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How much did we warm in January?

16 February 2014

Summary:  As the pause in the warming of the world’s surface temperature enters its 15th year (or 17th), activists hide this by focusing on areas of the world with record warm weather (areas with cold weather are un-news). We need not fall for this propaganda. NASA funds a monthly report of global temperature measured by satellites — a consistently high-quality data set going back to 1979 (roughly the end of the previous mini-cooling cycle). Also see the sections putting this in a vital long-term context.  The truth is out there for people willing to see it.

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

Pure alarmist propaganda

Pure alarmist propaganda

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Contents

  1. Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming?
  2. The UK Met Office shows the long-term history of warming
  3. Who produces this satellite data & analysis?
  4. About The Elusive Absolute Surface Air Temperature (SAT)
  5. A few key things to remember about global warming!
  6. For More Information

To the right is a typical over-the-top image to arouse fear, about a world now less than one °F warmer than the 30-year average.

(1) Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming in January 2014?

Satellites provide the most comprehensive and reliable record of the atmosphere’s warming since 1979.

The January 2014 Global Temperature Report
by the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville
(Blue is cold; red warm}. Click to enlarge.

UAH Global Temperature Report: January 2014

Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville

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See the equivalent graph from the surface temperature stations of the Climate Anomaly Monitoring System (CAMS) of the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).

Key points from the UAH report (prepared under contract for NASA), which show a world that has warmed since 1979, but only slightly (few alarmists know this; fewer admit it):

  • Global composite temperature in January: +0.29°C (0.52°F) above the average for January during 1981-2010.
  • Global climate trend of temperature starting in 16 November 1978: +0.14°C (0.3°F) per decade.
  • Compared to seasonal norms, in January the coolest area on the globe was in upper peninsula of Michigan near Iron River, where temperatures in the troposphere were about 3.9°C (7.0°F) cooler than seasonal norms.
  • The warmest area was in northeastern Greenland by the Arctic Ocean, where tropospheric temperatures were 6.2°C (almost 11.2°F) warmer than seasonal norms.
  • Anomalies are computed per the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recommended method, comparing the current temperatures vs. a 30 year base period ending with the latest decade.

For more detail see Global Temperature Update Through 2013, James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, 21 January 2014.

(2)  The vital context: a longer-term temperature history

(a)  A graph by Roy Spencer, principal scientists on the UAH team (at his website) shows the full record of satellite data (started in 1979). Two decades of cool weather, followed by 15 years of warm weather. Wide swings in temperature; a relatively flat trend since 1998 – 2000. For more about the pause see links to climate research in Section 5.

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UAH Satellite Temperature Record thru January 2014

Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Click to enlarge.

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(b)  The UK Met Office shows a longer-term history

These numbers cannot be properly understood until put in a historical context, as in this graph from page 10 of “The Recent Pause in Global Warming” published by the UK Met Office in July 2013.

UK Met Report, July 2013

UK Met Report, July 2013

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(3) Who produces this satellite data and analysis?

About the global satellite data

As part of an ongoing joint project between The University of Alabama in Huntsville, NOAA and NASA, John Christy (professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at U AL-Huntsville) and Dr. Roy Spencer (an ESSC principal scientist) use data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth. This includes remote desert, ocean and rain forest areas where reliable climate data are not otherwise available.

The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about 8,000 above sea level.

Neither Christy nor Spencer receives any research support or funding from oil, coal or industrial companies or organizations, or from any private or special interest groups. All of their climate research funding comes from federal and state grants or contracts.

(Source here)

(4) About The Elusive Absolute Surface Air Temperature (SAT)

Global warming

Global warming

Q. What exactly do we mean by Surface Air Temperature?

A. I doubt that there is a general agreement how to answer this question. Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5 ft above the ground and different again from 10 ft or 50 ft above the ground. Particularly in the presence of vegetation (say in a rain forest), the temperature above the vegetation may be very different from the temperature below the top of the vegetation. A reasonable suggestion might be to use the average temperature of the first 50 ft of air either above ground or above the top of the vegetation. To measure SAT we have to agree on what it is and, as far as I know, no such standard has been suggested or generally adopted. Even if the 50 ft standard were adopted, I cannot imagine that a weather station would build a 50 ft stack of thermometers to be able to find the true SAT at its location.

Q. What do we mean by daily mean SAT?

A. Again, there is no universally accepted correct answer. Should we note the temperature every 6 hours and report the mean, should we do it every 2 hours, hourly, have a machine record it every second, or simply take the average of the highest and lowest temperature of the day ? On some days the various methods may lead to drastically different results.

Read the rest here.

(5) A few important things to remember about global warming

While cheering for their faction of scientists, laypeople often lose sight of the big picture — the key elements for making public policy about this important issue.

(a)  The work of the IPCC and the major science institutes are the best guides for information about these issues.

(b)  The world has been warming during the past two centuries, in a succession of warming, cooling, and pauses. As for our influence:

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

For research about the 1951 date see When did we start global warming? See the surprising answer., 18 October 2012

(c)  There is a debate about the attribution (causes) of past warming — which probably varied over time — between natural drivers (e.g., rebound from the Little Ice Age, solar influences) and anthropogenic drivers (eg, CO2, aerosols, land use changes). Other that that stated in (b), the IPCC’s reports make few claims about attribution of climate activity. This remains actively debated in the literature:  Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade, 17 January 2014.

