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

A world on fire
Source here

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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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Romm gives bit of supporting evidence for his long-standing claim that climate scientists are wrong, and the atmosphere temperature warming has not paused. It’s a graph from the UK Met Office press release, but it contradicts his claim (probably no numbers, just words). Look at the bars on the left: the years 1998 and 2001-2014. They {The maximums} cover a temperature range of 0.15°C (0.25°F) — from 0.5 to 0.65°C (0.9 –  1.2°F)  warmer than the 1961 – 1990 average. First, that’s a small change over 24 years (even longer, since it’s measured from the average of 24 -44 years ago). It’s warming, but very slow. Second, the increase is statistically insignificant. The surface temperature data comes from national weather systems of varying quality (most of them in poor nations); the error bars are far larger than 0.2°C (the range since 2000). That’s why scientists speak of the “pause”.

Warmest years. From the UK Met Office website, 3 December 2014

This inability to clearly report this relatively simple story shows one reason for low and falling confidence of the public in the news media, and why the US public rates climate change among the least serious threats polled (see the numbers here and here). Activists have spent tens of millions of dollars promoting fear of climate change. Had they stuck to the science they might have made progress. Instead they resorted to the tools of propaganda, and so proved Mencken wrong.

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

— H.L. Mencken, “Notes On Journalism”, Chicago Tribune, 19 September 1926

Truth Will Make You Free

For More Information

Update: Judith Curry (Prof Atmospheric Science at GA Inst Tech) looks at the facts and narratives about 2014 as the warmest year.

(a)  Reference Pages about climate:

  1. The important things to know about global warming
  2. My posts
  3. Studies & reports, by subject
  4. The history of climate fears

(b)  About Left’s propaganda about climate change

It’s increasingly distant from the science.

  1. More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
  2. The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
  3. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010
  4. Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world, 30 July 2010
  5. Puncturing the false picture of a scientific consensus about the causes and effects of global warming, 20 September 2010
  6. A new video about global warming, a Leftists’ wet dream pretending to be humor, 1 October 2010
  7. Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole., 10 December 2012
  8. Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change, 12 December 2012 — Propagandist Phil Plait
  9. Fierce words about those “wacky professional climate change deniers”, 20 January 2013 — More by propagandist Phil Plait
  10. We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us, 14 May 2013 — Skillful inaccurate article in The Guardian
  11. A powerful story about global warming in Alaska that’s set Twitter aflame, 23 June 2013
  12. Climate lies are the tool of choice by both sides to influence your opinion. Why is that?, 11 July 2013
  13. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
  14. Climate science deniers on the Left, captured for viewing, 29 September 2013
  15. A behind-the-scenes look at the making of propaganda, the kind that paints the world we see, 22 December 2013
  16. Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve, 24 January 2014
  17. Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins, 29 January 2014
  18. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  19. “Climate change is slowly but steadily cooking the world’s oceans”, 5 February 2014
  20. Four views of exciting new climate research. See the difference., 12 February 2014
  21. Why the Left is losing: another example of incompetent marketing, 26 February 2014
  22. The Left sees “Climate buffoons” and “deniers”. What do they see in the mirror?, 7 March 2014
  23. This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists, 17 March 2014
  24. The Left stages a two minute hate on Nate Silver, Roger Pielke Jr (& me), 29 March 2014
  25. Facts are the enemy of both Left and Right in our America, 12 May 2014
  26. The climate wars get exciting. Government conspiracy! Shattered warming records! Global cooling!, 1 July 2014
  27. The debate about climate change takes a new form. One familiar yet disturbing., 8 August 2014
  28. Nine years after Katrina, climate activists have earned their reward. We might pay dearly for it, 2 December 2014

 

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

  1. Could it be that to many temp readings are taken near heat absorbing objects such as buildings, asphalt and concrete? More so than in the past? I’v read that is the case.

    1. Gairman,

      That’s an important question: sites and operation of the met stations from which we get these accurate to hundredths of a degree global averages.

      This is a contentious issue in the US. See surface stations.org for details about the fraction of US recording sites that meet NOAA’s standards for high quality.

      But we speak here of global temperatures. How many stations in Africa or Latin America are sited to be High Quality by NOAA’s standards, and run carefully? I have seen nothing asking that question.

      If I were running the met network in a poor nation — with getting food and clean water to my people (dreaming of electricity in the future) — and some stuck-up gringos came asking about the funding of our weather stations, I tell him to send money to run them. Alternatively they could stick the temperature sensors up their …

      It’s one of the two reasons where possible, I prefer to rely on the two satellite datasets (giving lower troposphere temperature since 1979). The other reason is satellites’ better coverage.

  2. Land data is continuously being “adjusted” by scientists. Scientists can be, and often are, biased. Ergo do not trust adjusted data where the adjustments are made to individual elements. As far as I know satellite data is not adjusted piecemeal.

    1. John,

      Everything we know in the sciences comes from scientists, and it’s all subject to bias. That’s human nature. Stephen Jay Gould’s books are a long record of social impacts on science. So I don’t share your overall view.

      There are just degrees pf reliability in systems. The land temperature records, as you note, have many characteristics of reliable systems. Lack of transparency about the adjustments to the past records (many many adjustments), on top of a ramshackle collection system whose reliability and accuracy have not been adequately measured.

      The satellite record — while brief, and measuring the lower troposphere (and above) instead of the surface, appears more reliable. They’ve published the documentation. There are two separate groups, using different methodologies, with data from different satellites. That gives me high confidence in their results. Note that they too adjust the data, their methodology for doing so has been published.

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