We’ve all heard the adage — weather is what’s happening now, climate is what happens over time. That is the case in the National Weather Service’s recent Alaska and Northwestern Canada quarterly climate outlook report.
The report covers observations and analysis of June through August and offers predictions for October through December. As with all the quarterly reports, there are snapshots of anomalies, synthesis and predictions of temperature and precipitation throughout the region, and writeups of significant events, like flooding and wildfires. In this particular report, there are also opportunities for recency bias in action.
Brian Brettschneider is a research physical scientist with the weather service in Alaksa who contributes to the quarterly reports. Though the data shows that summer temperatures and rainfall were overall pretty much normal in Anchorage and on the western Kenai Peninsula this year, residents might not feel like that’s the case.
“All summer long, I heard, almost on a daily basis, ‘Wow, this has been a really cool, rainy summer. And in reality, it was warmer than the vast majority of summers. And for most areas, it was drier than normal. … We compare against what we have become accustomed to. So, yes, it was cooler than almost every summer in the last decade but by historical standards, it was actually pretty warm,” Brettschneider said.
That’s recency bias — putting more weight on what we’ve recently observed.