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Emeritus Professor John Young

Wisconsin State Climatology Office Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin Climate Data: Tales, Applications, and Prospects

Room 811 AOSS, March 1, 2017, 2:30 PM


For 60 years the Wisconsin State Climatology Office has played a unique role as a gateway to observed climate data for the University and State. Historical observations sustain climate science in the face of false criticisms and speculation, and provide scientists insight into the evolution of our chaotically changing system. Analyses help to reveal the essential interplay of weather processes, natural climate variability, and climate change trends. The data provide a foundation for estimating the probabilities of extreme states which produce uncertain climate impacts. This talk will begin by summarizing the broad mission of our activities, the sources and limitations of traditional climate data, and introduce our most important product: the SCO web site providing our main visual communication to the public and University. Graphical examples of temperature and precipitation from these pages will illustrate several themes: untangling climate variability from climate change, the differences between global and regional/local changes, the changing climates which differ between seasons, and even with time of day. These distinctions are important for many practical applications, especially agricultural, and require an appreciation of derived variables and probabilities of extreme anomalies. Some recent examples will illustrate both strong seasonal and sub-seasonal anomalies. Finally, I will close with brief remarks on future prospects for new dimensions of climate analyses: hourly data, high-resolution radar and satellite data, and especially expanded analyses of the full probabilistic content of observed data.

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