2011: a hot cold year

by Gareth on January 22, 2012


The NASA numbers are in, and 2011 was the ninth warmest year since 1880 — 0.51ºC above the 1951-80 global mean. Nine of the ten warmest years in the long term record have occurred in this century. According to the analysis released by James Hansen and his team at GISS, a combination of low solar activity and the continuing cool phase (La Niña) of the El Niño Southern Oscillation kept global temperatures down — but as this map from the Earth Observatory shows, many parts of the world still managed to experience a very warm year, especially over the Arctic and Russia:


NOAA’s overview of last year puts 2011 in eleventh place in their long term series, and confirms that the USA experienced a record 14 extreme weather events that caused more than $1 billion in damage — up two from their previous estimate.

At the end of last year I considered the prospects for a new global temperature record in 2012, but the GISS team’s analysis provides a much more detailed look at the factors influencing global temperature. The NASA news release quotes James Hansen:

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Niño will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Niño, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Niño to push temperatures above 2010.”

Thermal lags in the system – the delayed effects of a switch from La Niña to El Niño (discussed in the analysis), and the similar but slightly longer delay in the solar radiation upturn — means that 2012 is unlikely to be a record-breaker. Meanwhile, ENSO watchers expect the current La Niña to continue into the northern hemisphere spring, and then fade towards neutral conditions (NOAA ENSO advisories here).

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Australis January 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

HadCRUT and NOAA don’t agree that 2005 and 2010 were the two hottest on record, and nor do RSS or UAH. It’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions from a minority report. However, James Hansen’s prediction of a new record in the next 2-3 years provides a useful benchmark on the ability of modellers to predict future movements.

One puzzle: Shouldn’t extreme weather go hand-in-hand with higher temperatures? How can 2011, which is only the 11th warmest year of recent times, be the occasion of record-breaking extremes?

Gareth January 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm

2010 tied as hottest year in all major temp series.

Global average temperature is only one metric. More important for extremes is the total energy in the system, which is increasing year-on-year (though not monotonically). The result is that when the “pattern” of global weather is disposed towards extremes in certain areas, then the total energy available is greater and the chances of record extremes increased. With luck, 2012 will be a quiet year, but the next time there’s an intense ENSO event, then we may have another bad year. And it’s likely that the bad years will get worse…

Macro January 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm

“Shouldn’t extreme weather go hand-in-hand with higher temperatures”
The short answer is “No”.
You really need to learn some basic physics. Here is one basic physical fact. “Temperature” and “Heat” are NOT synonymous! It’s quite possible for something to gain heat (energy) but not increase in temperature. Changing a solid to liquid or liquid to gas requires heat, but does not raise the temperature it’s called latent heat. One area where the planet is showing obvious signs of heating, is in the Arctic, with thick sea ice continuing to diminish.
So the planet continues to heat up (ie gain more energy year by year), with consequent extreme weather events, but the temperatures will vary dependent upon a variety of influences such as El Nino, changes in solar irradiance, heat being released from the Oceans, etc….

joe.fone January 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

“Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing…”

So it’s the Sun then? Got it. Finally Hansen sees the light! What took him so long?

So what the hell is Gore doing with his junket to Antarctica? http://tinyurl.com/6n8mlnd

Note that Gore is going in late summer to be sure to find some ice melt that he can then blame on manmade global warming. He needs a few dripping icicles to film that he can then bleat about. Perhaps Gore should have a chat with Hansen who now believes it’s down to the Sun.

Gareth January 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Gore is off-topic. Gore is always off-topic where you’re involved.

Macro January 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Idiotic comment from a thorough-going idiot.
Joe; your not even funny. Quoting a sentence out of context just proves you to be deceitful, and not very intelligent. And NO I’m not going to fall in to a silly game of “he said this”. You are simply a waste of time.

Dappledwater January 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Macro, it wouldn’t be stretch that Joe really doesn’t understand there is an 11-year solar cycle.

The solar forcing is pretty significant though. Earth’s energy imbalance is around 0.5-0.58 watts per square metre, whereas the variation in solar forcing through the solar cycle is 0.25 W/m2. So it’s going to cause a reasonable amount of warming as it heads to the peak of the next cycle.

As the NASA team led by James Hansen points out we’re about to move to the warm phase of the cool/warm (La Nina/El Nino) cycle in the next couple of years. Add in the fact that the increasing solar cycle is going to pump a lot more heat into the ocean in the next decade, and it’s not good.

Did I say hot,hot,hot?.

Macro January 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I think he is just trying to be a troll. Any stupid comment will do! So he picks that sentence out of context to “suggest” that it’s all down to the sun you know! Well as if we didn’t already know that’s where all the extra energy originates from. It’s just that we have invented this dandy little game called “let’s increase greenhouse gasses” and trap some more of it here!
No, the latest analysis from James Hansen et al isn’t looking good, for a “cooling” planet.

