Tag Archives: global warming

Put the stories about record 2016 warming in a useful context

Summary: Alarmists have gone hysterical about the third year of record global warming. Should we be hysterical? Fortunately NOAA and NASA provide graphics showing us the temperature record, so we can put the current warming in a larger context. The temperature trend is not the only piece in the climate change puzzle, but it’s an important one — worth taking a few minutes to understand. The climate does not care about our politics, and will have the last work in the policy debate.

Global Warming

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

The big news is that 2016 temperature anomaly was a record high: 0.07°F warmer than 2015 and 0.4°F warmer than the previous El Nino peak in 1998 (0.04 by the satellite data). Measuring temperatures from El Nino peak to peak is a crude but effect measure of warming because ENSO cycles are so powerful. NOAA “The global temperatures in 2016 were majorly influenced by strong El Niño conditions…“.UK Met Office: “A particularly strong El Niño event contributed about 0.2C to the annual average for 2016…

Also, neither increase is even close to statistically significant. The 2016 anomaly was 1.69°F  ±  0.27°F). Alarmists ignore the actual numbers, preferring to make alarming pronouncements about the coming climate apocalypse (vagueness is the alarmist’s best friend).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Here are three different perspectives; all give roughly similar results. First, a graph by NOAA of the global average surface temperature in Decembers (their excellent interactive website shows data since the reliable instrument era began in 1880). This graph minimizes the overall warming trend, which is concentrated in the months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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A status report on global warming. Much depends on the next few years.

Summary: Alarmists went hysterical about the warming during the 2015-16 El Nino. In October the decline began from that spike. The climate policy debate might depend on what the world’s temperature does during the next year or so. Will the pause continue, or will warming resume? Here are several perspectives on the current warming, provided by NOAA and NASA.

775 degree warming

“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.”
— One of the most important conclusions of IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

This statement about past warming is important. But for making public policy decisions future warming we need to know the odds of various amounts of warming during the 21st century. There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5) while ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster. Northern hemisphere snow extent has risen since in both the Fall and the Winter. There is little evidence that we have passed one of the often declared “tipping points”.

So it is logical that — despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s — the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (details here). Republican control of the Presidency, Congress, and most States makes policy action almost impossible for the next 4 years (ceteris paribus). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

Both sides in the public policy climate wars obsess over short-term weather, even local weather. They rejoice over statistically insignificant changes in the global average temperature. They celebrate record highs and lows in obscure corners of the world. But there is a gram of sense in this, as short-term (decade long) trends have had great influence on the policy debate — and might bring decisive victory to either side (no matter what the climate does by 2050).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Bob Tisdale produces a detailed monthly analysis. Here are some perspectives better suited for the general public. First, a graph by NOAA (excellent, as usual) clearly showing the trend since the reliable instrument era began in 1880. This graph exaggerates the flatness because warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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How accurate are climate scientists’ findings? Look at ocean warming.

Summary:  This might be one of the more important of our 3500 posts. It looks at an often asked question about climate science — how accurate are its findings, a key factor when we make decisions about trillions of dollars (and affecting billions of people). The example examined is ocean heat content, a vital metric since the oceans absorbing 90%+ of global warming. How accurate are those numbers? The error bars look oddly small, especially compared to those of sea surface temperatures. This also shows how work from the frontiers of climate science can provide problematic evidence for policy action. Different fields have different standards.

“The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.”
— Climate scientists Roger Pielke Sr. (source).

Warming of the World Ocean

NOAA: Yearly Vertically Averaged Temperature Anomaly 0-2000 meters layer

NOAA website’s current graph of Yearly Vertically Averaged Temperature Anomaly 0-2000 meters with error bars (±2*S.E.). Very tiny error bars. Reference period is 1955–2006.

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Posts at the FM website report the findings of the peer-reviewed literature and major climate agencies, and compare them with what we get from journalists and activists (of Left and Right). This post does something different. It looks at some research on the frontiers of climate science, and its error bars.

