By WUWT regular “Just The Facts”
Recently there have been increased efforts to link “Climate Change” and “Extreme Weather” e.g., NOAA links extreme weather to climate change CBS – July 10, 2012, “NASA scientist links climate change, extreme weather” CNN – August 6, 2012 and Get used to ‘extreme’ weather, it’s the new normal The Guardian – September 19, 2012. Per the Guardian article, “Scientists have been warning us for years that a warmer planet would lead to more extreme weather, and now it’s arrived”. These “Extreme Weather” efforts have shifted into high gear with Sandy. Yesterday United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “one of the lessons from Superstorm Sandy is the need for global action to deal with future climate shocks.” “He told the U.N. General Assembly on Friday that it is difficult to attribute any single storm to climate change, but the world already knows that “extreme weather due to climate change is the new normal.” U.N. leader: Sandy a lesson in climate change CBS – November 9, 2012
All of these claims and “extreme weather” rhetoric seems to be predicated on the assumption that “Earth’s Temperature” has increased recently, thus causing “extreme weather” to arrive and become the “new normal”. However, does the observational data support this assumption? Let’s take a look…
Global Surface Temperatures:
Generally, when referring to Earth’s “climate” warming, proponents of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) narrative refer to Earth’s Surface Temperature, e.g. “Global warming is the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century primarily due to the greenhouse gases released by people burning fossil fuels.” NASA Earth Observatory
As such, here’s NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Global Monthly Mean Surface Temperature Anomaly – 1996 to Present:
Looking across the last 16 years, Global Surface Temperature do not appear to have increased much at all.
For a longer term view, UK Met Office’s – Hadley Center – Climate Research Unit (CRU) Annual Global Average Land Temperature Anomaly – 1850 to 2011;
and the UK Met Office – Hadley Center – Climate Research Unit (CRU) Monthly Global Average Land Temperature – 1850 to 2011
Unless the arrival of “extreme weather” occurred in 1997-1998 with the well documented “very strong El Niño”, and the media is just realizing it, there does not seem to be a basis for the “extreme weather” claims in Earth’s recent Land and Surface Temperature record. There does not appear to be much recent change, and if anything the trend is down in the last few years. However, the surface temperature record is burdened with issues of questionable siting, changes in siting, changes in equipment, changes in the number of measurement locations, modeling to fill in gaps in measurement locations, corrections to account for missing, erroneous or biased measurements, and the urban heat island effect. Thus to see the big picture on the temperature “Earth’s Temperature”, it also helps to look up.
Since 1979 Earth’s “temperature” has also been measured via satellite. “The temperature measurements from space are verified by two direct and independent methods. The first involves actual in-situ measurements of the lower atmosphere made by balloon-borne observations around the world. The second uses intercalibration and comparison among identical experiments on different orbiting platforms. The result is that the satellite temperature measurements are accurate to within three one-hundredths of a degree Centigrade (0.03 C) when compared to ground-launched balloons taking measurements of the same region of the atmosphere at the same time.” NASA
Here is RSS Global Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly- 1979 to Present;
and this is the University of Alabama – Hunstville (UAH) Global Lower Atmosphere Temperature Anomalies – 1979 to Present:
Note: Per John Christy, RSS and UAH anomalies are not comparable because they use different base periods, i.e., “RSS only uses 1979-1998 (20 years) while UAH uses the WMO standard of 1981-2010.”
The September UAH Lower Atmosphere Temperature Anomaly was .33 degrees C above the 30 year average and RSS Global Global Lower Troposphere shows a .133 degrees C increase per decade. “Earth’s Temperature” varies naturally by numerous degrees and has been significantly warmer than it is today:
Are we to believe that 3 or 4 tenths of a degree C warming over the last 30 years has brought us to the precipice of “extreme weather”? Seems implausible. Maybe there are significant regional variations that portended the arrival of “extreme weather”?
Looking at the RSS Northern Hemisphere Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) Brightness Temperature Anomaly;
and RSS Southern Hemisphere Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) Brightness Temperature Anomaly;
neither seem indicative of warming that would have caused “extreme weather” to arrive.
Furthermore, RSS Southern Polar Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) Brightness Temperature Anomaly;
is currently negative and shows a .013 K/C per decade decrease. Should we assume that Antarctica is experiencing less “extreme weather” at the moment?…
To this point we’ve only addressed the Lower Troposphere Temperatures, but one never knows where this “extreme weather” might be coming from, the following Temperature Anomaly plots from RSS will increase in altitude as is illustrated here:
Here is RSS Temperature Middle Troposphere (TMT)- Brightness Temperature Anomaly- 1979 to Present;
According to Remote Sensing Systems, “For Channel (TLT) (Lower Troposphere) and Channel (TMT) (Middle Troposphere), the anomaly time series is dominated by ENSO events and slow tropospheric warming. The three primary El Niños during the past 20 years are clearly evident as peaks in the time series occurring during 1982-83, 1987-88, and 1997-98, with the most recent one being the largest.” RSS
Middle Tropospheric temperatures appear to show slow warming overlaid with the El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, including several comparatively large El Niño events. Middle Tropospheric temperatures appear to have flattened since the large El Niño in 1998 and offer no indication of a recent change in Earth’s Temperature that could cause “extreme weather” to become the “new normal.
