When is a short term trend not a short term trend? When it’s an upward anomaly.

James Randerson in the Guardian tells us that,

This year is set to be the coolest since 2000, according to a preliminary estimate of global average temperature that is due to be released next week by the Met Office. The global average for 2008 should come in close to 14.3C, which is 0.14C below the average temperature for 2001-07.

But just when you thought it was safe to rush out to buy a guilt-free 4×4… <scary music>

The relatively chilly temperatures compared with recent years are not evidence that global warming is slowing however, say climate scientists at the Met Office. “Absolutely not,” said Dr Peter Stott, the manager of understanding and attributing climate change at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre. “If we are going to understand climate change we need to look at long-term trends.”

Here’s a curious thing… Whether or not global warming ever existed, if ‘relatively chilly temperatures are not ‘evidence that global warming is slowing’, then what is?

That’s not to say that cooler temperatures ‘prove’ that there’s no global warming, but that cooler temperatures must be evidence that ‘global warming is slowing’. The difference is between ‘evidence’ on the one hand, and ‘proof’ on the other. Evidence can support contradictory hypotheses.

If this was mere journalistic oversight, that’s one thing – even though Randerson, one of the Guardian’s science correspondents, with a PhD in evolutionary genetics, really really ought to know the difference between evidence and proof, and what they stand for. But if the argument belongs to Peter Stott, then it surely raises questions about his partiality. ‘Absolutely not‘? Cooling temperatures absolutely are evidence for the hypothesis that there is no global warming underway, necessarily.

Prof Myles Allen at Oxford University who runs the climateprediction.net website, said he feared climate sceptics would overinterpret the figure. “You can bet your life there will be a lot of fuss about what a cold year it is. Actually no, its not been that cold a year, but the human memory is not very long, we are used to warm years,” he said, “Even in the 80s [this year] would have felt like a warm year.”

Allen is right to say that people have short memories, but he is wrong to think that it’s only sceptics who have them, and make a fuss about exceptional years. For example, Anderson continues,

The Met Office predicted at the beginning of the year that 2008 would be cooler than recent years because of a La Niña event – characterised by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is the mirror image of the El Niño climate cycle. The Met Office had forecast an annual global average of 14.37C.

Anderson has a short memory. So does Allen. Scientists at the Met office are so keen to make a big deal out of unexpected temperatures that they ‘overinterpret the figures’ before they have even happened.

At the begining of 2007, a BBC article informed the world that

“The world is likely to experience the warmest year on record in 2007, the UK’s Met Office says.”

Such ‘overinterpretation’…

The global surface temperature is projected to be 0.54C (0.97F) above the long-term average of 14C (57F), beating the current record of 0.52C (0.94F), which was set in 1998.

The annual projection was compiled by the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia.

Such ‘a fuss about what a hot year it is’… (even though it hadn’t happened yet).

We have actually run this forecast three times, updating it every month… and it is completely stable.”

But didn’t the Hadley Centre’s own Peter Stott just tell us that we ought to be looking at long-term trends? And yet, a forecast of a short term trend is considered newsworthy. Double standards are rife in climate science activism.

The Hadley Centre has been issuing the annual forecast for the past seven years and says it has just a 0.06C margin of error.

Eight months later, and the Met Office’s confident prediction was shown to be utter bunk.  Temperatures were falling. They revised their predictions, saying that they had created a new, more powerful computer model for predicting the future.

Powerful computer simulations used to create the world’s first global warming forecast suggests temperature rises will stall in the next two years, before rising sharply at the end of the decade.

But as we suggested earlier in the year, the incautious statements issued by Met Office scientists looked less like the work of scientific enquiry, and more like post-hoc speculation about which way the weather would turn.

In January 2007, the Met Office backed the wrong horse – El Niño. When La Niña emerged as the favourite, they changed their bets. This wasn’t sophisticated computer modelling. This was gambling by gamblers posing in lab coats. It was a safe bet that La Niña’s effects would last until 2009.

In order to wrong-foot sceptics, activist climate scientists (for that is what they must be if they are not agnostic about global warming) have had to reinterpret the evidence. Any downward tendency is waved away as short-term ‘natural variation’, caused by La Niña. This creates a casuality for the alarmists – it means that the significance of the record temperature in 1998 is diminished – clearly it was caused by El Niño. But on the other hand, ruling out the ’98 El Niño as ‘natural variation’ allows the claim that temperatures have increased since 1998 to be made.

