Tag Archives: global warming

About the imminent spike in global warming

Summary: Our dysfunctional politics result largely from polarized views of Americans, both sides shaped by skillful and expensive propaganda. To break free we’ll need to learn their methods and develop far deeper skepticism. This is another in a series of posts looking at examples of our minds being molded by pros. It discusses the work of climate activists, but it’s vital to understand that both sides do this — because it works.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Global Warming

Yesterday’s post discussed the largely erroneous framing in an article about climate change by investment expert Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg. How do intelligent, educated people become so convinced by the propaganda of climate activists, dismissing any who disagree with them as “deniers”?

We might find an answer by looking at the work of activists, such as Joe Romm (note that most climate activists are paid employees, unlike most of those on the Right). This post follows his chain of evidence in a typical article, showing how his bold conclusions rest on misrepresentations of the literature, and exaggerating the scope and certainty of specific papers.

The work by activists have large effects because liberals often read only activists, giving them a misunderstanding of climate science — exacerbated because activists seldom cite the work of institutions like the IPCC (designed to make the work of scientists understandable to laypeople).

Today’s example: “NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent” at ThinkProgress, 5 June 201 — Opening …

A major new study from NOAA finds more evidence that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. As I reported in April, many recent studies have found that we are about to enter an era of even more rapid global warming. … The new study in Science from a team of NOAA scientists, “finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century,” as NOAA explains.

… What happens when these various temporary factors stop? Karl explained: “Once these factors play out, and they may have already, global temperatures could rise more rapidly than what we have seen so far.” In other words, the long-awaited jump is global temperatures is likely imminent.

The cracks appear right at the start of this. Note the jump between Karl’s careful “may have already … could rise” and Romm’s “likely imminent”. Romm also omits the cautious language Karl gives in the NOAA’s well-written (as always) press releases (first one, second one) …

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The Pause in global warming has ended. Now see the rest of the story.

Summary: A new paper in Science grapples with pause in atmospheric warming, one of the frontiers in climate science. I expect that the news media will give it mega-coverage, total applause (papers that challenge the paradigm are ignored). Here are comments by climate scientists giving the vital context that few journalists will mention. The important thing to know, a secret to journalists, is that laypeople should focus on the trend of the literature — or summaries like those of the IPCC — rather than the cherry-picked papers highlighted by activists on both sides. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

A major new report just published in Science by a team of NOAA climatologists will roil the debate about the vital subject: “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus” by Thomas R. Karl et al. The timing is significant, one of a series of papers appearing before November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  Abstract…

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than reported by the IPCC, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

Excerpts from the paper.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The more recent trend was “estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over 1951-2012.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus,” and inspired a suite of physical explanations for its cause, including changes in radiative forcing, deep ocean heat up-take, and atmospheric circulation changes.

While these analyses and theories have considerable merit in helping to understand the global climate system, other important aspects of the “hiatus” related to observational biases in global surface temperature data have not received similar attention. In particular, residual data biases in the modern era could well have muted recent warming, and as stated by IPCC, the trend period itself was short and commenced with a strong El Niño in 1998. Given recent improvements in the observed record and additional years of global data (including a record-warm 2014), we re-examine the observational evidence related to a “hiatus” in recent global surface warming.

… It is also noteworthy that the new global trends are statistically significant and positive at the 0.10 significance level for 1998–2012 {i.e., weakly significant}.

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Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.

Summary:  Telling the public about climate change is among the most difficult challenges for journalists, ever. Complex, rapidly changing, no consensus among scientists beyond a few basics about mechanisms and history, and highly politicized. Here we look at two examples, good and not-so-good. These show progress, and also how the Left’s dogmatic adherence to its narrative has forced them to abandon science (a commonplace in history for both Left and Right).

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

(1)  Good journalism

Sample #1: “Scientists now know why global warming has slowed down and it’s not good news for us“, Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, 27 February 2015.

They accurately report two studies. They quote scientists — not activists. They often put things in context. Most important, they break the Left’s narrative of denying the pause, which for several years been one of the hot topics in climate science.

Roberts told Quartz that this all suggests our current warming pause is unique, but, despite the low probability, it is also “very possible” that the pause could continue a few more years. And that wouldn’t be inconsistent with what we know about the effects of the heat-trapping ocean oscillations at work in the Science study.

… >Some even say that 2014, the hottest year on record, already marked the end of the hiatus. But Roberts of the Met Office advised caution before calling it officially off. “I would argue that we need a run of several unusually warm years to be able to definitively identify the end,” he said.

All of the researchers who spoke to Quartz about the two studies agreed that the warming pause was just that. “Eventually we expect temperatures to ‘catch up,’ but it may take longer than five years for that to happen,” Roberts told Quartz.

The article’s overall frame is, however, incorrect. Individual scientists have theories about the cause(s) of the pause. But there is as yet no consensus on this. See for yourself by reading abstracts of (and links to) 37 articles describing of the major 12 theories about causes of the pause, many by leaders in this field.