The subject is “World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010” by Sydney Levitus et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 28 May 2012. Also see his presentation. The bottom line: from 1955-2010 the upper 700 meters of the World Ocean warmed (volume mean warming) by 0.18°C (Abraham 2013 says that it warmed by ~0.2°C during 1970-2012). The upper 2,000m warmed by 0.09°C, which “accounts for approximately 93% of the warming of the earth system that has occurred since 1955.”

Levitus 2012 puts that in perspective by giving two illustrations. First…

“If all the heat stored in the world ocean since 1955 was instantly transferred to the lowest 10 km (5 miles) of the atmosphere, this part of the atmosphere would warm by ~65°F. This of course will not happen {it’s just an illustration}.”

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What we learned from the freak storm that “melted the North Pole” on December 30

Summary: Let’s compare the news about weather with data and scientists’ analysis. Sad see how ideology plus desperation for readers has brought talented journalists to write clickbait. No wonder their credibility has collapsed. Worse, after 26 years of this exaggerated reporting the public rates climate change near or at the bottom of their policy priorities.

“As to the permanent interest of individuals in the aggregate interests of the community, and in the proverbial maxim, that honesty is the best policy, present temptation is often found to be an overmatch for those considerations.”
— James Madison’s Speech in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 2 December 1829.

Polar Ice Caps are melting

Contents

  1. Journalists warm up the story
  2. Stories after the storm
  3. Weather Porn
  4. Did the North Pole melt?
  5. Conclusions
  6. Other posts in this series
  7. For More Information

(1)  Journalists warm up the story

It’s time for another round of extreme weather hysteria, this time about the “melting North Pole.” It’s the kind of reporting that has made newspapers and TV news among the least-trusted institutions in America. Let’s start with an example of professionally done journalism to show how far the rot has spread: excerpts from “Freak storm in North Atlantic to lash UK, may push temperatures over 50 degrees above normal at North Pole” by Jason Samenow (editor and meteorologist) at WaPo, 28 December.

“Big Icelandic storms are common in winter, but this one may rank among the strongest and will draw northward an incredible surge of warmth pushing temperatures at the North Pole over 50° above normal.  This is mind-boggling.

… Ahead of the storm, the surge of warm air making a beeline towards the North Pole is astonishing. In the animation {computer model forecast} below, watch the warm temperature departures from normal, portrayed by red shades, explode towards the Pole between Monday and Wednesday.

“It’s as if a bomb went off. And, in fact, it did.”

Samenow demonstrates how weather reporting has become misleading. Forecasts are “mindboggling” and “astonishing”, and their results are described in tabloid-like terms (“a bomb went off”). He makes no comparisons with history to show that this storm looks unusual (see the some actual data below). Predictions create both fear and clicks in modern journalism.

That’s not the oddest aspect of the story. America has thousands of meteorologists and climate scientists, but journalists increasingly turn for lurid copy to climate activists lacking any professional qualifications. Preferencing the analysis of a fiction writer with actual climate scientists is low-grade propaganda, not journalism. But the WaPo does so…

“Environmental blogger Robert Scribbler notes this storm will be linked within a “daisy chain” of two other powerful North Atlantic low pressure systems forming a “truly extreme storm system.” He adds: “The Icelandic coast and near off-shore regions are expected to see heavy precipitation hurled over the island by 90 to 100 mile per hour or stronger winds raging out of 35-40 foot seas. Meanwhile, the UK will find itself in the grips of an extraordinarily strong southerly gale running over the backs of 30 foot swells.”

… Scribbler says such an anomaly “reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate”, although some climate scientists aren’t convinced global warming is meaningfully impacting these types of storms.”

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90% of the biggest Yosemite glacier has melted. Did we do it?

Summary: Climate activists provide journalists with vivid stories about global warming, inciting public action to regulate CO2 emissions. Such as the recent surge of articles describing the melting Lyell Glacier in Yosemite Park as warnings of our future. They misrepresent the science by conflating natural and anthropogenic warming, an example of activists’ tactics which have failed despite decades of effort.

Melting of the Lyell Glacier

Glacier was once Yosemite’s largest; now it’s almost gone” by Tom Stienstra in the San Francisco Chronicle of 16 October 2015. Click to enlarge.

