Alabama debunks the Times’ story about our warming world

Summary: The NY Times gives a story with bold numbers, confidently stated. Too bad their fact-checkers did not notice that their numbers are grossly misleading. Propaganda pretending to be science. This does not help, even if well-intended. The State Climatologist of Alabama tells the real story.

Summer sun and thermometer - dreamstime_s_120477670
ID 120477670 © Dezzor | Dreamstime.

The Alabama Climate Report, August 2018.

By John R. Christy, Alabama State Climatologist.
Also Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center
at the U of AL in Huntsville. Links added.

Meteorological summer (June, July and August) is over. It is time to check how the summer temperatures compare with other years. For a research project a few years ago we developed a statewide summer temperature index for four 100-mile diameter regions centered on the major cities of the state – Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville – going back to 1883. This summer will go down in that database and in NOAA’s official records as being slightly cooler than average.

Somewhat related to this, a reader sent me a link to a New York Times interactive website that claims to provide the number of days above 90°F each year for cities across the country: “How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?” The results are produced for the Times by Climate Impact Lab (some might call it an environmental pressure group).

Since I build numerous datasets of this type, I took a look. The website asks you for the town and year in which you were born, then provides a time series purportedly showing the number of 90°F days per year since your birth and how that has increased.

Though a native of California, I have lived in Huntsville more years than any other place, so I put in my birth year and Huntsville as my hometown. Immediately I became suspicious when their dataset started only recently in 1960 (and a few years after my birth). …

For Huntsville and Montgomery, here are their results. Quite scary. It appears that the number of 90°F days has risen to their highest levels ever. It says that in 1960 Huntsville had 45 days above 90°F, but by 2017 it was 57 days and rising.

Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville AL - number of 90+ degree days

Montgomery, Alabama.

Montgomery AL - number of 90+ degree days

Then, to make matters even scarier, they use climate model projections to 2090 to tell me that in 2040, when I’m 80, there will be 73 such hot days in Huntsville (as shown below). Yikes!

Huntsville’s future per RCP4.5!

Huntsville AL - projected future temperature

Editor’s note – From the NYT website.

“For each year, the count of days at or above 90 degrees reflects a 21-year rolling average. Temperature observations for your hometown are averaged over an area of approximately 625 km² (240 square miles), and may not match single weather-station records.

“The time series is based on historical data for 1960-2000. The 2001-2020 period relies on a combination of historical data and future projections. After 2020, the data uses a mixed climate model that captures a broad range of extreme temperature responses. The “likely” future range reflects outcomes with 66 percent probability of occurrence in the RCP 4.5 scenario.”

The rest of the story

Before you sell your house and move to Canada, let’s take a look at the real story. Having built many climate datasets of Alabama, some starting as early as 1850, I knew the Times story was designed to create alarm and promote the claim that humans who use carbon-based energy (gasoline, natural gas, coal) to help them live better lives are making our summers ever more miserable. Be aware reader, this webtool is not designed to provide accurate information.

First of all, climate data for Alabama began in the 19th century, not 1960. In 2016 Dr. Richard McNider (Alabama’s former State Climatologist) and I published a carefully constructed time series of summer temperatures for the state starting from 1883. This used numerous station records, including some that the federal government had not archived into its databases (which are the most common source for outfits like the Climate Impacts Lab.)

Time Series Construction of Summer Surface Temperatures for Alabama, 1883–2014, and Comparisons with Tropospheric Temperature and Climate Model Simulations” in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, March 2016.

I’ve updated that work to include summer temperatures through 2018. The result is below. Not only are summer daytime temperatures not rising, they have actually fallen over the last 136 years. After looking at the graph, why do you suppose the Climate Impacts Lab decided to start their charts in 1960?

We went a step further in that paper and demonstrated that climate models failed completely to replicate the downward temperature trend in Alabama over the past 120 years: 76 different models with a 100% failure rate. Would you trust these same models to tell you about the future as the Times does? Why did they not check the models for validity?

Now, what about the number of “hot” (or in Alabama we would say “typical”) 90°F days? For Alabama and the nation, I’ve calculated the average value per station each year since 1895. The results below speak for themselves (there is no increase of days hotter than 90°F) and expose the misinformation provided through the Times.

Alabama - days exceeding 90 degrees

 

Continental 48 US states - days exceeding 90 degrees

Providing accurate information on Alabama’s climate is what we do in our office. In fact, using real data, I can’t even come close to reproducing the images that the Climate Impacts Lab did which show 2010’s as having the most 90°F days in Alabama. I’m guessing they are using some theoretical output rather than sticking with observations. …I’ll check and follow-up as I can, but something is fishy.