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Climate denial by Left & Right dominates the public debate.

Summary: One of the oddities in American politics is how Left and Right clearly see each others’ faults, but remain blind to their own similar faults. The mainstream media reports the follies of the Right, but less often those of the Left — which are highlighted by their increasing abandonment of science in their quest to alarm the public about climate change. For example, their long effort to hide climate scientists’ work about the pause in warming of their atmosphere since roughly 2000. It’s a kind of denial, much as we see on the Right.

“… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7:5.

Global Surface Temperature

Observed (black) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960 are in red, and 22 model simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) are in green. Shading in red represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The forecast (blue) starts from November 2014. All data are rolling 12-month mean values. The black line is from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC data. {Caption slightly edited}

Left and Right work to mislead us

During the past few years scores of polls attempted to find the source of the public’s polarized views about climate change. Perhaps there’s a simpler answer. One group knows about the pause, and so has skepticism (for some grossly exaggerated) about the certainty of catastrophic future warming. The other group reads only activists and so remains ignorant of scientists’ research about the pause. For example, Joe Romm at ThinkProgress and Phil Phait in November 2013 and  February 2014 (he’s slacked off lately).

Climate scientists speak, even if we don’t listen

Meanwhile climate scientists continue their work, while Left and Right distort their findings to manipulate public opinion. As we see in the new “Decadal Forecast” of the UK Met Office. From the summary:

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Was 2014 the warmest year? NOAA says that was “more unlikely than likely”.

Summary: To learn if 2014 was the warmest year let’s read the annual reports of NOAA and NASA. They give clear answers (different from the headlines). It might have been the warmest, but if so, only by a insignificant amount. The hysteria of activists about this is absurd. The data shows that the pause continues.

  1. Last year was 0.04°C (0.07°F) warmer than 2005 according to NOAA’s surface temperature data (0.02°C per NASA). NOAA gives it a 48% probability of being the warmest of the past 135 years (a 38% probability per NASA ). NOAA describes this as meaning “more unlikely than likely”.
  2. Berkeley Earth’s data shows it as tied with 2005 and 2010 (within the margin of error).
  3. Neither of NASA’s two satellite datasets of lower troposphere temperature show it as close to a record (data back to 1979).

Before we jump into the details, here’s a cautionary note from Colin Morice (climate monitoring scientist at the UK Met Office):

Record or near-record years are interesting, but the ranking of individual years should be treated with some caution because the uncertainties in the data are larger than the differences between the top ranked years. We can say this year will add to the set of near-record temperatures we have seen over the last decade.

Earth Burning


  1. How warm was 2014?
  2. How certain is the result?
  3. The Berkeley Group looks at 2014.
  4. Update: the UK Met Office
  5. The satellites disagree with the “hottest year” story.
  6. Conclusions
  7. Other articles about the warmest year
  8. For More Information

(1)  How warm was 2014?

The Most Dishonest Year on Record“, Robert Tracinski, The Federalist, 19 January 2015 — Excerpt:

If 2014 is supposed to be “hotter” than previous years, it’s important to ask: by how much? You can spend a long time searching through press reports to get an actual number on this — which is a scandal unto itself. Just saying one year was “hotter” or “the hottest” is a vague qualitative description. It isn’t science. Science runs on numbers. You haven’t said anything that is scientifically meaningful until you state how much warmer this year was compared to previous years — and until you give the margin of error of that measurement.

The original NASA press release did not give those figures — and most press reports just ran with it anyway. This in itself says a lot. When it comes to global warming, “journalism” has come to mean: “copying press releases from government agencies.”

That’s our journalists! But annual reports by NASA (who runs the GISS dataset) and NOAA (runs the NCDC dataset) provide the answers for journalists interested in news rather than the pack’s narrative. For answers let’s first turn to NOAA’s 2015 “State of the Climate” report. From the Global Analysis section:

The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).

So the fireworks are about a temperature increase of 0.04°C (0.07°F) over 7 years?

(2)  How certain is the result?

How certain is NOAA of this conclusion? We turn to the section Calculating the Probability of Rankings for 2014:

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The record closes on 2014. Was it the warmest year on record?

Summary: Alarmists trumpeted that 2014 was the warmest on record, seldom mentioning how long the record, or how much warmer, or if all the datasets agree. It’s innumeracy, an ignorance (sometimes feigned) of mathematics and the scientific method. It’s sad, since they’re repeating long-failed attempts to arouse public fear of climate change by statements beyond those of the climate science consensus — and often contradictory to it. (2nd of 2 posts today)

“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

Earth Burning



  1. Appeals to fear. Will they work?
  2. What do satellites tell us about global warming?
  3. What’s the trend?
  4. Who produces this satellite data & analysis?
  5. For More Information


(1) Appeals to fear. Will they work?


