Have world temperatures stalled?

(For discussion.  I will delete any off-topic discussion, as I am sick and tired of  the misinformation-bombing tactic of Denialists with nothing better to do with their time.)

My understanding, from the peer-reviewed literature, is that global warming trends may have momentarily paused (momentarily in a discussion about climate is a different use of the word to how us humans might view a ‘moment’). There may have even been some surprises thrown up by nature. But this in no way:-

  • Contradicts what we know about the radiative forcing properties of Co2
  • Reduces the risks imposed by global warming
  • Gives the Denialists anything to crow about.

(I will add more videos and links summarizing the state of today’s science of global temperatures here.).

The charge against climate scientists is that, roughly speaking, global warming has completely stalled. Sometimes it expresses itself as  “Didn’t global warming stop in 1998?”, an old favourite because that was a super-heated El Nino year, and if you pick your data selectively from only then, you can make a graph that looks like the temperature trends are downwards for the last decade (the hottest decade in human history!)

Anyway, 1998 has been bypassed now. Of the top 3 climate monitoring units on the planet only Hadley says 1998 was the warmest, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) has pointed to a cooling bias with the Hadley data.

Two of the three most powerful temperature databases on the planet confirm 1998 as the THIRD warmest year on record, even when 1998 had one of the most frighteningly powerful El Nino’s we’ve ever seen. Check it out — NOAA, NASA, then Hadley’s CRU.

The NCDC at NOAA says:
///For 2010, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record, at 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F). 1998 is the third warmest year-to-date on record, at 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average.”

NASA GISTEMP confirms the same thing and says:
“Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.///

And now Phil Jones at the CRU, but don’t forget the ECMWF has had a go at this particular dataset.

///The time series shows the combined global land and marine surface temperature record from 1850 to 2010. According to the method of calculation used by CRU, the year 2010 was the equal third (see footnote) warmest on record (with 2003), exceeded by 1998 and 2005. The years 2003, 2005 and 2010 are only distinguishable in the third decimal place. The error estimate for individual years (two standard errors is about ±0.1°C, see Brohan et al., 2006) is at least ten times larger than the differences between these three years.

The period 2001-2010 (0.44°C above 1961-90 mean) was 0.20°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean). The warmest year of the entire series has been 1998, with a temperature of 0.55°C above the 1961-90 mean. After 1998, the next nine warmest years in the series are all in the decade 2001-2010. During this decade, only 2008 is not in the ten warmest years. Even though 2008 was the coldest year of the 21st century it was still the 12th warmest year of the whole record.///

But rather than argue over hundredths of a degree, which is all that seems to separate the temperatures, have a look at the 15 year trend *all* 3 agencies report. Brilliant graphic here.

Even Denialist’s are admitting it. At the 2009 Heartland Institute conference (of global warming sceptics), well known climate denialist Dr Patrick J Michaels warned against using the 1998 El Nino super-spike as some sort of ‘proof’ of a cooling trend. Take the advice of the words of a fellow Denialist.

///”Make an argument that you can get killed on and you will kill us all… If you loose credibility on this issue you lose this issue!”///

So while Denialists selectively zoom in on a few data points to try and skew the story any way they want, overall, the trend is clear.
The last decade was the hottest on record, and anyone who says otherwise is denying the best data on the planet and pushing an anti-science agenda of their own.

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6 Responses to Have world temperatures stalled?

  1. Please look at the graphic again. No matter how you cut it temperatures are not going up. If they are it is at a very much slower rate than anticipated.

    From the chart you presented the temperature climbed from 1980-2010 by 0.3 degrees roughly. That’s 0.1C/decade or 1/3 the rate the ipcc and global GCM models predict.

    If you look at any shorter period to the present you get a monotonically decreasing rate of gain. If you use anything less than 15 years you will show a zero trend line. This is similar to the period 1940-1975 which saw no temperature trend upward and depending on the data source a small decline in temperature during that period.