This is a great state in which people can enjoy life and in which businesses can operate. Our climate resources are one of the reasons we are doing so well in recruitment. Occasionally though the time comes when I must address claims made by those whose intention is not to inform but to promote false alarm. This usually happens when an environmental pressure group generates a press release whose dramatic statements are published by a willing media (without any fact-checking). This is one of those times, and I’m sure it will not be the last.

——————– End of article. ——————–

A look at the world’s summers

From NOAA’s interactive Climate At A Glance page. This shows summers back to 1880. Only land temperatures are shown, since ocean temperature measurements are less reliable for much of this period. Summer 2018 was the fifth warmest summer since 1880, coming off the record warmth of the 2015-16 El Niño.

Global land temp - summer

“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.”

— From the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.

———————————————————————–—————

John Christy
John Christy. By Michael Mercier | UAH.

About the author

Dr. John R. Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Since November 2000 he has been Alabama’s State Climatologist. See his bio at the U of AL website (from which this bio was taken).

In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer (then a NASA scientist, now a Principle Research Scientist at UAH) and Christy developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991. In 1996, they received a Special Award by the American Meteorological Societyfor developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.” In January 2002 Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Dr. Christy has served as a Contributor (1992, 1994, 1996 and 2007) and Lead Author (2001) for the U.N. reports by the IPCC in which the satellite temperatures were included as a high-quality data set for studying global climate change. He has served on five National Research Council panels or committees, has performed research funded by NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT and the State of Alabama, and has testified 18 times for congressional committees.

His papers have been published in many journals, including Science, Nature, Journal of Climate, and The Journal of Geophysical Research. See the list here (with links).

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the posts about the RCPs, about the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the politics of climate change…

  1. Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. We can end the climate policy wars: demand a test of the models.
  3. About RCP8.5: Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
  4. Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.
  5. Ignoring science to convince the public that we’re doomed by climate change.
  6. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.

Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.

Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr.’s, because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom.

They really do not want you to read the revised second edition of The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …

“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?

“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”

17 thoughts on “Alabama debunks the Times’ story about our warming world

  1. Thanks. Nice article. Did Prof. Christy talk to the folks at the NYT to find out what they did? I may be wrong, but it does not sound like he did. I have been continuously amazed at the apparent lack of communications among scientists and others who write on controversial scientific issues like climate. One of the great strengths (and points of credibility) with the early writings of Steve McIntyre were his efforts to communicate with others. It proved largely unfruitful but the hostile and unhelpful reactions of the likes of Mann, Santer et al were very instructive – as were the more constructive reactions of Judy Curry and Rob Wilson.
    McKitrick and Christy’s new paper is also well worth a read especially McKitick’s preamble. https://judithcurry.com/2018/09/17/a-test-of-the-tropical-200-300-mb-warming-rate-in-climate-models/#more-24352 Rob WIlson’s latest paper on lake tree fossils is also informative – http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/146204/7/146204.pdf

    1. Bernie,

      “I have been continuously amazed at the apparent lack of communications among scientists and others who write on controversial scientific issues like climate.”

      You are, imo, amazed at the wrong thing. Everybody in this biz soon learns that climate alarmists are uninterested in communication. They lie, they smear, they use weaponized trolling. Conversations with them are a waste of time, necessary only when correcting the public record. Contacting them in advance of an article allows them time to prepare a smear campaign in response.

      See the smear campaign that forced Roger Pielke Jr out of the field, a response to his citing the IPCC and p-r literature about disaster costs. Facts are alarmists foe, and they spent a lot of effort to get him off the board.

      See the lies about Roger Pielke Sr, astonishing given his long and distinguished career.

      Linda Qui at Politifact interviewed me about a post I wrote. She then ignored all the material I gave her and printed an batch of astounding lies. Details here.

  2. Larry:

    I can see that. Way back when I first started looking into AGW, I was astonished at the treatment of Roger Pielke Sr and I still miss his blog posts commenting on the latest climate research. As you say, those who have followed the issues for some time undoubtedly know about the nastiness of folks like those at Skeptical Science and the push reviews of Mann’s books, etc. However, there are new folks who wander into a site likes yours and they may not understand the scope and depth of the backstory and see “denialists” as kooks or stooges for fossil fuel companies.

