How much did we warm in February? How much has the world warmed since 1979?

Summary: The world has been warming. Seldom mentioned is how much it has warmed. Magnitudes matter! The amount of warming so far provides context to claims of extreme weather.  For the answer we turn to the NASA-funded global temperature data from satellites.  They show the warming due to our actions is small (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.

“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 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 February 2014?

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

The February 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.

February 2014 Global Temperature Report
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; even fewer admit it):

  1. Global composite temperature in February: +0.17°C  (0.31°F) above the average for February during 1981-2010.
  2. Global climate trend of temperature starting in 16 November 1978: +0.14°C  (0.3°F) per decade.
  3. Compared to seasonal norms, in February the coolest area on the globe was over the southwestern corner of Canada’s Saskatchewan province near the town of Eston, where temperatures in the troposphere were about 4.7°C  (8.4°F) cooler than seasonal norms.
  4. The warmest area was over the Arctic Ocean northeast of Svalbard, a group of islands about halfway between Norway and the North Pole, where tropospheric temperatures were 6.2°C  (11.1°F) warmer than seasonal norms.
  5. 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

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.

(a)  From the UAH monthly report, the full record of satellite data (started in 1979). Click to enlarge.


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UAH Satellite Temperature Record thru February 2014
Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville

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(b)  A different view of the UAH data, by Roy Spencer, principal scientists on the UAH team (at his website).

UAH Satellite Temperature Record thru February 2014
Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Click to enlarge.

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(c)  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, here is the consensus of climate scientists (as expressed in the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I):

“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.”

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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4 thoughts on “How much did we warm in February? How much has the world warmed since 1979?

  1. There is more than one type of sun cycle, methane release from the oceans, volcanoes, wild fires, and other natural factors that have much more influence on climate change than Co2 from humans.
    The climate models are proven over and over again to be flawed and are little more than guess work. Co2 is not an evil unnatural thing but a necessity for life. Do we need to cut back on emissions? Yes but not at the expense of the world economy or carbon taxes unless the shadow
    government wants a revolt which they may want anyway.

    1. If only we could put the lies of the Right and Left together in a reactor, like matter and antimatter in the Starship Enterprise’s engines, so that they’d combine in a blinding flash leaving nothing behind but energy.

      Instead posts on vital subjects like climate produce an stream of people indoctrinated with lies by their leaders. Left. Right. Immunized against facts, to accept only approved beliefs.

      So long as this continues, self-government in America remains a dream. The people who read The Federalist Papers and listened to the Lincoln-Douglas debates are as far from us as the Egyptians who built the pyramids.

  2. The saddest thing about all this is there is one, very simple and very rational thing to do. Stop using coal for power generation. There is no need no for this, we have the technology to generate power without it and could, if we had to, probably do it quite quickly

    Even if you take the extreme point of view that ‘there is no link between CO2 increase and average global warming, stopping coal fired power generation is still a really sensible thing to do because:

    (1) Burning coal causes huge amount of pollution (over and above CO2). It is probably the single biggest producer of thing like mercury, cadmium (and a whole host of other nasties) into the overall environment. Yes, there is, often forgotten these days, SO2. There is also radiation release, which in total dwarves what nuclear power plants do (even including Chernobyl and Fukishami).

    This is seriously nasty stuff.

    (2) The human and environmental cost of extracting the coal. Often forgotten again. Forgotten the exact numbers, but the human (direct) cost of getting coal out of the ground is one of the most dangerous activities known to man. At least a 1,000 die each year (I’ll come back later with the correct numbers which will probably be higher).

    The water pollution, the (in the US) damage caused by hill topping .. the list goes on and on… I mean this is seriously horrible stuff.

    (3) The economic cost. Now, all the things you read is that coal power is the cheapest … nah. It is only apparently cheap because
    (a) it is heavily subsidised
    (b) those environmental, etc costs are not borne by the power generation (and coal mining) companies.

    Give a simple example, mining here in Australia gets (at the latest estimate) about $10 billion a year direct and indirect subsidies. Mostly to coal companies. State Govts here subsidise the (virtually all coal) power stations, including the oldest and most polluting coal power station in the World…. to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    When we (correctly) introduced our carbon tax … Federal and State Govt then gave away huge subsidies to the biggest coal users… some of them actually made profit out of it….

    So, if you did your accounting properly … and had zero subsidies for ANY energy source then the numbers would look a lot different.

    There is luck on this as to what is the cheapest. Here in Australia solar would (for peak and medium demand day levels) win all the way. If you are in Finland then nuclear is the winner.

    (c) The kids. Coal is source of hydrocarbons which can be used for chemicals, plastics, drugs and all the rest. All those things that we need.

    Now if we burn it all, what is going to be available for them in the future?

    Used properly, sparingly and carefully, coal could provide those essentials for hundreds of years (maybe more) to come. They way we are using it, there will be nothing left…..(note don’t believe all those forecasts about ‘thousands of years of coal’… they are not true).

    So:

    All places need a mix of electricity sources. You cannot just have solar, you cannot just have wind, or just hydro, or just nuclear(etc, etc). You need a mix and your geographical resources will determine the correct mix.

    But, however you calculate it, and wherever you are, there is zero need now for coal fired power stations.

    So you can be a ‘climate skeptic’ and still be, very logically (and very sensibly) be against coal power stations.

    1. Oldskeptic,

      Clear coal is possible, but will only happen by government force. That’s in the distant future for the US, and far more so in China. Stopping use of coal is even less likely.

      Hence the need for research into replacements. It is an urgent task, as coal pollutes into so many different ways. So many destructive ways.

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