    How could this be? This period is experiencing massive output of co2. There is no letup in co2. Also global warming theory tells us the reaction to co2 by the atmosphere will be logarithmic meaning that each additional molecule of co2 will have less and less effect. Every doubling of co2 will produce a 3.7W/m2 forcing on temperature. So going from 275 which is the preindustrial value for co2 to 550 which is a reasonable extrapolation of where co2 will be in 2100 means we will see that much additional energy pumped in on every square meter of the earth. Going from 550 to 1100ppm will produce another 3.7W/m2. So we should be seeing the greatest effect from co2 NOW not in 20 years. The co2 molecules we are pouring into the atmosphere at gigatons per year should be generating huge amounts of additional heat. That heat has to go somewhere. If not in heating the atmosphere it has to heat the oceans and if not that then it has to heat land or go into space and be released. The conservation of energy is not subject to weather vs climate discussions. Whether or not we see higher temperatures on land we should be able to find such a massive amount of energy somewhere. No explanation for the fact that sea temperatures haven’t changed for 11 years either. The law of global warming estimates that sea temperatures should go up about half of what the air temperatures go. Well 0/2 = 0 so that makes sense but it still doesn’t explain where the heat went. If it didn’t go into the ocean then the only viable solution is to escape to space. That means the heat is lost. That means the extra forcing from all the co2 will first have to recover the extra lost heat before it can heat things further. It will make it even tougher to get to the 3C by 2100 predicted.

    I think you are focusing on the fact that temperatures remain high but you don’t seem to understand that the environment has soaked up 15 years of co2 and basically left the climate as it was 15 years ago. All the extra co2 seems to be just keeping the climate as warm as it is today. What that means and can the system continue to expel the energy is another unknown.

    How could temperatures stall? Very simply. As I pointed out the period from 1940-1975 also saw a pause. In fact this is given a name which is a 60-70 year cycle of the nao/pdo which produce. More or less la Nina’s and el Ninos in an alternating 35 year period. This has been established over longer than the last cycle. If we are in a pdo/nao period of low el Ninos then for another 20 years temperatures will stay about where they are today or slightly lower and basically counteract the co2 trend. When 2030 comes temperatures will start Barelling upward again probably at an accelerated rate of 0.3 or more/decade but that will only continue for 30 years. So sometime around 2080 we will see temperatures maybe up 1C before we head into another down phase for the amo/pdo cycle. That’s one possibility. Whatever you believe the fact is that temperatures did pause between 1940-1975. This period was initially thought to be cool because pollution cooled the atmosphere. Now we know that pollution probably couldn’t (aerosols) don’t have that much effect. We now know ami/pdo cycles are more significant.

    The facts are indisputable. You see them right in front of you. The trend for e 30 year period is 1/3 what the ipcc predicts. Call it pause, call it part of a natural cycle the ipcc and the models overestimate the reaction of the atmosphere to co2 by what appears to be a factor of 2 or 3. The precise way the atmosphere buffers the heat from co2 is not solid proven but it has been doing it whether we want to believe it or not whether our models include the buffering or not.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      “Also global warming theory tells us the reaction to co2 by the atmosphere will be logarithmic meaning that each additional molecule of co2 will have less and less effect”

      While this is true, my understanding was that the log really kicked in above 1500ppm, which is ‘game over’ as far as global warming goes. So it’s not really something to worry about right now. It’s mentioning things like this out of context and in such a bombastic manner that earns Denialists their name.

      There is a lot more in your post that requires a response, and some of them are VALID questions that the peer-reviewed science has addressed. (They become invalid questions when someone just clings to them and keeps repeating them despite answers from the peer-reviewed science). For now I’m just glad that we’re now having a more civilised conversation where we can address one topic at a time. This may take a few days, and please be patient as I am very busy. After we’ve discussed this for a few days you can ask for another thread on another topic, if you wish. You have my thanks for staying on topic!

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    You said: “From the chart you presented the temperature climbed from 1980-2010 by 0.3 degrees roughly. That’s 0.1C/decade or 1/3 the rate the ipcc and global GCM models predict.”

    I presented this chart.
    Global temperatures

    You know that the scientists involved like James Hansen modelled a number of scenarios, A through to C, and that actual demonstrated temperatures tracked neatly along model scenario B.

