would be so, comparatively, few locations recording temperatures 3 degrees below the maximum (or above the minimum)? I'd expect a tapering off of numbers as records are approached.

    • No, this sort of tight-looking clump is quite plausible given the huge scales involved in the map, in my opinion. You may be more used to looking at seasonal and annual averages, which smear out and tend to have less structure.

    • It's not the clumping I was wondering about, I can see how that would happen, it's the more sparse distribution around the rest of the world. My naive assumption would be that it's several times more likely to get temperatures within 3 degrees of a record than within 2 degrees of it and so on. In which case you'd expect several times more light blue than dark blue, but from the days I've looked at it so far that isn't the case. Is my naive assumption wrong?

      I should say that

    • "In which case you'd expect several times more light blue than dark blue"

      I agree, it seems inevitable that that should be the case for the scattered isolated points.

      I have tried to contact the author of coolwx but no response as yet. It is not clear exactly how he gets these data and I have asked for that information.

      Regardless, I am now interested in a long term record of record temperatures vs locale.


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