Now Analyzing: Temperature and snowfall data for Washington, DC, Implications for Health

In preparation for my attendance at CleanMed Europe this fall (@CleanMedEurope), and also as a member of the Executive Committee for Environmental Stewardship for Kaiser Permanente, I have been taking a course in Climate Literacy on one of those MOOCs (you guess which one..:)). Our first assignment beyond the quizzes was to look at a climate issue locally and do some research on it. So, I did some research on my favorite city. Here’s what I found:

It really is getting hotter

When people from here say it snowed more when they were kids, they’re right

There are certainly snowpocalypses here and there, but the trend is toward less snow.

There are more 90+ degree days

This one needs to be interpreted with caution, note the number of missing observations. I had to pull out 2002 entirely. Which brings me to my next point….

“Open Data” does not mean “Easy Data”

So the NOAA is always cited as the example of what good can happen when you make data available. The problem is that there’s tons of it, and it’s a little challenging to find what you’re looking for. And then there’s missing observations and unclean data sets. I finally found some cleaned up data by locating a text file referred to in the DC Sustainability Plan (which is excellent, I’ll blog on that later). I’m not even 100% sure where the actual front door is to the NOAA to grab data – I *think* I went to the right place.

So, celebrate that it’s there, hope it will be easier to find and use in the future because these questions are important.

Washington, DC is getting hotter and drier. In a future post I’ll write about what it’s doing to plant life here (the topic of my assignment) which is in turn impacting human (and specifically my) health. Not that I don’t love DC, just that during parts of the year it doesn’t love me back as much. Comments and questions welcome – have you looked at temperature records where you live?

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2 thoughts on “Now Analyzing: Temperature and snowfall data for Washington, DC, Implications for Health”

  1. Thanks for pulling the local data together and doing all the legwork on this. The data suggests an increase in temperature and a decline in snow/rain…but over what period. I agree this will have an affect but firmly believe that our ability to manage and deal with these changes is better than it has ever been. Much of the cycle is out of our control (and not included in the data set) and how each factor contributes to these changes is still imo under debate – for example the tilt/wobble of the earth has a potential large effect in climate that is not often included in the discussions? 
    Thanks for posting and sharing the details

    1. drnic1 Nick, Sure, the time period is from 1871 to the present. You’re referring to obliquity, eccentricity, and precession, which occur between 13,000 and 40,000 years depending on which cycle you’re talking about (helpful tutorial here: http://www.sciencecourseware.org/eec/GlobalWarming/Tutorials/Milankovitch/ ).
      This was part of an assignment to look at something relevant in my geography – I’m going to post an article about cherry tree blooming which is changing, as is the plant behavior generally, which has impact on health, see what you think and thanks for engaging! -Ted

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