Is earth’s temperature about to soar? (No pause, no hiatus, only warming)

This is a guest post by the statistician who blogs as Tamino, cross-posted from his Open Mind blog with his permission. It’s important reading…

A recent blog post on RealClimate by Stefan Rahmstorf shows that when it comes to recent claims of a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in global surface temperature, there just isn’t any reliable evidence to back up those claims.


Yet for years one of the favourite claims of those who deny the danger of global warming has been “No global warming since [insert start time here] !!!” They base the statement on the observed data of earth’s surface temperature or its atmospheric temperature. Then they claim that such a “pause” or “hiatus” in temperature increase disproves, in one fell swoop, everything about man-made climate change.

They seem a bit worried lately because it is very likely that the data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will record this year as the hottest on record; we won’t know, of course, until 2014 is complete. A single year, even if the hottest on record, has only a little to do with the validity of such claims, but a lot to do with how hard it is to sell the idea. Perhaps they dread the prospect that if the most recent year is the hottest on record — in any data set — it will put a damper on their claims of a “pause” in global warming. If they can’t claim that any more, it deprives them of one of their most persuasive talking points (whether true or not). Still the claims persist; they’ve even begun preparing to ward off genuine skepticism spurred by the hottest year on record.

I seem to be one of very few who has said all along, repeatedly and consistently, that I’m not convinced there has been what is sometimes called a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in the warming trend of global temperature — let alone in global warming.

Continue reading “Is earth’s temperature about to soar? (No pause, no hiatus, only warming)”

TDB Today: WACCy weather and a warm year


A classic case of WACCy weather in the northern hemisphere, seen here in a map from the excellent Climate Reanalyzer site, prompts me to discuss the 2013 global temperature numbers, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and what sea ice loss is doing to northern hemisphere weather patterns in my post at The Daily Blog this week. We live in interesting times…

Defending the indefensible: Guardian responds to RC critics

RealClimate has given James Randerson, editor of the Guardian’s environmental website, the opportunity to respond to two RealClimate posts on the Guardian’s “investigation” into the hacked CRU emails.  I found his response disappointing. He points to the Guardian’s climate change credentials. They are certainly for the most part good, though in view of the overwhelming scientific evidence that ought not to be remarkable in a newspaper pitched to an educated readership. However in this time of intellectual chaos in the media’s relationship to science we have to be thankful for what we ought to be able to take for granted.

But Randerson doesn’t seem to comprehend that the series of Fred Pearce’s articles on the emails frequently fell far short of the journalistic standards the Guardian normally sets. He speaks of the strong public demand for an in-depth journalistic account of what the emails tell us about how climate scientists operate, and paints the Guardian’s response as unparalleled.

“No other media organisation has come close to producing such a comprehensive and carefully researched attempt to get to the bottom of the emails affair.”

I wrote about one of those “carefully researched” articles here on Hot Topic. On the sketchiest of evidence, and a prejudiced reading at that, it managed to imply that Phil Jones and Michael Mann were guilty of improper behaviour, damaging to the publication of scientific papers.

Randerson goes on to provide a justification for the exercise:

“…only by looking thoroughly under every rock can those of us pressing for action on climate change maintain with confidence that the scientific case remains sound. Fred’s investigation shows that confidence is indeed well placed…”

Thank you Fred, but we knew that already.  Why, along the way to this conclusion, did you feel the need to throw doubt on the integrity of some of the scientists doing the work?  Well, says Randerson, there were “troubling issues” in the emails, and if you can’t see that there’s something wrong with you:

“… but to claim that the emails do not throw up some troubling issues looks like the inward-looking mentality that is sometimes (perhaps understandably) expressed in the emails themselves.”

Randerson then claims four significant results from the Guardian investigation. One is the matter of the siting of Chinese rural weather stations that figured in a paper Jones wrote in 1990 (twenty years ago!). It’s a complicated story, which I won’t try to retell here, but Jones has since said that he now realises that some of the stations had moved their sites and that he would think about the possibility of submitting a correction.