RW January 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I see the DomPost published a letter from you, showing how low its standards are. As if getting Gosman, Australis and other trollers back wasn’t tedious enough, you return – the 24-carat gold-plated ignoramus who is completely incapable of staying on a topic.

bill January 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm

d u m b

joe.fone January 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Wow! That got you fired up! Did I hit a raw nerve? Obviously. But that’s a good sign. I’m glad to see Dappledwater is also now admitting the Sun is playing a dominant role in Earth’s energy balance. Finally. A chink in the armour plate of religious conviction over CO2. In time, the others will catch on too. Maybe even the IPCC, the UEA gang and Penn State will start to see it was the Sun all along, plus other natural forces at work. Too late for Gore though.

Did I say Gore? Sorry Gareth… “Gore is off-topic”. Is that because he’s an embarrassment?

bill January 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm

d u m b e r

Dappledwater January 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Joe – this is for the reader’s benefit, but a cycle implies no long-term trend. Notice what happens when a wheel on a bicycle spins around – it eventually ends up in the position it started in.

Same with the sun, small changes in the intensity of sunlight reaching Earth made the Earth cooler in the last 11 years, and now it’s going to make it warmer, for 11 years, then cooler, then warmer, then……….Comprende amigo?

That mighty molecule CO2 will keep making the Earth warmer until humans stop making more of it by burning fossil fuels. It’s not cyclical. That’s why the Earth kept warming in the last decade when the sun was undergoing slight cooling.

Now ain’t learning climate science fun Joe? Try to retain this information, don’t have another anterograde amnesia relapse.

Rob Murphy January 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

“small changes in the intensity of sunlight reaching Earth made the Earth cooler in the last 11 years, and now it’s going to make it warmer, for 11 years”

The sunspot cycle is about 5 1/2 years of increased numbers/warming followed by about 5 1/2 years of decreased numbers/cooling and then it repeats. That’s the 11 year cycle. The solar cycle is 22 years, and that has to do with the Sun’s magnetic field switching poles.
Other than that, your points about cycles not implying a long term trend were spot on (though of course there *could* have been a long term trend in sunspot intensity). If anything the trend in sunspot numbers/strength has been toward a decrease over the last 40-50 years – it can’t be used to explain the recent warming.

Dappledwater January 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

Whoops, thanks Rob.

Dappledwater January 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

Of course you would, but what else would we expect from a denier? In typical denier form you start waffling about politics and all sorts of nonsense. It’s like you all come off an assembly line. The irony of your religious fervor comment is duly noted.

Funny how the Earth keeps getting warmer ain’t it? You know, just like the climate scientists keep telling us. And all that extreme weather too. Hmm……..

Dappledwater January 25, 2012 at 8:10 am

Funny thing is I had the solar irradiance data from Hansen’s paper in front of me when I wrote that too.

joe.fone January 25, 2012 at 7:45 am

Now Dappledwater, I’d hardly call that climate “science”. It’s hubris to give it such a generous term. I’d call it religious ferver instead because your irrational devotion to carbon dioxide emissions as the principal climate driver is based entirely upon some loose and occasional post-Industrial correlations backed up by three completely arbitrary things: computer modeling, political interest in the outcome and fiddled datasets. But be careful of the political interest because that’s always fickle and will disappear, especially with the growing public suspicion that the whole thing is a trumped up fraud foisted on them by a pack of lying tossers with vested interests. You may have already noticed the mainstream media is backing away from it. AGW hardly gets a mention anymore. Why is that do you think? I’ll tell you why: No one cares about it and only the truly staunch believers like your deluded selves still believe it. Which is strange don’t you think? If AGW is supposed to be the most important ‘problem’ facing mankind and the planet, why is it not a daily issue in the media? Why isn’t it on the front page of every newspaper? I mean if WW III were raging, do you think that would appear every day and every night in the mainstream media? Yes it would. So why isn’t AGW if it’s even more urgent? I mean the entire planet is supposed to be at stake isn’t it?? The “tipping point” is imminent isn’t it?

But you’re on the right track. Keep your eye on the Sun and the natural cycles inherent in Earth’s dynamic climate system and forget this CO2 nonsense. CO2 is good. We need more. Not less!

Dappledwater January 25, 2012 at 8:10 am


RW January 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

I think an increasing number of the general public, not just people here, know exactly who the “lying tossers” are!

A weather forum in this country of quite long standing used to feature occasional anti-AGW comments by lying, offensive trolls, and the moderators didn’t mind it. However these characters have fallen completely silent for a couple of years now – probably the silence of embarrassment, even if they don’t have the guts to admit outright that events are proving them to be dead wrong.

At your level of scientific illiteracy of course, embarrassment is impossible. Go and chatter with some of the halfwits on Australia’s Weatherzone – it has a good complement of cranks.

Dappledwater January 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

I think Joe Fone might the horse that Roger ‘The Black Knight” Dewhurst rode in on. It would explain things.

RW January 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

If he’s wearing a cowboy hat, the Randy Newman song applies (most pertinently to the puppet masters):


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