Such chopping-and-changing appears to be the stock-in-trade of climate scientists and Guardian hacks. But this is because so much political capital is invested in the direction of lines on graphs representing weather statistics. And this is particularly clear in the pages of the Guardian, who have, over the last 12 or so months been especially keen to remind us that cooling trends are ‘not evidence that global warming is slowing’. There’s Randerson’s article, for example. Then there’s an article by Ian Sample, also a science correspondent, who last year reported that

The forecast of a brief slump in global warming has already been seized upon by climate change sceptics as evidence that the world is not heating. Climate scientists say the new high-precision forecast predicts temperatures will stall because of natural climate effects that have seen the Southern Ocean and tropical Pacific cool over the past couple of years.

Then, earlier this year, Fred Pearce, environmental writer and author of The Last Generation: How nature will take her revenge for climate change, said

A Germany study published earlier this month predicts the world will cool over the coming decade. British climate modellers at the Met Office don’t go so far. They think nature’s cooling will be more than counterbalanced by the warming effect of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

But nobody is sure. In any case, we can expect the deniers to make the most of this opportunity to pour cold water on the whole climate change narrative. No year has yet been hotter than 1998, they will say. True: it was a huge El Niño year. Now we are on the way back down, they will say. Nonsense. The underlying trend remains upwards; and as every decade passes, natural cycles can do less and less to counter the growing human influence on temperature.

As we pointed out about the dramatisation of the movement of Arctic ice extent recently, the progression of curves representing climate statistics are the dynamic driving political discourse. The unfolding, present-tense narrative of lines on charts fuels the commentary about the conflict between the bad-minded ‘deniers’, and the honest scientists, seeking to destroy or save the world respectively.

The twists and turns of little blue lines excite the audience, and provide superficially important news fodder. It fuels debates, but with wild speculation and utterly meaningless and inconsequential factoids that will be forgotten by the time the next climate record is set. Repeat ad nauseam. These artificial dramas are elevated to ludicrous heights by claims that our entire futures depend on them. Consequently, life imitates this art. The drama extends into our real lives. It becomes politics, ethics, laws. The more we look to little blue lines, the less we realise that whatever little blue lines do only determines what our existences will consist of if we believe that the direction of the little blue line is instructive. It isn’t.

As the comments supplied by scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) about sea ice extent and the Met Office’s scientists careless posturing demonstrate, they are complicit in the politicisation of the climate debate. That is to say they are not impartial. They are not agnostic about climate change. And they are not disinterested observers of nature. Climate science is not a value-free investigation of the material universe.

Climate scientists and science correspondents imbue statistics with undue political significance. Therefore, they have to resort to use combative rhetoric when the trends offer conflicting evidence they cannot yet explain. Rather than contradicting themselves about the significance of short term trends, and moving the goal posts constituting long terms trends, climate scientists ought to be distancing themselves from the political significance of their work. Because to do otherwise is to legitimise the very ‘deniers’ they seek to diminish. If ‘climate science’ is where politics happens, then it is not only reasonable to ask if changes in the direction of change do represent a weakness in the prevailing view, it is essential.

Of course, a trend of 0.14 below average does not represent a static climate, but neither does an anomaly of 0.54C represent the dawn of a new, hostile geological epoch. Fools rush in to make statements about what such small numbers mean about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

16 Responses to Cold is the new warm

  • C02 levels have been increasing since 1998 as global temperatures have been falling. However as cooling continues and the seas begin to cool more C02 will be absorbed thus causing a drop in C02 levels. This follows a pattern that, supported by ice core data, C02 levels follow temperature changes. With a drop in C02 one can expect a drop in food production per acre.

  • If only it were as easy to increase global temperature as to increase my CO2 output. What a wonderful (tropical) world it would be.

  • It will be interesting to see what projections the UK Met. Office makes for 2009. Smith et al., Science, 10 August 2007 states “Furthermore, at least half of the years after 2009 are predicted to be warmer than 1998, the warmest year currently on record”. 2009 would seem to be some form of transition year for the UK Met. Office. Temperatures from 2010 are certainly predicted to rise. But what figure are they going to forecast next January for the year 2009? And what will the actual temperature be for 2009? We dont have long to wait.