Moving higher in the atmosphere, RSS Temperature Troposphere / Stratosphere (TTS) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly- 1987 to Present;
has been flat since 1987, with a trend of just -.008 K/C per decade. Perhaps this is the “new normal”?…
The 1997-98 and 2009 – 10 El Niño events are still readily apparent in the Troposphere / Stratosphere plot above, as is a spike from the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Note that the effect of Mt. Pinatubo is the opposite in the Lower and Middle Troposphere versus the Troposphere / Stratosphere (TTS), i.e. “Large volcanic eruptions inject sulfur gases into the stratosphere; the gases convert into submicron particles (aerosol) with an e-folding time scale of about 1 year. The climate response to large eruptions (in historical times) lasts for several (2-3) years. The aerosol cloud causes cooling at the Earth’s surface, warming in stratosphere.”
Ellen Thomas, PHD Wesleyan University
It is interesting that, incorporating the impact of three significant surface driven warming events, Troposphere / Stratosphere Temperatures (TTS) have been quite stable, however there is a bit of regional variation here, e.g.:
RSS Northern Hemisphere Temperature Troposphere / Stratosphere (TTS) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly- 1987 to Present;
has been increasing by .044 K/C per decade, whereas the RSS Southern Hemisphere Temperature Troposphere / Stratosphere (TTS) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly- 1987 to Present;
has been decreasing by -.061 K/C per decade. However, Southern Hemisphere Troposphere / Stratosphere Temperature does show a significant increase in 2012, perhaps it is this increase that caused “extreme weather” to arrive? Or maybe not…
Moving higher still in the atmosphere, the RSS Temperature Lower Stratosphere (TLS) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly – 1979 to Present;
“is dominated by stratospheric cooling, punctuated by dramatic warming events caused by the eruptions of El Chichon (1982) and Mt Pinatubo (1991).” RSS
The eruptions of El Chichon and Mt Pinatubo are readily apparent in the Apparent Atmospheric Transmission of Solar Radiation at Mauna Loa, Hawaii:
“The stratosphere” … “in contrast to the troposphere, is heated, as the result of near infrared absorption of solar energy at the top of the aerosol cloud, and increased infra-red absorption of long-wave radiation from the Earth’s surface.”
“The stratospheric warming in the region of the stratospheric cloud increases the latitudinal temperature gradient after an eruption at low latitudes, disturbing the stratospheric-troposphere circulation, increasing the difference in height of the troposphere between high and low latitudes, and increasing the strength of the jet stream (polar vortex, especially in the northern hemisphere). This leads to warming during the northern hemisphere winter following a tropical eruption, and this warming effect tends to be larger than the cooling effect described above.” Ellen Thomas, PHD Wesleyan University
The Lower Stratosphere experienced “dramatic warming events caused by the eruptions of El Chichon (1982) and Mt Pinatubo (1991).” RSS “The long-term, global-mean cooling of the lower stratosphere stems from two downward steps in temperature, both of which are coincident with the cessation of transient warming after the volcanic eruptions of El Chichon and Mt. Pinatubo.” … “Here we provide observational analyses that yield new insight into three key aspects of recent stratospheric climate change. First, we provide evidence that the unusual step-like behavior of global-mean stratospheric temperatures is dependent not only upon the trend but also on the temporal variability in global-mean ozone immediately following volcanic eruptions. Second, we argue that the warming/cooling pattern in global-mean temperatures following major volcanic eruptions is consistent with the competing radiative and chemical effects of volcanic eruptions on stratospheric temperature and ozone. Third, we reveal the contrasting latitudinal structures of recent stratospheric temperature and ozone trends are consistent with large-scale increases in the stratospheric overturning Brewer-Dobson circulation” David W. J. Thompson Colorado State University
Above the Stratosphere we have the Mesosphere and Thermosphere, neither of which have I identified current temperature time series for, but of note is that on “July 15, 2010″ “A Puzzling Collapse of Earth’s Upper Atmosphere” occurred when “high above Earth’s surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called “the thermosphere” recently collapsed and now is rebounding again.”
“This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years,” says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). “It’s a Space Age record.”
The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers. The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.
“Something is going on that we do not understand,” says Emmert.