    Your experience with Linda Qui is indeed telling and your dissection of the Politifact response is right on target. I spent my professional career designing and analyzing surveys and I looked at the surveys you mentioned paying particular attention to the wording of the questions and the structure of the samples. The “Dorlan and Zimmerman” questions are simply laughable because of their lack of specificity. Also laughable is the failure in many citations to report the skepticism of many of the meteorologists who answered even these bland questions: the numbers are documented in the D&Z EoS article.

    1. Bernie,

      A few years ago, there was enthusiasm by those in the middle of this debate (eg, scientists like Roger Pielke Jr, RP Sr, Judith Curry), reporters like me) to “engage” with those on the other side. Much time and effort was burned on this project. IMO the effort was a waste of time.

      The most common response was one I described ten years ago: they would make something up, attributed to you, and give a devastating rebuttal to it. Conversations became an extended “I didn’t say that.” Plus attributing support for the IPCC as “denial” (this was the charge for which Pielke Jr was smeared). Then there was trolling. One example, still done (eg, here), is to pretend there is no debate about climate change – or movement for public policy action on climate change.

      On a lower tier, there are climate activists who just lie. A lot. Example here.

      After years of this, there is less enthusiasm for engaging. Mirroring this, there is much less interest by the public in listening to activists about climate change. Even Hillary seldom mentioned it during the campaign.

  3. What do they want? Human activity releases CO2. Should we give up cars, plastics, cell phones and go back to 1860 when everyone died by 60?

    My opinion is that climate change is just a massive tax grab.

    1. Sven,

      There is no one “they.” It’s not reasonable to characterize those concerned about climate change by the views of extremists (that the logical fallacy of the false dilemma).

      There are many sensible things we can do now at reasonable cost, such as these …

      1. More funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (e.g., global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded.
      2. A review of the climate forecasting models by a multidisciplinary team of relevant experts who have not been central players in this debate. Include a broader pool than those who have dominated the field, such as geologists, chemists, statisticians and software engineers.
      3. Run government-funded climate research with tighter standards (e.g., posting of data and methods, review by unaffiliated experts), as we do for biomedical research.
      4. We should begin a well-funded conversion to non-carbon-based energy sources, for completion by the second half of the 21st century — justified by both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details).
      5. Begin more aggressive efforts to prepare for extreme climate. We’re not prepared for repeat of past extreme weather (e.g., a real hurricane hitting NYC), let alone predictable climate change (e.g., sea levels climbing, as they have for thousands of years).
      6. Most importantly: break the gridlocked public policy by running a fair test of the climate models.
  4. nasim taleb is no climate alarmist, but he correctly in my estimation, calls for the application of the precautionary principle to the climate debate.

    when facing a threat of unknown, but not zero probability, the response should be commensurate with the risk of harm. no one can be certain what the climate will be like 50 years from now, but to ignore the threat to human welfare of climate change is potentially suicidal.

    there are many alarmists on one side of this debate. unfortunately the other side of the debate harbors many reflexive deniers and many who, in fact, are “stooges” of the fossil fuel industry who insist that the whole issue of climate change is a fraud and business as usual must continue. before you make that kind of bet you need to be 100% certain you are right. otherwise you may be risking the lives of your grandchildren and generations to come.

    1. Jay,

      Taleb’s thoughts were typical of him: stated with great arrogance, somewhat absurd, and impossible to defend. When I pointed out some of the odder implications to him, he replied (as usual when this happens) “idiot.” That’s his way of conceding. For some analysis of his proposal see…

      The precautionary method is thinking as if economics had never been invented. It is quite useless in a world with a large number of risks, many of which have potentially large bad consequences. There are methods of analysis for such situations, but they require work and thought. Two things modern Americans avoid. We prefer child-like thinking, using only the categories good and bad (this has made our politics into a clown show, and makes us easy to manipulate).

      Here is an alternative framework.

  5. I did science last at high school and after a few years working in construction moved to do economics and some social science at degree and then Masters,so I have no scientific knowledge to enter a climate science debate.

    My background is in teaching and some small property developments, so I do have some business experience and education.

    If there is climate change, then the first thing to do is ask what should be done on a practical basis, while we get the facts fully understood:

    1. The US and West generally has high standards on pollution control – local and global, so increasing production in these markets would reduce local and global pollution in production, reduce transport pollution and would be easier to build recyclability into the products.
    (This would help balance the budget and reduce debt over time while creating jobs domestically).

