Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
[see Updates at the end of this post]
Science is what we use to explain anomalies, to elucidate mysteries, to shed light on unexplained occurrences. For example, once we understand how the earth rotates, there is no great need for a scientific explanation of the sun rising in the morning. If one day the sun were to rise in the afternoon, however, that is an anomaly which would definitely require a scientific explanation. But there is no need to explain the normal everyday occurrences. We don’t need a new understanding if there is nothing new to understand.
Hundreds of thousands of hours of work, and billions of dollars, have been expended trying to explain the recent variations in the climate, particularly the global temperature. But in the rush to find an explanation, a very important question has been left unasked:
Just exactly what unusual, unexpected temperature anomaly are we trying to explain?
The claim is made over and over that humans are having an effect on the climate. But where is the evidence that there is anything that even needs explanation? Where is the abnormal phenomenon? What is it that we are trying to make sense of, what is the unusual occurrence that requires a novel scientific explanation?
There are not a lot of long-term temperature records that can help us in this regard. The longest one is the Central England Temperature record (CET). Although there are problems with the CET (see Sources below), including recent changes in the stations used to calculate it that have slightly inflated the modern temperatures, it is a good starting point for an investigation of whether there is anything happening that is abnormal. Here is that record:
Figure 1. The Central England Temperature Record. Blue line is the monthly temperature in Celsius. Red line is the average temperature. Jagged black line is the 25-year trailing trend, in degrees per century.
Now, where in that record is there anything which is even slightly abnormal? Where is the anomaly that the entire huge edifice of the AGW hypothesis is designed to elucidate? The longest sustained rise is from about 1680 to 1740. That time period also has the steepest rise. The modern period, on the other hand, is barely above the long-term trend despite urban warming. There is nothing unusual about the modern period in any way.
OK, so there’s nothing to explain in the CET. How about another long record?
One of the world’s best single station long-term records is that of the Armagh Observatory in Ireland. It has been maintained with only a couple minor location changes for over 200 years. Figure 2 shows the Armagh record.
We find the same thing in this record as in the CET. The fastest rise was a long, long time ago. The modern rise is once again insignificant. Where in all of this is anything that requires billions of dollars to explain?
Finally, what about the global record? Here, you don’t have to take my word for it. A much chastened Phil Jones (the disgraced former Director of the CRU of email fame), in an interview with the BBC on Friday, February 12, 2010, answered a BBC question as follows:
Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?
An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I’ve assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.
Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).
I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.
So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.
So in fact, according to Phil Jones (who strongly believes in the AGW hypothesis) there is nothing unusual about the recent warming either. It is not statistically different from two earlier modern periods of warming. Since these warming periods were before the modern rise in CO2, greenhouse gases cannot have been responsible for those rises.
So my question remains unanswered … where is the anomaly? Where is the unusual occurrence that we are spending billions of dollars trying to explain?
The answer is, there is no unusual warming. There is no anomaly. There is nothing strange or out of the ordinary about the recent warming. It is in no way distinguishable from earlier periods of warming, periods that we know were not due to rising CO2. There is nothing in the record that is in any way different from the centuries-long natural fluctuations in the global climate.
In other words, we have spent billions of dollars and wasted years of work chasing a chimera, a will-of-the-wisp. This is why none of the CO2 explanations have held water … simply because there is nothing unusual to explain.
ADJUSTMENTS TO THE CET:
JONES BBC INTERVIEW:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511670.stm
Jones also makes the interesting argument in the interview that the reason he believes that recent warming is anthropogenic (human-caused) is because climate models can’t replicate it … in other words, he has absolutely no evidence at all, he just has the undeniable fact that our current crop of climate models can’t model the climate. Seems to me like that’s a problem with the models rather than a problem with the climate, but hey, what do I know, I was born yesterday …
[UPDATE 1] Further evidence that nothing abnormal is happening is given by the individual US state record high temperatures. Here are the number of US state record high temperatures per decade, from the US National Climate Data Center (NCDC):
As you can see, the recent decades have not had record-beating high temperatures, nor are they unusual or abnormal in any way. Nearly half of the high temperature records were set back in the 1930-1940 decade.
[UPDATE 2] Here is another look at the lack of any abnormalities in climate data. I will add more as they come up. This is data on snow extext, from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab:
So, nothing to see here. There is no evidence that the climate has gone off course. There is no evidence of the claimed reduction in snow cover which is supposed to provide a positive feedback to warming. In fact, the surprising thing is how little the snow cover has changed over the last forty years.
[UPDATE 3] We often hear about the vanishing polar sea ice. Usually, however, people only look at half of the picture, Arctic sea ice. Although you wouldn’t know it from the scare stories, we do have a South Pole. Here is the record of global sea ice, 1979-2006
Figure 5. Global ice area variation. Blue line shows the month-by-month area, and the red line is the average area. DATA SOURCE
This illustrates the non-intuitive nature of climate. As the global temperature was climbing from 1985 until 1998, global sea ice was increasing. Since then it has decreased, and currently is where we were at the start of the satellite record. Variation in the average is ±2%. Nothing unusual here.