The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens.” NASA
In summary, Earth’s Lower and Middle Troposphere appear to have warmed slowly, overlaid with the El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, including four comparatively large El Niño events, and tempered by the cooling effects of the eruption of El Chichon (1982) and Mt Pinatubo (1991). Lower and Middle Tropospheric temperatures appear to have flattened since the large El Niño in 1998 and offer no indication of changes that could be causing “extreme weather”. Tropospheric / Stratospheric temperatures appear to have been influenced by at least three significant surface driven warming events, the 1997-98 El Niño, and the eruptions of El Chichon in 1982 and Mt Pinatubo in 1991, but have maintained a stable overall trajectory. Stratospheric temperatures appear to have experienced two “dramatic warming events caused by the eruptions of El Chichon (1982) and Mt Pinatubo (1991).”, and “unusual step-like behavior of global-mean stratospheric temperatures” which has resulted in a significant stratospheric cooling during the last 30 years. Lastly, “during deep solar minimum of 2008-2009″ “the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years” occurred and “The magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.” Unless someone can demonstrate a causative relationship between “Climate Change”, the collapse of the thermosphere and “Extreme Weather”, there does not seem to be any support with the atmospheric temperature records for “extreme weather” arrival and “new normal” rhetoric.
“The oceans can hold much more heat than the atmosphere. Just the top 3.2 metres of ocean holds as much heat as all the world’s air.” Commonwealth of Australia – Bureau of Meteorology
As such, changes in Ocean Heat Content are important in understanding “Earth’s Temperature”. Here is NOAA’s NODC Global Ocean Heat Content from 0-700 Meters – 1955 to Present;
and here is the same from Ole Humlum’s valuable climate data site Climate4you.com, NODC Global Ocean Heat Content – 0-700 Meters – 1979 to Present:
It seems apparent from the plots above that Global Ocean Heat has increased over the last several decades, however Global Ocean Heat does not appear to show a recent increase that could lead to “extreme weather”. Furthermore, in his recent article Bob Tisdale demonstrated that “sea surface temperatures for Sandy’s path haven’t warmed in 70+ years” WUWT.
“Global sea level is currently rising as a result of both ocean thermal expansion and glacier melt, with each accounting for about half of the observed sea level rise, and each caused by recent increases in global mean temperature. For the period 1961-2003, the observed sea level rise due to thermal expansion was 0.42 millimeters per year and 0.69 millimeters per year due to total glacier melt (small glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets) (IPCC 2007). Between 1993 and 2003, the contribution to sea level rise increased for both sources to 1.60 millimeters per year and 1.19 millimeters per year respectively (IPCC 2007).” Source NSIDC
Global Mean Sea Level Change – 1993 to Present:
Global Mean Sea Level Change Map with a “Correction” of 0.3 mm/year added May, 5th 2011, due to a “Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA)” – 1993 to Present:
It seems doubtful that “extreme weather” arrived because of the 5.5 Centimeter increase in Sea Level since 1993. Sandy’s storm surge topped “out at 14 feet (4.3 meters)” Huffington Post, would Sandy have been less extreme if the surge had only been 4.245 meters?…
Snow and Ice:
A proxy often cited when measuring “Earth’s Temperature” is amount of Snow and Ice on Earth. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), “The vast majority, almost 90 percent, of Earth’s ice mass is in Antarctica, while the Greenland ice cap contains 10 percent of the total global ice mass.” Source USGA
However, there is currently no generally accepted measure of ice volume, as Cryosat is still in validation and the accuracy of measurements from Grace are still being challenged. Sea Ice Area and Extent are cited as proxies for “Earth’s Temperature”, however there is significant evidence that the primary influences on Sea Ice Area and Extent are in fact wind and Atmospheric Oscillations. With this said, here are
Global, Arctic & Antarctic Sea Ice Area from 1979 to Present;
Global Sea Ice Area Anomaly – 1979 to Present:
Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area Anomaly, 1979 to Present;
Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area Anomaly, 1979 to Present;
Arctic Sea Ice Extent – 15% or greater
Antarctic Sea Ice Extent – 15% or Greater
There appears to have been a negative trend in Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area and Extent and a positive trend in Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area and Extent, thus the resultant Global Sea Ice Area trend appears to be slightly negative.
In terms of land based data, here is 20 Year Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover with 1995 – 2009 Climatology from NCEP/NCAR;
Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Anomalies 1966 – Present from NCEP/NCAR;
Northern Hemisphere Winter Snow Extent – 1967 to Present from Rutgers University;
Northern Hemisphere Spring Snow Extent – 1967 to Present:
Northern Hemisphere Fall Snow Extent – 1967 to Present:
While none of the Snow plots offers a global perspective, when looking at the Northern Hemisphere, there appears to have been a slight increase in Snowcover and Winter Snow Extent, a decrease in Spring Snow Extent and no change in Fall Snow Extent over the historical record.
Based on the limited Global Ice and Snow measurements available, and noting the questionable value of Sea Ice Area and Extent as a proxy for temperature, not much inference can currently be drawn from Earth’s Ice and Snow measurements. However, there does not appear to be any evidence of change in Earth’s Ice and Snow measurements indicative of the arrival of “Extreme Weather”.
There is no evidence of a recent increase in “Earth’s Temperature” due to “Climate Change,” which could have caused “Extreme Weather” to arrive and become the “new normal”. Claims and rhetoric that recent “Extreme Weather” is caused by or associated with “Climate Change” are not supported by the observational data.
Please note that WUWT cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data/graphics within this article, nor influence the format or form of any of the graphics, as they are all linked from third party sources and WUWT is simply an aggregator. You can view each graphic at its source by simply clicking on it.