Joe Romm at ThinkProgress is a poster child for the Left’s failure to build public support through propaganda. For an example see “2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far” — “The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far.”  Quite a bold statement, but not what JMA said.

The annual anomaly of the global average surface temperature in 2014 (i.e. the average of the near-surface air temperature over land and the SST) was +0.27°C above the 1981-2010 average (+0.63°C above the 20th century average), and was the warmest since 1891. On a longer time scale, global average surface temperatures have risen at a rate of about 0.70°C per century.

Five Warmest Years (Anomalies): 1st. 2014 (+0.27°C), 2nd. 1998 (+0.22°C), 3rd. 2013, {4th.} 2010 (+0.20°C), 5th. 2005 (+0.17°C).

No mention by JMA of “warmest by far”, since it was the warmest by only +0.05°C — far smaller than the accuracy of the hodge-podge global surface temperature network (run by individual national weather services, with widely varying funding and effort).

The world has warmed for 2 centuries, since WWII largely due to our emissions (natural cycles caused the warming from the early 19thC). Activists like Romm seldom mentioned how much it has warmed, which allows alarmists to more easily arouse fear. For the answer we turn to the NASA-funded global temperature data from satellites.  This post shows the numbers: the warming since 1979 is small (so far; the future might be quite different). The truth is out there for people willing to see it. Only with it can we prepare for our future.

Before we dive into the numbers, read this cautionary note from Colin Morice (climate monitoring scientist at the UK Met Office):

Record or near-record years are interesting, but the ranking of individual years should be treated with some caution because the uncertainties in the data are larger than the differences between the top ranked years. We can say this year will add to the set of near-record temperatures we have seen over the last decade.

(2)  What do satellites tell us about global warming?

Satellites provide the most comprehensive and reliable record of the atmosphere’s warming since 1979, measuring lower troposphere temperatures.

The 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 satellite 2014 temperature data

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2014 will be the hottest year on record! Except for the details, which ruin that narrative.

Summary: Let’s look at the most recent hot story about climate change. It shows why the public knows so little about it, despite the intense coverage — and why so many are suspicious about what they’re told. Activists and journalists often prefer the simple politically useful narrative to the messy reality.  This is the second of today’s post, a follow-up to this morning’s How much did the world warm in November? How fast is it warming? See the numbers.

The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.

— Sir Arthur C Clarke, interview with Nalaka Gunawardene, posted at OneWorld, 5 December 2003



We start with the science, a press release from the UK Met Office, 3 December 2014 (the WMO put out a similar notice that day) — Excerpt:

The global mean temperature for January to October based on the  HadCRUT4 dataset (compiled by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit) is 0.57 °C (+/- 0.1) above the long-term (1961-1990) average. This is consistent with the statement from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today.

With two months of data still to add, the full-year figure could change but presently 2014 is just ahead of the current record of 0.56°C set in 2010 in the global series which dates back to 1850. The final value for this year will be very close to the central estimate of 0.57°C from the Met Office global temperature forecast for 2014, which was issued late last year.

Colin Morice, a climate monitoring scientist at the Met Office, said: “Record or near-record years are interesting, but the ranking of individual years should be treated with some caution because the uncertainties in the data are larger than the differences between the top ranked years. We can say this year will add to the set of near-record temperatures we have seen over the last decade.”

Note this looks at only one of the global temperature datasets; although the other surface temperature datasets agree (they rely on overlapping sources) neither of the 2 satellite datasets shows a record year.

For an example of accurate reporting on this see the Financial Times (whose demanding audience doesn’t tolerate lies and cant): “This year on course to be warmest on record“, 3 December 2014. They give accurate and precise news, put in context.

  1. The news (burying the lede, it’s at the end):”… The WMO said the average global land and sea surface temperature between January and October was about 0.57C higher than the average recorded between 1961 and 1990. It was also 0.09C above the average for the past 10 years.”
  2. Context:  “Mr Stott said it was “remarkable” to see a record year of heat occur in the absence of an El Niño, a warming water pattern in the eastern Pacific that has boosted temperatures in the recent past. But he added it was still too early to know whether 2014 signalled an end to the so-called pause in the rate of global warming during the past decade.”
  3. Political background (news seldom just happens): “The news came as thousands of delegates to this year’s UN climate negotiations in Lima arrived for the last big round of talks before a global climate-change deal is due to be sealed in Paris at the end of next year.”

Most of the major media follow the same format, but omit the FT’s scientific and political context (e.g., on CNN and The Guardian). They prefer instead to hype the warming.

Liberals tend to get their news from activists like Joe Romm at ThinkProgress. He goes straight for innumeracy, omitting all numbers and provides word salad instead. He quotes a UN official (WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud) who denies the pause — after several years during which climate scientists study its causes and forecast its duration. And he ignored Dr. Morice’s warning.

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