    2. Encourage people to buy smaller homes, in line with 1950’s and 60’s sizes, insulate them well, Mandate a percentage of materials that must be locally sourced and recycled at end of life – straight forward with most stick houses. Again set these to benefit local production. There will be some costs rises and these will be offset to a varying degree with extra jobs. This would not be that expensive to commission a University to do, with a couple of recent Ph.ds looking for funding and a Professor to oversee.

    3. Encourage garage sales, renovating old furniture and reducing purchase of some of the excess consumerism like cheap party imports that break before the party is even over ( I have an uncle in his 60’s who is an ex-carpenter (bad back now) who makes an OK living off buying stuff at garage sales renovating it and selling it on e-bay and other London based trading newspapers. – a lot of ex tradespeople are happy to do this type of work in retirement).

    4.Reduce globalisation; as the emphasise is cost reduction and the emphasise if the globalists actual care about pollution, should be localising production and more recycling. Locally made to high pollution standards, I am happy for Chinese or any other nations factories to relocate at very favourable terms, I would like to see fifty year ceramic washers in all stainless steel taps, made in the US with factories covered in solar cells. Fully recyclable at the end of their lives. So what if they cost $50 or 100 more, the average cheap Asian tap is guaranteed for 6 month and designed to last 7 months. Over a ten year period the dearer tap would on a per month basis work out cheaper. I have a Property business and I just know it costs a lot more to buy cheap, with re-work.

    I live out of town on 3.5 acres, I don’t know, so I decided to cut my pollution and buy according to my values.

    My wife and I drive a Ford Mondeo diesel and Toyota Corolla 1.8 petrol, respectively. Great easy to repair cars.
    Most clothes are purchased from the Thrift Shop, buy new Australia made when we can. ( I am a Londoner who now lives in Australia, with family in the US).
    Have doubled up on ceiling insulation and added solar cells,
    Planted an orchard, vegetable garden and built a green house.
    We cut spending 20% easily.

    I think that the US and the West, Australia included, should use the threat of climate change to adjust our economies, cut imports (especially if not reciprocal), increase domestic production, consumer less generally (but especially of imports), save more and invest in infrastructure, tree planting (for local lumber as well) and set up as many recycling businesses as possible.

    I would like to see more people of the right not saying I need 8.9 litres to replace my 7.2 l vehicle as I average 12mph on the way to work, it leaves the Liberals winning.

    Rather the hemi engine technology is a great start, we need a locally made Ford Ranger with a locally assembled 2l diesel or petrol engine for us that use the vehicles mainly as a road vehicle to drive to work and shopping.

    Clothes made in the US and West generally, old tires used to make trendy soles for shoes, old jeans made into recycled shopping bags – a few reality shows would get people copying. It would all be jobs. In my town there is a lady who collects the old jeans too worn for sale in the Thift shop and she makes trendy shopping bags out of them with an overlocker and not much else, sells them every Saturday at the markets.

    OK well off Climate Change, but I see it as a great reason, to move production home, if I am all wrong, I drove a high gas mileage Mondeo and not a Prado, what difference, but if I was honest I would prefer to drive a Mondeo assembled in Australia or any international brand made here. No prizes for working out who I would have voted for in the US.

    1. Just a guy,

      “If there is climate change,”

      I assume you mean human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change. Climate change is an omnipresent factor in history since the Earth first cooled). I know of no climate scientists who believe there is none. The debate is about magnitudes. How large will be the changes to Earth’s atmosphere, and how will climate change in response. There are many variables, many of which are poorly understood.

      As for your suggestions –

      (1) They would have a small effect on CO2 emissions.

      (2) The major driver of growth in emissions of greenhouse gases is economic growth in the emerging nations. It would take a massive decrease in US energy use to offset that.

      (3) Free trade (globalization) is a big booster to living standards around the world. Autarchy, barriers, is an easy path to becoming poor. Lots of nations have tried it. Let’s not follow their ill examples.

      (4) Many on the Left use climate change as a club to force changes in US society that they want for other reasons. This is fundamentally dishonest. This corruption has had an ugly effect on the public policy debate, and by now many Americans see what they’re doing.

  6. many people dislike taleb, larry and for good reason. that does not obviate his fundamental point. economics simply has zero relevance in responding to potential existential risks. or, if you insist on using economic concepts here, the marginal cost of producing one unit of catastrophic climate change is infinite.
    the odds of winning a round of russian roulette are 5 to 1 in the player’s favor, but unless the player is suicidal, there is no sum of money adequate to justify the risk.

