Was There No Global Warming Slowdown? A New Paper Challenges the Theory

, former scientist and Kendall Science Fellow | June 15, 2015, 11:17 am EDT
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NOAA scientists released a study last week in Science magazine detailing how new updates on observations show there has been no global warming slowdown.

In science we are always looking for more data to validate results. It is a bit like being a detective: the more information you have, the better the case. For global warming it is meteorological stations overland and buoys and ship data over the ocean.

The latest global temperature analysis shows no evidence of a slow down.

The latest global temperature analysis shows no evidence of a slow down.

Methods of analysis matter

The NOAA paper shows how updates in marine and land surface data have increased the quality of results. The new study has also shown how the warming trend of the planet has continued to rise in the past 15 years at the same rate as in the late 20th century.

The global warming speed bump emerged from a leveling off of the rise in global surface temperature since 1998 as seen in several sets of observations, including NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), NOAA, and Hadley Center’s Climate Research Unit (HadCRUT). Three new global temperature records have been set: 2005, 2010 and 2014. It also looks like 2015 might even beat out 2014, producing a possible back-to-back set of records not seen since 1997/1998.

Record setting temperature continue in the Pacific Ocean

Record setting temperatures continue in the Pacific Ocean

The different centers analyzing global data have common data sets for their analysis, but their methods of interpolation and merging of data vary. This is good because the end result is complementary and delivers a more complete picture of global temperature. For instance, the UK Met Office’s HadCRUT4  does not take much of the Arctic into consideration, which affects the magnitude of the observed surface warming. NASA’s GISS model employs satellite data for nighttime city lights to address urban heat island effects.

Updating observations for oceans and land

The NOAA study has updated the observational records in two ways: accounting for the increasing temporal and spatial coverage of buoys as well as observation methods used by ships, and a much larger land observation dataset. The reanalysis came down to addressing the fact that buoys usually measure cooler temperatures than ship readings, so the authors made a correction to buoy sea surface temperature measurements globally with the new Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (ERSST) version 4. Additionally, the authors found that some ship measurements using buckets had existed into the present and had not been measuring temperature with engine intake thermometers, so the ship bias correction was extended.

Land surface air temperatures also benefited from impressive advances in coverage with new data being released, effectively doubling the number of stations available. This includes the Arctic, which has warmed at twice the pace of the rest of the planet.

Natural variability can slow global warming

Scientists who have analyzed the NOAA study still argue that the slowdown remains, albeit not nearly as strong as before the data updates. Natural variability continues to be a hot topic regarding the speed bump in global temperatures.

Last year I attended a very interesting session at the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting in which the global warming “slowdown” was being analyzed using observations and modeling. Volcanoes and anthropogenic aerosols were described as possible reasons, as were natural atmospheric patterns.

A recurring theme emerged in the presentations. The oceans played a prominent role in cooling the planet even though more energy was being trapped in the system by heat trapping gases. The influence of the Pacific Ocean has been seen as one of the major components behind the speed bump in the global temperature trend. These natural patterns shift over time, and 2014 saw some record-setting temperatures in the Pacific that contributed to setting a new record in world temperatures.

Perspectives for the near future

The NOAA paper has helped to reshape the global warming slowdown conversation. The “slowdown” theory sparked an incredible amount of climate research that has given us a better understanding of the Earth system. It seems, however, that we did not have the complete picture, as NOAA scientists argue. We are now at a time of “was the slowdown real?” instead of “what caused the slowdown?”

The one thing I have said to peers is that we will undoubtedly need other data centers to confirm (or refute) the results.

John Kennedy, one of the experts working on HadCRU4’s ocean temperatures, responded on what his center was doing: “We’re constantly working with the data, trying to improve our data sets and better understand the past.

“One thing we try and aim for is a degree of independence,” Kennedy argues. “Even if we’re studying the same phenomena or problem, independent approaches can be a good way to bring out the unknown unknowns and push things forwards.”

Kennedy brings up interesting questions worth asking. “Can we reproduce the results? What are the uncertainties in the estimated ship biases? Do we see similar changes relative to other datasets? We’ll be folding these kinds of questions into our ongoing work on the ocean data and that will eventually feed through into HadCRUT.”

It’s true that many of the same data sources are used by all three centers. Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS said: “We are updating to GHCN 3.3 this month, and will probably switch to ERSSTv4 (as in the NOAA study) in June. However, discussion about appropriate input data is always ongoing.”

The major global temperature analysis centers are all taking into consideration the new results from NOAA. This is the scientific method, searching for more evidence to support a theory.