  • It is fun to see the scientists hoisted with their own petard, or rather, computer model.

    The more they keep emphasizing that the model can’t be proven wrong by short term variability, the more they emphasise that we have to wait a long time before we know whether their models are right.

    Give me a model who’s specific predictions have been proven right time and time again, and I’ll listen. Give me a swarm of models that haven’t been proven right even once as yet, and won’t be for another 20 years, and I’ll do what most everyone else does, which is lose interest and forget the whole thing. The future cannot be predicted, and that includes predictions about the success of the models.

    Just because they put everything in careful academic language doesn’t get round the fact that they don’t as yet have anything useful and practical. They are just hyped-up scenarios.

    We now know that bases on the moon was more science fiction than science. Climatology is slipping in that direction and at some point the public image will become that.

  • Good article! It’s always funny like the alarmists shout “Global Warming! Global Warming” with every warm weather. And when it’s cold, they says “That’s only weather!”.
    The funniest thing is the year 1998: First they say: Look at this proof of global warming! When we say now: Look, it didn’t warm since 1998, they say: Buh, 1998 was only weather and a “natural fluctuation”, El Nino, etc., etc.

  • As well as changing their mind about 1998 the alarmists are also changing their mind about sunspots. Their position can be summed up as “Sunspots have no effect on climate but the recent cooler weather is only temporary as there are no sunspots at the moment.”

  • The Hadley Centre’s attitude reminds me of being in a car driven by someone who is stubbornly refusing to admit that they are lost, someone who cannot even contemplate the idea that they might be horribly wrong…

    Kids: Are we nearly there yet?

    Dad: Yes, we are – we should be arriving at Global Warming any minute now. We’ll be reaching the first tipping points in a moment, you’ll see.

    Mum: Honey, I think we passed the turning to Global Warming some time back in 1998. I don’t think we –

    Dad: We are definitely on the road to Global Warming. Just let me drive without your constant –

    Mum: Well, I don’t think we’re heading towards Global Warming. We missed the turn! And look, you’re holding the map upside d-

    Kids: Daddy’s lost, Daddy’s lost, nyah nyah ni nyah naa!

    Dad: Shut up, everybody just shut up!! Who’s driving this car? I am! And if I say we’re on the road to Global Warming, that’s exactly where we are! It’s settled! I don’t want another word from anyone else, you hear? The debate’s over!

  • The continuing accumulation of the ever-growing body of raw data can only work to the advantage of the empiricists in this debate. By my reckoning, the vast majority of the empiricists are classed as “deniers.” It is the ‘theorists’ and the modellers whom will eventually be held to account.

  • For all too long the theorists have depended on GHG theories based on a model of stellar atmospheres with an infinite depth. The model is patently wrong. No matter how you look you can’t find the parcel of outer space between the top of your toes and the soles of your feet that the theorists REQUIRE be there, for their theory to be possibly valid.

    Even the mathematics using the models turns out to be in mathematical error; that was not noticed for almost 80 years!

    Modern 21st century theory, developed on empirical data from heretofor unavailble satellite data, is much more convincing for an atmosphere that is patently not infinite and bounded on both ends. Its calculations are coreespondingly much more accurate too. All hail the improvements NASA scientists developed, including Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi. It took a fair amount of time to accept Relativity as an improvement on Newton, and the same is being applied to “Saturated GHG” theory based on overall atmospheric energy balance. But it will come.

  • Once the global warming cultists realize that the higher the CO2 levels in the atmosphere the faster marijuana will grow they will reverse their position.

  • Partisan-political agitators posing as objective researchers fail to realize that Nature cares nothing for their dishonestly skewed forecasts. Twenty years ago, when Hansen of GISS (Goddard Institute of Space Science) first resorted to duckspeak (“warm is cold,” etc.), Michael Crighton noted: “Freeze or fry, the enemy is always free-market entrepreneurial capitalism, the solution is always bureaucratic State socialism”– that is, wastrel Luddite modes consciously aiming to blast individualist bourgeois consumer culture at its very roots.

