Jim Hansen to tour NZ: dates announced

James Hansen will be touring New Zealand next month, giving a public lecture entitled “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue” in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin, Gore and Christchurch (schedule below the fold). Coal and lignite will be a major focus of his visit, and he’ll be participating in a symposium on “the future of coal” in Wellington on May 17th. Solid Energy’s CEO Don Elder will also be there, which should guarantee an interesting divergence of opinion. Hansen will also visit Southland to see the site of Solid Energy’s proposed lignite developments. Hot Topic and The Climate Show hope to be able to catch up with Jim at some point on his tour. I want to ask him about the Eemian… 😉

Hansen’s tour is being sponsored by a number of groups, including 350.org, Greenpeace, Organic Systems NZ, Oxfam, The Pure Advantage (business leaders group), the Institute of Policy Studies, and a number of interested academics and individuals. Announcing the tour, Jeanette Fitzsimons, spokesperson for the coalition bringing Dr Hansen to New Zealand said “Dr Hansen will explain why we cannot get climate change under control and preserve a decent future for our grandchildren unless we leave most of the remaining coal in the ground”. Amen to that.

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Everyone agrees: 2010 ties for top temperature


All of the major global temperature series — surface and satellite — report that 2010 is tied for first place as the warmest year in the long term record. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center both have 2010 tied with their previous record holder 2005, while the UK’s Climatic Research Unit and the satellite series from the University of Alabama Huntley (UAH) report that 2010 is tied with 1998. Commenting on the surface record, NZ climate scientist Jim Salinger said:

The three sources of global mean temperature analysis shows that the globe continues to warm with nine of the top ten years occurring between 2001 and 2010. Global average temperatures for the decade 2001 to 2010 were 0.44 deg C above the 1961 to 1990 average for HadCRUT3, making it the warmest decade on record going back to 1850.

Despite differences in detail between the various surface records, the GISS graph above clearly demonstrates that they show nearly identical long term trends. As the NZ Herald pointed out, 2010 should spells the end for that favourite denialist trope — it’s been cooling since (pick a year), but I’m a bit more sanguine. I confidently predict that with the current intense La Niña likely to ensure that 2011 is not a record-setter, the usual suspects will insist there’s been a plateau in temperatures, with cooling sure to follow. Until the next strong El Niño comes along, of course, because with the solar cycle moving towards maximum insolation, the global average will almost certainly set a clear new record. 2012, perhaps?

[Small milestone: This is the 1,000th post at Hot Topic since the site launched in April 2007.]

Every picture tells a story


But what story? Image stitched together by Tom Yulsman at CE Journal, question answered there. As he says, looks like Mondrian, but this isn’t about aesthetics it’s about effective communication — and I think this is particularly successful.

[Rod Stewart]

On fire inside a snowball

Fire: NOAA’s National Climate Data Centre has posted its report on global climate for July (press release). The combined global land and sea surface temperature of 16.5ºC was the second warmest in the NOAA record, 0.66°C above the average for the last 100 years of 15.8°C. The January to July period was the warmest in the record. The map below shows the anomalies for the month — spot the heatwave in Russia.


Meanwhile, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has posted its take on the the July numbers: What Global Warming Looks Like. Click on the thumbnail image at the top of the post to see their map of July temperatures. One striking point they comment on:

…the area warmer than climatology already (with global warming of 0.55°C relative to 1951-1980) is noticeably larger than the area cooler than climatology. Also the magnitude of warm anomalies now usually exceeds the magnitude of cool anomalies.

GISS also note that the 12-month running mean (below) of global temperature is well into record territory, and that it’s possible that calendar 2010 could also set a record.


Meanwhile, up North….

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Hansen: it can be cold in a warming world.

“If it’s that warm, how come it’s so darned cold?” is the heading James Hansen has given to a recently finalised essay circulated to his email list. In more sober terms he subtitles it Regional Cold Anomalies within Near-Record Global Temperature

The essay explains how the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) goes about analyzing global temperature change, using electronic receipt of data from three sources: (1) weather data for several thousand meteorological stations, (2) satellite observations of sea surface temperature, and (3) Antarctic research station measurements. And for those who might suggest that there’s secret manipulation going on Hansen makes it clear that the data is available for others who want to use it:


“Although the three input data streams that we use are publicly available from the organizations that produce them, we began preserving the complete input data sets each month in April 2008. These data sets, which cover the full period of our analysis, 1880-present, are available to parties interested in performing their own analysis or checking our analysis. The computer program used in our analysis can be downloaded from the GISS web site.”

The results are that 2009 tied (with 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007 – differences too close to matter) as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature record.  The warmest was 2005.  Hansen discusses the variance of the GISS figures with the Hadley Centre (HadCRUT) which has 1998 as the warmest year, and which has been used so frequently to support claims that the globe since 1998 is now cooling. After careful comparison he concludes that the differences that have developed between the GISS and HadCRUT global temperatures are due primarily to the extension of the GISS analysis into regions that are excluded from the HadCRUT analysis. He expresses a reasonable degree of confidence in the GISS preference for 2005. Over the decade the conclusion is easier: the world has become warmer, not cooler.

What about that cold 2009 December?  There was an unusual exchange of polar and mid-latitude air in the northern hemisphere, related to the most extreme Arctic Oscillation since the 1970s. His conclusion is that December 2009 was a highly anomalous month. High pressure in the polar region can be described as the “cause” of the extreme weather. There is no apparent basis for expecting frequent repeat occurrences of December 2009 conditions, though high winter variability including cold snaps will surely continue.

Further discussion of seasonal temperature anomalies leads to the observation that the change in the probability that the seasonal mean temperature at any given location will fall in the category that was defined as unusually warm during 1951-1980 has increased from 30 percent during that period to about 60 percent today. This will be illustrated in an upcoming publication.

The bottom line?

“The Earth has been in a period of rapid global warming for the past three decades. The assertion that the planet has entered a period of cooling in the past decade is without foundation. On the contrary, we find no significant deviation from the warming trend of the past three decades.”

I haven’t attempted to offer any of the detail with which Hansen builds his conclusions, but can report it as readily accessible to the lay person prepared to give it reasonably patient attention. The essay is another example of his skill in communicating serious science to non-scientists and of his laudable willingness to do so.

His preliminary remarks are worth separate attention. He notes that scientists reporting global warming have come under attack for a supposed conspiracy to manufacture evidence of global warming. Vicious personal messages are sent to the principal scientists almost daily.

“The spiral into an almost surrealistic situation with ad hominem attacks on scientists may have originated in part with vested interests who do not want society to address climate change. But there is more than that – including honest, wishful thinking that climate change is not really happening. But wishing does not alter facts.”

He stoutly supports the work of scientists:

“The scientific method practically defines integrity… All scientists make honest mistakes, but the scientific method is designed to correct them. The skeptical nature of the scientific method causes conclusions to be reexamined as new data appears. Cases of deliberate fudging of data, of scientific fraud, are so rare that these infrequent episodes live in infamy for decades and even centuries.”

He knows of no cases of fraud in analyses of global temperature measurements. In the face of unfounded accusations “our best approach is simply to continue to report our scientific results as clearly as possible.”

He thinks that most of the public continue to respect scientists for what they do and how they do it. I hope he’s right. Sometimes I think the forces of denial have taken on the aspect of a rampaging demonic power, against which the forces of quiet reason are for the time being ineffectual.