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  • Rick Kooi

    Technology already exists to stabilize global warming
    Analysis shows how to control carbon emissions for 50 years
    (((((((No need for authoritarian governments, We need the robust Free Enterprise System to work its wonders.))))))

    PRINCETON, N.J.
    — Existing technologies could stop the escalation of global warming for 50 years and work on implementing them can begin immediately, according to an analysis by Princeton University scientists.

    The scientists identified 15 technologies
    **** — from wind, solar and nuclear energy to conservation techniques
    ***** — that are ripe for large-scale use and showed that each could solve a significant portion of the problem.
    ***** Their analysis, published in the Aug. 13 issue of Science, indicates that many combinations of these 15 technologies could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gasses from rising for the next five decades.

    The finding counters the
    *******common argument that a major new technology needs to be developed before greenhouse gasses can be controlled, said professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, who conducted the study.

    “It certainly explodes the idea that we need to do research for a long time before getting started,” said Pacala, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director with Socolow of Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

    “If we decide to act, we will need to reduce carbon emissions across the whole global economy,” said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Fortunately, we have the tools to do this, especially if we think in terms of 50-year campaigns, not instant solutions.”

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  • dannyR

    “In science we are always looking for more data to validate results.”

    Wrong, Bozo. You’re looking for data resulting from testing designed to falsify a hypothesis or theory.

    You guys have already decided a priori that there is something deeply wrong about this silly ~18 year rise hiatus, and will therefore fiddle with things, individually and corporately, until you get a result that will prove the projections of 20 years ago, resulting from GW theory, are true, and the theory valid.

    Of course, all those poor schmukks who came up with theories to actually motivate a hiatus that only seemed true will have only phantasms to falsify. There was nothing to explain in the first place. I think world leaders should put this climate change hysteria on hold for another 20 years until everyone gets a slope they can all agree on.

    • Rick Kooi

      Wrong BOZO 2. You look at all the data to validate or invalidate…perhaps to present a new direction for explanation or hypotheses.

      Sooo busy to prove yourself smart, right off the bat you call names…

      There is NOT ONE OBJECTIVE BONE in your body….YOU are an ideologue out to prove every one wrong….

      There cannot be an 18year hiatus if 2000-2009 was indeed the hottest decade EVER. Now, either disprove THAT…..or…..admit that you and your fellow ideologues purposely Chose a starting point that was the Hottest year to that date, making everything that follows LOOK cooler….you and your fellow ideologues rigged the dates to win.

      ….*****oooops, *******YOU STILL LOST!

      By Tony Dokoupil
      “It turns out the climate change deniers were right: There isn’t 97% agreement among climate scientists.

      *** The real figure? It’s not lower, but actually higher.

      The scientific “consensus” on climate change has gotten stronger, surging past the famous — and controversial — figure of 97% to more than

      ****** 99.9%, according to a new study reviewed by msnbc.

      James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, he found.”

      “RELATED: Pope Francis may drop political bombshell on climate change”

      leading European oil companies, including BP and Shell, unveiled a letter addressed to the United Nations climate chief calling for a price on carbon emissions.

      “We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element” of ongoing U.N.-led international climate negotiations, the letter said. This week representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for a summit in Paris this winter where they hope to produce a powerful global accord on fighting climate change. The letter called on the world’s governments to create national carbon markets where they don’t exist (like most of the United States, for example), and to eventually link those markets internationally.

      ******As Bloomberg Business pointed out, the letter is “unprecedented,”
      Even YOUR NATURAL ALLIES are jumping ship!!!

  • dannyR

    Geeez these guys dither all over the theoretical and re-analysis map with this drivel. I also get the impression they are trying to blur the rather firm definition of what global warming is. It is the (claimed) rise in total atmospheric temperature.

    • Rick Kooi

      Scientists do that all the time….the quickest way to the top of your field is to reexamine and attempt to disprove….that is the nature of advancement in science……or to do some seminal research which is much more time consuming and expensive.
      By the way, If you really want to win at this,
      ******** try NOT rigging the system.
      YES!
      ******YOU rigged the test.
      ******…YOU and your fellow ideologues purposely chose 1998
      (which was the hottest year on record)
      ***** so that everything that followed would LOOK COOLER.
      …sadly, that didn’t really work out since
      2000-2009 was the hottest decade EVER !!!!!!!!

  • Moosecrackers

    I don’t know why perfectly knowledgeable and capable people continue to leave out the most important elements in the so-called “slowdown”: the super El Nino of 1998 and the PDO shift in the years following it.

    If natural variability were the only driver of global temperatures over the past ~ 15 years, we would have had cooler temps, such as during the period before 1976. Yet temps have continued to climb, with new annual records set 3 times in those years (or 4; what happened to 2007?)