Randerson claims credit:

“To our knowledge, no other media organisation or blogger had used the emails to shed light on the controversy over the 1990 paper so a correction would not be on the table without the Pearce investigation.”

Randerson’s second claim also relates to the same highly damaging article on the China temperature data, in which Pearce wrote:

“It also further calls into question the integrity of the scientist at the centre of the scandal over hacked climate emails, the director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), Dr Phil Jones. The emails suggest that he helped to cover up flaws in temperature data from China that underpinned his research on the strength of recent global warming.”

Randerson doesn’t reassert this, but denies that they were supporting the climate sceptic Douglas Keenan in their pursuit of the question.  They weren’t in as many words, but in terms of the general tone of the article most readers could have been forgiven for thinking they were.

His third claim is that in spite of having made three corrections to their original article on the hockey stick graph this did not change the main point the article was making, which was that in 1999, Mann’s hockey-stick reconstruction was the subject of intense academic debate amongst climate scientists. When I first read the article it seemed a good deal more slanted than that.  The sub-heading reads: “Pioneering graph used by IPCC to illustrate a compelling story of man-made climate change raises questions about transparency.”

Randerson’s final claim related to the Freedom of Information Act, which he describes as a serious issue worthy of discussion and debate.  So it is, provided the discussion includes the fact that the requests for information were clearly orchestrated and overwhelming in their demands.  That deniers’ tactic has obviously spread to the US.   In a recent email James Hansen writes:

“We are continually burdened by sweeping FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, which reduce our ability to do science and write it up (perhaps this is their main objective), a waste of tax-payer money.  Our analyses are freely available on the GISS web site as is the computer program used to carry out the analysis and the data sets that go into the program…

“The material that we supplied to some recent FOIA requests was promptly posted on a website, and within minutes after that posting someone found that one of the e-mails included information about how to access Makiko Sato’s password-protected research directory on the GISS website…Within 90 minutes, and before anyone else who saw this password information thought it worth reporting to GISS staff, most if not all of the material in Makiko’s directory was purloined by someone using automated “web harvesting” software and re-posted elsewhere on the web. The primary material consisted of numerous drafts of webpage graphics and article figures made in recent years.

“It seems that a primary objective of the FOIA requestors and the “harvesters” is discussions that they can snip and quote out of context.”

Back to Randerson on RealClimate. He considers that by inviting comment from qualified people on the email articles the Guardian has succeeded in creating a definitive account of the emails and the intention is to expand it into a book.

“This represents an extraordinary commitment to transparency that we believe is unique in journalism. What other news organisation would open itself to direct criticism in this way including, for example, annotations that read “this is absolutely false” and “this is really bad”?

The best thing the Guardian could now do is to reflect that those annotations may well be the correct verdict and let the idea of a book quietly die.

Copenhagen 2: dangers ahead

cop_logo_1_r_editedThe second section of the Copenhagen synthesis report, Social and Environmental Disruption, discusses the dangers of climate change relating to society and the environment, noting that scientific research provides a wealth of relevant information which is not receiving the attention one might expect.    

Considerable support has developed for containing the rise in global temperature to a maximum of 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, often referred to as the 2 degrees guardrail. The report however indicates that even at temperature rises less than 2 degrees impacts can be significant, though some societies could cope through pro-active adaptation strategies.  Beyond 2 degrees the possibilities for adaptation of societies and ecosystems rapidly decline, with an increasing risk of social disruption through health impacts, water shortages and food insecurity.

Continue reading “Copenhagen 2: dangers ahead”

RealClimate » Start here

RealClimate’s latest post, Start here, is a very useful pointer to global warming information resources on the web:

We’ve often been asked to provide a one stop link for resources that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change, and so here is a first cut. Unlike our other postings, we’ll amend this as we discover or are pointed to new resources. Different people have different needs and so we will group resources according to the level people start at.

I’ll stick it on the Hot Topic permanent links page, when we get one.