(d)  Warming of the surface atmosphere paused sometime during 1998-2000:  Still good news: global temperatures remain stable, at least for now., 14 October 2012.

(e)  There is also debate about climate forecasts, both the extent of future CO2 emissions and the net effects of the various natural and anthropogenic drivers.

(f)  For the past five years my recommendations have been the same:

  1. More funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (e.g., global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded.
  2. Wider involvement of relevant experts in this debate. For example, geologists, statisticians and software engineers have been largely excluded — although their fields of knowledge are deeply involved.
  3. Start today a well-funded conversion to non-carbon-based energy sources by the second half of the 21st century; for both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details).

(g)  Posts about preparing for climate change:

Truth Will Make You Free

(6) For More Information

(a) Reference Pages about climate on the FM sites:

  1. My posts.
  2. Studies & reports
  3. The history of fears about the climate

(b)  An introduction to climate change:

  1. What we know about our past climate, and its causes
  2. Good news!  Global temperatures have stabilized, at least for now.
  3. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?
  4. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. lchinfcv permalink
    16 February 2014 8:49 pm

    F Max:   I wrote you once or twice (can’t recall) three or four years ago when I first encountered the site. I was clear that I felt your outlook was similar to mine, and I appreciated (and still do) most of your articles.  But I have had a major difference with you on the climate change/ global warming issue, which I view as the world’s most critical problem . I hope you will give a look at the points I make below:

      You have long held that there has been a long pause in the rise of global temperature.  In fact, although the atmospheric temp has been fairly constant in that period, you must also look at the ocean temperature. Water temps rise very slowly compared to those of the air, but water is a far better heat sick, and globally most oceans have been continuing to warm – probably accounting for the entire ‘pause’ you have touted. Worse, Arctic ocean waters are rising faster than any other ocean temperatures. This has resulted in the near vanishing of the summer polar ice cap, which in turn has allowed heating of greater ocean depths. As a result, ‘methane hydrates’, locked in deep waters since the creation of methane there millions of years ago, have begun to dissociate into their components– methane and water. There are now huge areas of effervescence of methane bubbles in Arctic waters. Worse, in shallow waters off Siberia, there are sometimes dense plumes of methane rising from the ocean’s surface– often hundreds of yards wide.  And as methane is a far more active greenhouse gas than CO2, this is a catastrophic development- by far overwhelming the effects of the latter.

        So PLEASE– read the good introduction to the problem in ‘The Nation’ magazine about 3 weeks ago:      http://www.thenation.com/article/177614/coming-instant-planetary-emergency#  

      And then examine the website of the AMEG, the ‘Arctic Methane Emergency Group’, which has dozens of articles on the oceans’ methane hydrate problem.  I myself am no longer sure that we, the people of this globe, aren’t already locked into a course that will bring a 10 degree C (18 degrees F) of atmospheric temperature by 2100 (and a resultant very serious consequent acidification of all the oceans). Such a rapid increase would cause severe agricultural dislocations within the lifetime of today’s young people, likely leading to the death of the majority of the world’s nearly nine billion people over a few generations.   But I still hold out some hope, and thus would welcome your site’s input in counseling policy-makers that we already have a serious problem, rather than your current position that there is a pause in warming that should give us confidence that we are not in any danger.    -L. Chris Hager        Falls Church, VA     (age 69, thus only likely to be slightly affected, although I fear for the later lives of my children)

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    • 16 February 2014 9:39 pm

      “You have long held that there has been a long pause in the rise of global temperature. In fact, although the atmospheric temp has been fairly constant in that period, you must also look at the ocean temperature.”

      You are not reading carefully. In fact, that’s a reading FAIL. The point you raise is discussed here, and has been extensively discussed in other posts. Re-read this post and follow the links.

      By the way, the oceans heating theory is a theory to explain the pause — one of many. Not a fact. Not even a consensus theory.

      Like

    • 16 February 2014 9:41 pm

      In the past I’d give more detailed responses. But experience with hundreds of these conversations has shown the futility of this. People who don’t read the post, who are indifferent to the peer-reviewed literature, the IPCC, and the major climate agencies — will not gain from the comments.

      Re-read the post, follow the links to more information. You will be astonished at what you will learn — from more reliable sources than The Nation.

      Like

  2. RJames permalink
    17 February 2014 1:05 am

    Interesting question asked here – when will the warming resume? Surely an equally valid question is “Will the warming resume?”. To date, there’s nothing but failed computer models to suggest that it will.

    Like

    • 17 February 2014 2:23 am

      Rjames,

      (1) “Will the warming resume?”

      I am not a climate scientist; I just report what they say. Science operates by a paradigm, a consensus which sets research directions and priorities. The current consensus is that warming has paused, not stopped.

      (2) “To date, there’s nothing but failed computer models to suggest that it will.”

      That is not even remotely correct. Scientists have a strong basis on which to conclude that warming has paused, not stopped. The models are an expression of that body of knowledge and theory. They might be wrong, but your belief does not correctly describe the situation.

      Like

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