[UPDATE 4] Another oft-mentioned item is tropical cyclones. Here is the record of Accumulated Cyclone Energy, for both the Globe and and Northern Hemisphere, from Ryan Maue .
As you can see, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the accumulated cyclone energy either. It goes up … it comes down. Nature is like that.
[UPDATE 5] Arctic temperatures are often cited as being anomalous. Here’s the record for Alaska;
Figure 7. Alaska Temperature Average from First Order Observing Stations. DATA SOURCE .
The Alaskan temperature is regulated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO shifted from the cool phase to the warm phase around 1976 [typo corrected, was incorrectly listed as 1986], and has recently switched back to the cool phase. As you can see, other than the step changes due to the PDO, there is little variation in the Alaska temperatures.
[UPDATE 6] There has been much discussion of the effect of rising temperatures on rainfall. Here is the CRU TS3 global precipitation record:
Figure 8. Global Precipitation, from CRU TS3 1° grid. DATA SOURCE
As in all of the records above, there is nothing at all anomalous in the recent rainfall record. The average varies by about ± 2%. There is no trend in the data.
[UPDATE 7] People keep claiming that hurricanes (called “cyclones” in the Southern Hemisphere) have been rising. They claim that damage from hurricanes in the US have been going up. Here is data on hurricane damage:
The figure above shows normalized US hurricane losses for 1900 to 2009. It shows an estimate of what hurricane damages would be if each hurricane season took place in 2009. The dark line shows the linear best fit from Excel. Obviously, there is no trend. This makes sense as there has also been no trend in U.S. landfall frequencies or intensities over this period (in fact, depending on start date there is evidence for a slight but statistically significant decline, source in PDF).
In terms of global tropical cyclone frequency, it was concluded that there was no significant change in global tropical storm or hurricane numbers from 1970 to 2004, nor any significant change in hurricane numbers for any individual basin over that period, except for the Atlantic (discussed above). Landfall in various regions of East Asia26 during the past 60 years, and those in the Philippines during the past century, also do not show significant trends.
[UPDATE 8] You’d think, from all of the shouting about the greenhouse radiation, that we would have seen some change in it over the last few decades. Here is NOAA data on average outgoing (from the earth to space) longwave (greenhouse) radiation (OLR).
Figure 10. Global Outgoing Longwave Radiation. NOAA Interpolated OLR
Change in the average OLR over the period of record is less than ± 1%, and change since 1980 is only ± 0.5%. The current average value is the same as in 1976.
[UPDATE 9] OK, how about droughts? After all, droughts are supposed to be one of the terrible things that accompany warming, and the earth has warmed over the last century. Here’s the Palmer Drought Severity Index for that time span, 1901-2002:
Once again, despite going up some and down some, we’ve ended up just where we started.
[UPDATE 10] More on the Arctic. From Polyakov et al ., we have this:
Figure 12. Arctic Temperature Anomaly . DATA SOURCE
The study used temperature stations from all around the shore of the Arctic Ocean, plus buoys and ice stations. It covered the area north of the Arctic Circle, that is to say the entire Arctic.
This matches an analysis I did last year of the Nordic countries. Here is a result from that study.
Figure 13. Nordic Land Temperature Anomaly. Original caption says “I used the NORDKLIM dataset available here . I removed the one marine record from “Ship M”. To avoid infilling where there are missing records, I took the “first difference” of all available records for each year and averaged them. Then I used a running sum to calculate the average anomaly. I did not remove cities or adjust for the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.”
Note that, as we would expect, the temperature of the Nordic Countries is similar to that of the Arctic as a whole. This adds confidence to the results. I show the trends for the same intervals as in Fig. 12.
Again, there is nothing out of the ordinary here. The recent Arctic warming is often held up as evidence for human influence on the climate. The data shows the Arctic warming from 1902-1938 was longer and stronger than the recent warming. There is nothing for CO2 to explain.
Figure 14. Changes in storms in Lund and Stockholm, Sweden. Increasing values shows increasing storms.
About this graph, the authors say:
(1) There is no significant overall long-term trend common to all indices in cyclone activity in the North Atlantic and European region since the Dalton minimum.
(2) The marked positive trend beginning around 1960 ended in the mid-1990s and has since then reversed. This positive trend was more an effect of a 20th century minimum in cyclone activity around 1960, rather than extraordinary high values in 1990s. Both the 1960s minimum and the 1990s maximum were within the long-term variability.
(3) Because the period between the 1960s minima and the 1990s maxima spans a substantial part of the period covered by most reanalysis datasets, any analysis relying solely on such data is likely to find trends in cyclone activity and related measures.