    • dannyR

      Well, that’s stochastic variation over an essentially flattened (if you don’t buy this latest hypothesis, excuse me, data re-massage) T/temperature slope. That’s what the media does: sells drama.

      • Rick Kooi

        YES, Well REAL scientists at the offices of YOUR natural (meaning money motivated research at oil companies) are jumping ship while you are still here dithering……leading European oil companies, including BP and Shell, unveiled a letter addressed to the United Nations climate chief calling for a price on carbon emissions.

        “We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element” of ongoing U.N.-led international climate negotiations, the letter said. This week representatives from nearly

        ***** 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for a summit in Paris this winter where they hope to produce a powerful global accord on fighting climate change. The letter called on the world’s governments to create national carbon markets where they don’t exist (like most of the United States, for example), and to eventually link those markets internationally.

        As**** Bloomberg Business pointed out, the letter is “unprecedented,”

        and

        You know what left winger, neo fascist, one Worlder’s Bloomberg is.

        Technology already exists to stabilize global warming
        Analysis shows how to control carbon emissions for 50 years

        PRINCETON, N.J. — Existing technologies could stop the escalation of global warming for 50 years and work on implementing them can begin immediately, according to an analysis by Princeton University scientists.

        The scientists identified
        ******** 15 technologies — from wind, solar and nuclear energy to conservation techniques — that are ripe for large-scale use and showed that each could solve a significant portion of the problem. ********Their analysis, published in the Aug. 13 issue of Science, indicates that many combinations of these 15 technologies could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gasses from rising for the next five decades.

        *******The finding counters the common argument that a major new technology needs to be developed before greenhouse gasses can be controlled, said professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, who conducted the study.

        “It certainly explodes the idea that we need to do research for a long time before getting started,” said Pacala, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director with Socolow of Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

        “If we decide to act, we will need to reduce carbon emissions across the whole global economy,” said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Fortunately, we have the tools to do this, especially if we think in terms of 50-year campaigns, not instant solutions.”

    • rjmera

      Thanks. All very good points.

      • dannyR

        So there were no cool periods during the 15 years? No troughs? Nothing but peaks? Like a soprano who only sings high-C’s?

      • Rick Kooi

        The test period was fixed to favor the “denialists”…1998 was the Hottest year on record…Picked so that all the years afterward would look cooler…….oooopppps!
        It didn’t work out that well when 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record.
        By the way, there are NO peaks WITHOUT valleys.

  • fuzzy2000

    climate change is the farthest thing from real science. it is political on both sides. real climate scientists laugh at this crap.

    • dannyR

      Climatological projections are like weather forecasts, on a larger time-scale. It’s just that when it rains tomorrow, instead of being sunny, the forecast doesn’t threaten to decimate 100’s of trillions or rather quadrillions of dollars of economic planning over the following 5 decades or more.

      • jfreed27

        Those rolling the dice for a livable planet gamble with their children’s future. Could they be more monstrous than that?

      • RFD 3

        Those who would dictate punishing policy across the planet, having coronated themselves protector and ruler of a “livable planet”, are not, themselves, monstrous? Merely draconian and oppressive, I suppose. Authoritarian rule has its little warts and blemishes, especially when the rulers are misguided.

      • Rick Kooi

        Dollars Spent do NOT disappear…they enter the world’s economy

        and turn 13 times….that is real economic stimulus!

        A terrific effect advancing the world’s economy and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs…..new research leading to additional advances…much like we experienced with the Space program, the national highway system….etc.

        Technology already exists to stabilize global warming
        Analysis shows how to control carbon emissions for 50 years

        PRINCETON, N.J.
        -******- Existing technologies could stop the escalation of global warming for 50 years and work on implementing them can begin immediately, according to an analysis by Princeton University scientists.

        The scientists identified 15 technologies — from wind, solar and nuclear energy to conservation techniques — that are ripe for large-scale use and showed that each could solve a significant portion of the problem. Their analysis, published in the Aug. 13 issue of Science, indicates that many combinations of these 15 technologies could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gasses from rising for the next five decades.

        The finding counters the common argument that a major new technology needs to be developed before greenhouse gasses can be controlled, said professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, who conducted the study.

        “It certainly explodes the idea that we need to do research for a long time before getting started,” said Pacala, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director with Socolow of Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

        “If we decide to act, we will need to reduce carbon emissions across the whole global economy,” said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Fortunately, we have the tools to do this, especially if we think in terms of 50-year campaigns, not instant solutions.”

    • jfreed27

      Yeah, right..

      • Tasha

        Huh? Are you high on drugs? Try forming a coherent thought nimrod.

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