    By 2012 at latest, we expect that “global warming” in the doofus Al Gore sense will have become a laughing-stock akin to J.B. Rhine’s psychism and Immanuel Velikhovsky’s risible takeoff on Joshua at Jericho “when the Sun stood still.” Were it not for the so-called Younger Dryas, a 1,500-year cooling due to cometary or meteorite impact ten thousand years ago, our current 12,500-year Holocene Interglacial epoch would have ended c. 500 AD, coincident with the final Fall of Rome.

    As Earth descends into an 80-year, sun-spotless Dalton or Maunder Minimum reinforced by a confluence of deep-ocean magmatism with long-term cyclical reversals, climate-change alarmists will have much to answer for. Their waste of resources, their purposeful sabotage of public awareness, ensure that when Nature definitively refutes their phony models it will be too late. The catastrophic 14th Century, rife with famine, plague, and internecine wars “when God slept,” was but a foretaste of what our overweening 21st Century is headed for.

  • Partisan-political agitators posing as objective researchers fail to realize that Nature cares nothing for their dishonestly skewed forecasts. Twenty years ago, when Hansen of GISS (Goddard Institute of Space Science) first resorted to duckspeak (“warm is cold,” etc.), Michael Crighton noted: “Freeze or fry, the enemy is always free-market entrepreneurial capitalism, the solution is always bureaucratic State socialism”– that is, wastrel Luddite modes consciously aiming to blast individualist bourgeois consumer culture at its very roots.

    By 2012 at latest, we expect that “global warming” in the doofus Al Gore sense will have become a laughing-stock akin to J.B. Rhine’s psychism and Immanuel Velikhovsky’s risible takeoff on Joshua at Jericho “when the Sun stood still.” Were it not for the so-called Younger Dryas, a 1,500-year cooling due to cometary or meteorite impact ten thousand years ago, our current 12,500-year Holocene Interglacial epoch would have ended c. 500 AD, coincident with the final Fall of Rome.

    As Earth descends into an 80-year, sun-spotless Dalton or Maunder Minimum reinforced by a confluence of deep-ocean magmatism with long-term cyclical reversals, climate-change alarmists will have much to answer for. Their waste of resources, their purposeful sabotage of public awareness, ensure that when Nature definitively refutes their phony models it will be too late. The catastrophic 14th Century, rife with famine, plague, and internecine warfare “when God slept,” was but a foretaste of what our overweening 21st Century is headed for.

  • Nothing makes me more angry than hearing some so called scientist or politician say “the debate is over. Global warming is real and its caused by human produced CO2.” Its rediculous and people eat it up like bangersnmash. I suppose there is chance it could be real, but there’s one thing that is 100% false and that is that the debate is over; the debate is NOT over. Its as if a group of scientists said that String Theory is real and the debate is over.

    These alarmists must see themselves as crusaders or revolutionaries. They are leading the charge to save the planet. I mean, is there anything more important than saving the planet? I mean what’s more important than “The Whole Wide World”? Its bigger than curing cancer or feeding the hungry. Why spend money on saving people from starving if there won’t be a planet for people to starv on, right? Give me a break.

  • The climate clowns who infest our local authority have been doing their best to ram a gigantic wind farm down our throats, claiming among other things that we all have to do our bit to “save the planet.”
    Take a look at http://www.palmerston-north.info to see what global warming means for our wretched community. Of course global warming is now morhing into climate change, which in turn will morph into ” sustainability ” – all in a day’s work for those determined to control our lives.
    Earlier this year I made a lengthy submission to the New Zealand Environment Court where I comprehensively rubbished catastrophic global warming. I was told to expect a grilling in court. Plenty of others in this particular case did, but not me, they didn’t dare !

  • Doesn’t the fact that many AGW alarmists also oppose nuclear power suggest they view climate change not as a problem to be solved, but as a tool in service of another agenda?

    I suggest people look at my designs for pro-nuclear posters here – anyone got any more suggestions?

  • Interesting…
    http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcet/cetml1659on.dat
    Year mean 1659: 8.83 °C
    Year mean 1676: 8.83 °C
    Year mean 1754: 8.83 °C
    Year mean 1902: 8.83 °C
    Year mean 1956: 8.83 °C
    Year mean 2010: 8.83 °C

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