Can’t be much clearer than that. There’s no change in North Atlantic storminess.
[UPDATE 12] More on rainfall, this time extreme rainfall and floods. I took the data from Trend detection in river flow series: 1. Annual maximum flow, and used it to compare record river flows by decade. Here are those results:
Figure 15. Maximum River Flow Index for US, European, and Australian rivers.
The math on this one was more complex than the record state temperatures. The river records are of different lengths, and they don’t span the same time periods. Of course, this affects the odds of getting a record in a given year.
For example, if a river record is say only ten years long, the random chance of any year being the maximum is one in ten. For the longest record in the dataset above, it is one in 176. In addition, the number of river records available in any year varies. To adjust for these differences, I took the odds of the record not being set in that particular year for each stream. This is (1 – 1/record length). I multiplied together all of those (1-1/len) odds for all the records available in that year to give me an overall odds of that year not being a record.
Finally, I took the average of those overall odds for the decade, and multiplied it by the actual count of records in that year. This gave me the maximum river flow index shown above. If there were lots of short records in a given decade, we’d be more likely to get a record by chance, so the record count in that decade is accordingly reduced. On the other hand, if there were only a few long records in that decade, there’s not much chance of a record being set randomly in that decade, so the count would be reduced less.
As you can see, there is no sign of a recent increase in the adjusted number of records. Or as the authors of the study say:
The analysis of annual maximum flows does not support the hypothesis of ubiquitous growth of high flows. Although 27 cases of strong, statistically significant increase were identified by the Mann-Kendall test, there are 31 decreases as well, and most (137) time series do not show any significant changes (at the 10% level).
Once again, we see no sign of the changes in climate predicted by the UN IPCC. What were the changes they predicted?
Figure 16. Observed and Projected Changes from the UN IPCC Third Assessment Report.
As you can see above, there is no increase in extreme drought, precipitation, extreme high temperatures, or cyclone events.
[UPDATE 13] Oh, yeah, a pet peeve of mine. You know how they always say “Yeah, but nine out of the last ten years have been among the ten warmest years of the record”, as though that proved that the last ten years was an unusual, anomalous time?
The trouble with this argument is that in a time of rising temperatures, that is often true. The temperature is rising, so where would you expect the warmest years to be?
How often is it true? Thanks for asking, here’s the data from the GISS temperature record .
Figure 16. Number of “Top Ten” years in the GISS global temperature record up to that point that occurred in the ten years previous to a given year.
So yes, nine of the last ten years were in the top ten years in the record … but that was true three times in the 1940′s. So once again, there is nothing unusual about the recent warming.
[Edited to Add] I got to thinking about the IPCC WG1 report, which is the science report. People always claim that it contains nothing but science, and none of it has been overthrown. So I pulled up the Summary for Policymakers. Under the second section, called “Direct Observations of Climate Change”, the very first item says (emphasis mine):
Eleven of the last twelve years (1995–2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature9 (since 1850). The updated 100-year linear trend (1906 to 2005) of 0.74°C [0.56°C to 0.92°C] is therefore larger than the corresponding trend for 1901 to 2000 given in the TAR of 0.6°C [0.4°C to 0.8°C].
Since the claim was slightly different than the one I analyzed above, I went back and looked at the top twelve. Here they are:
Figure 17. Number of “Top Twelve” years in the GISS global temperature record up to that point that occurred in the twelve years previous to a given year.
Once again, nothing unusual … yes, the earth has been warming, but not in any unusual or anomalous way.
Next, there is no “therefore” in the comparison of the trends. The mere fact that a number of the warmest years were in the last 12 does not guarantee an increase in the trend. If the post 2000 trend continued to increase regularly and very slightly, there would always be 12 of the warmest years in the last 12 … but the 100 year trend would steadily decrease.
[UPDATE 14] The predicted acceleration of sea level rise is one of the favorites of those who want to scare people about CO2. Since 1992, sea level has been measured by satellite. Here is the record of sea level rise over that period:
Figure 18. TOPEX satellite sea level data. The satellite measures the sea level rise using radar. DATA SOURCE
As you can see, rather than accelerating, sea level rise has been slowing down for the past few years. Another inconvenient truth …
[UPDATE 15] Extreme weather events are a perennial favorite among the forecast ills from purported climate change. I found good data on the maximum three day rainfall totals for eight areas on the US Pacific Coast. The areas are Western Washington, Northwest Oregon, Southwest Oregon, Northwest California, North Central California, West Central California, Southwest California, and Southern California. For each record, I ranked the results, and averaged them across the 8 records. This gave me a ranking index showing which years had the most extreme events over the entire region. Fig. 19 shows the results, with larger numbers showing higher ranked years (those with more extreme rainfall events).
Figure 19. Extreme rainfall events, averaged over eight US Pacific Coast climate zones DATA SOURCE