The Lyell Glacier in Yosemite Park is one of climate activists’ “poster children” for global warming. Recently there has been another surge of articles such as “Glacier was once Yosemite’s largest; now it’s almost gone” by Tom Stienstra in the San Francisco Chronicle of 16 October 2015…

The glacier has lost about 90% of its volume and 80% of its surface area from 1883 to 2015, according to Stock and Peter Devine, a naturalist with the Yosemite Conservancy who has studied the Lyell Glacier for 30 years. Stock and a crew of geologists measured the perimeter of the glacier with a GPS in the last week of September.

“’I think about John Muir a lot up there on the glacier,’ Stock said. ‘I try to envision what it was like when Muir was here. It would have been so different. I think about what (Francois) Matthes (of the U.S. Geological Survey) said in 1935, about why we need to measure our glaciers, that glaciers are sensitive indicators of climate change.’

“… At one point, Devine turned to get one last glimpse of the Lyell Glacier. ‘It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend,’ Devine said. ‘It’s hard to believe that the glacier that John Muir found and that I’ve loved for most of my life looks like it will be gone.’”

Other recent examples are “You Can Barely Even See Yosemite’s Largest Glacier Anymore” by Ria Misra at GIZMODO and “Incredible images show how the Lyell Glacier has lost nearly 80% of its surface area since 1883” at the Daily Mail. An older example is “Yosemite’s largest ice mass is melting fast” by Louis Sahagun in the LAT of 1 October 2013.

These show one of the major climate scams: describing the effects of two centuries of warming as purely anthropogenic (see other examples below). In fact much of the warming of the past two centuries is a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age.  Our CO2 emissions skyrocketed after WWII (see data here), becoming a major driver of warming. Which is why the IPCC’s AR5 says “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.” (See this for details.). Attributing all glacial melting to our actions is a material misrepresentation of the facts.

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Alaska’s climate scientists tell us the rest of the news, what Obama forgot to mention

Summary: Obama journeys to Alaska and says things. Our journalist-stenographers reprint this as news. They do not consult local experts, and so miss an important part of the story. This post gives you the rest of the news.

Alaska temperatures 1949-2014

From the Alaska Climate Research Center. Click to enlarge.

The great oddity of the climate change campaign is the disinterest of journalists in reporting it well. Stories about our certain doom often omit vital context (e.g., burning off the world’s fossil fuels means the 21st century relies on coal for energy, like the 19thC), forget to mention the IPCC when it disagrees with alarmists (e.g., about the danger of a methane apocalypse), and ignore the host of research facilities studying relevant aspects of our changing world.

We see that last factor at work in journalists’ reporting about Obama’s climate campaign tour of Alaska. Google News shows no stories in the mainstream news mentioning the findings of the Alaska Climate Research Center. I have posted their work in response to previous panicky stories about Alaska melting in 2009, in 2013, and again here.

Here is their Temperature Changes in Alaska page (updated annually; red emphasis added). It’s quite clear.

“This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949, the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 6 decades is 3.0°F.

“… Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2009) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976.

“The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2009, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.”

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Another disturbing article about climate change. Fortunately we have the IPCC!

Summary:  Climate change is among our most important public policy issues, and shows our broken ability to see and understand our world around us.  Today Esquire gives us a powerful but misleading story about our imminent doom, one rich with lessons for us. Expect to see many more of these before November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.   (2nd of 2 posts today.}

“The unwise man is awake all night, worries over and again. When morning rises he is restless still.”
— Norse proverb.

Overton Window

Today’s reading is “When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job” by John H. Richardson in Esquire — “Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it.”

It’s a sad story, but not the one Richardson thinks he’s telling. Glaciologist Jason Box has an apocalyptic forecast for climate change. This has taken a psychological toll on him and his family. Richardson misrepresents the story, however, by neglecting to mention that Box’s views are outside the consensus of climate scientists as seen in the reports of the IPCC.

Like most alarmist articles in the media, the letters “IPCC” don’t even appear. Focusing on the views of scientists with forecasts more extreme than the IPCC while discrediting those on the other side of the curve (“skeptics”) is an attempt to shift the Overton Window — and increase public support for large-scale regulation of energy and economic activity.

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