WMO Reasoning behind Two Sets of “Normals” a.k.a. Two Periods of Base Years for Anomalies

by Bob Tisdale, December 3, 2018 in WUWT

Most of us are familiar with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)-recommended 30-year period for “normals”, which are also used as base years against which anomalies are calculated. Most, but not all, climate-related data are referenced to 30-year periods. Presently the “climatological standard normals” period is 1981-2010. These “climatological standard normals” are updated every ten years after we pass another year ending in a zero. That is, the next period for “climatological standard normals” will be 1991-2020, so the shift to new “climatological standard normals” will take place in a few years.

But were you aware that the WMO also has another recommended 30-year period for “normals”, against which anomalies are calculated? It’s used for the “reference standard normals” or “reference normals”. The WMO-recommended period for “reference normals” is 1961-1990. And as many of you know, of the primary suppliers of global mean surface temperature data, the base years of 1961-1990 are only used by the UKMO.