    1. Jay,

      “economics simply has zero relevance in responding to potential existential risks.”

      Since the number of risks are large and resources are limited, that’s not true. It’s grossly false.

      “if you insist on using economic concepts here, the marginal cost of producing one unit of catastrophic climate change is infinite.”

      I suggest you read my posts before giving rebuttals to them.

    2. “Since the number of risks are large and resources are limited, that’s not true. It’s grossly false.”

      Yes, wonderfully succinctly put! Its also the problem with Pascal’s Wager, which is the form of argument behind jaymoses remark.

      The problem is that the same argument that would justify belief in Catholicism to avoid the very small chance of eternal damnation should it turn out to be true would also justify belief in Islam for the same reason. But they are incompatible, and the Wager offers no guidance on which to choose.

      The same argument in jaymoses case would justify spending everything we have on detecting a possible earth destroying asteroid. Or indeed a possible earth destroying giant space turtle. After all, the costs are existential, so no matter what it costs, the expected value must be huge.

      It is one of the deeply puzzling things about climate alarmism that people keep on wanting to find reasons why they should believe things where the evidence is inadequate, because, they say, this one is different.

    3. George,

      I explain that in detail in my posts. As so many others have done elsewhere. But it has no effect on alarmists. They obsessively see the threat that captures their imagination, and are blind to all the other threats out there (we should put them all in one room and let them try and each group convince the others that there is only one True Threat).

      Plus, of course, they are blind to the “routine” needs of those living today and in the next few generations.

      It’s a nice demo of the dysfunctional public policy debates in these Crazy Years.

  7. Editor

    I continue to be amazed at your tolerance of lies being told about you by the various alarmist bloggers. This must be very trying considering you use the “gold standard” of IPCC reports to back up your case. It must be a lot worse for the scientists. The fact that they have to smear people like Drs Christy, Spenser and both the Pielkes, all of whom are just if not more qualified than the bloggers, show their arguments are hollow and they are just nasty people, real scrotes. One of the few benefits is that the tactic they adopt mean they are preaching to a shrinking set of converted.

    I agree with you about the precautionary principle. That is really a do nothing option used by people who cannot muster a logical argument about the risks of new technology. There is no acknowledgement of the benefits. And there is an overlap with many activists and past scares. Remember all the great campaigns about cellphones causing brain tumours and mad cow disease. I think AGW will end up in that group of societal disorder.

    I might disagree with some of your opinions, but I am an avid reader of your posts and know your facts are just that. Please keep it up.

    1. Chris,

      “I continue to be amazed at your tolerance of lies being told about you by the various alarmist bloggers.”

      These still upset me. But experience has taught me that they are propagandists, and have no interest in truth. Engaging them with facts is futile, as I many scores of attempts have proven. I feel sorry for their readers, eager consumers of lies – and for a nation in which so many people people prefer lies to truth.

  8. Good points to my points and they have real merit.

    1. We could go on forever with reasons to have more efficient cars, I am for those to reduce oil import dependency, cut consumption costs, but they take time to implement.

    2. Importing less clothes and consumer rubbish is a smart move, the products in land fill leach chemicals in the water, are increasingly hard to recycle and just are a waste of money. I read the average woman wears a piece of cheap clothing 7 times. It is designed to fall apart and I have International Students that brag about this in my classes, they would not make it for their own markets.

    3. Free trade is a big boost, but tariffs are only a part of free trade, many national governments subsidize their firms to give unfair advantage. Importing large numbers of unskilled workers at home and declining jobs for the less skilled in the local population is a factor in the opioid crisis. Hilter was not voted in in a time of high employment.

    4. In a finite world making things that last should be more of an emphasis, but it is consumer driven and that is fact.

    I suppose I have read the Pussy Cats article and that on chemicals and their effect on us. I am trying to help myself and my children.

    The less chemicals the better, the more simple home ground food we can produce the better, grass fed over grain feed meat,omega 3 and 6 effects especially on girls health.

    My children see their father and mother grow vegetables, repair the car and make do and mend generally.

    I volunteer with underprivileged kids and unemployed adults, with education (Literacy, Language and Numeracy), maybe it blinds me to to wider picture, but I do see them struggle with joblessness. I see the drug dealers even hanging around the Volunteer Centre or at the Skate Park my son and his friends go to.

    Thanks for taking to the time to reply, I and many others must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

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