    Where are you getting the IPCC’s claims that it HAS TO be 3 times higher?
    AR4 of the IPCC collected 58 forecasting and hindcasting surveys and they ALL show 1980 near baseline, and 2000 about 0.5 degrees warmer. That’s *about* 0.25 degrees / decade, enormous quantities of energy when we are talking about temperature averages across an entire planet. (See from 8 minutes in).

    But you said nothing happened. Go figure.

    ////I think you are focusing on the fact that temperatures remain high but you don’t seem to understand that the environment has soaked up 15 years of co2 and basically left the climate as it was 15 years ago.////
    That’s ridiculous because the Earth hasn’t ‘soaked it up’, it’s warmed! See the chart above. One has to average the temperatures out over a few decades. We’re still going up, despite the ‘noise’ from ENSO, etc.

    ///All the extra co2 seems to be just keeping the climate as warm as it is today. What that means and can the system continue to expel the energy is another unknown.///
    Oh, right, so you take the last 15 years and compare it with the last 15 years and say, see, no warming? Except even within the last 12 years we’ve had a NUMBER of record breaking years. That’s years pushed up above the mean by El Nino superspikes, and then NON-El Nino years that broke all records! Hint: when the “waves” in the bath are on the wall side of the bath, away from the edge, and yet the water is STILL pouring over the edge, it means someone has left the tap on!

  3. roslynb says:

    I’m wondering about the polar and Greenland ice melts. Ice to water has a pretty high latent heat I think. How much energy would be pouring into that I wonder, and would that inhibit temperature rise while the ice is melting.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      Great question, and with phase shifts in ice in mind, one which a science teacher I know was very alarmed about. Why not google it up for us and see if the IPCC has said anything about phase shifts in the ice and the latent heat of all that ice?

  4. roslynb says:

    That is not a particularly easy project! So far…
    From the IPCC
    ‘The main components of the cryosphere are snow, river and lake ice, sea ice, glaciers and ice caps, ice shelves, ice sheets, and frozen ground. In terms of the ice mass and its heat capacity, the cryosphere is the second largest component of the climate system (after the ocean). Its relevance for climate variability and change is based on physical properties, such as its high surface reflectivity (albedo) and the latent heat associated with phase changes, which have a strong impact on the surface energy balance.’
    Other articles / sites
    ‘Latent heat of fusion – is the Arctic A/C about to quit?
    The problem of albedo change due to the melting of the polar ice cap is widely recognized, but there has been relatively little discussion so far about the latent heat of fusion. Perhaps it’s time to broaden our horizons.’

    The next site looks at ‘ice-albedo feedback’ and refers to the 2007 IPCC report. The article contains the following paragraphs referring specifically to phase change:
    “Some argue that the process of achieving both consensus and rigor in the IPCC report yields a “conservative” estimate of climate change. It is true that predictions which involve phase changes are among the most difficult for climate models.

    This is made even more challenging for sea ice, which sits in water and is subject to amplified melting by stirring in the water, and is also sensitive to the local salinity of the water. If there are to be surprises in the predictions of climate change, then they are likely to involve phase changes. In a warming climate, this would involve the transition of water from ice to liquid.”


    This next one is technical, and contains many graphs. A sample:
    ‘The intersection point of the converging envelopes of the varying amplitude of the monthly 11 year moving average of the Giss maximum surface temperature anomaly represents a time after which the variable effect caused by the latent heat of melting and freezing of the worlds Polar sea ice caps will be eliminated, i.e. the time when the Arctic floating sea ice cap will be completely melted away (Figure 10). The best estimate of the time when we will lose the the Arctic floating sea ice cap is 2015.’

    One article ‘Colder winters may be new normal due to melting arctic ice’ looks at changes in the Arctic Oscillation, a wind pattern that dominates the polar region. The upshot is arctic air masses intruding mixing more with lower latitudes, particularly creating extreme weather events. This is not about phase change, but helps in seeming paradox of colder weather while the ice cap melts.
    So, phase changes make predictions difficult and challenging, and likely to produce surprises.
    Seriously, I’m not surprised a science teacher would think of this. They probably regularly do an experiment with year 7 kids with a cup of ice and a thermometer, showing how the temperature remains near zero until the ice melts…

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