Warmer loses BBC sponsored bet: "…the standstill, not the increase, is now this warm period’s defining characteristic."

HadCRUT3 Global Temperature from 2007-2011

Press release

London, 13 January: A climate bet proposed by the BBC’s radio programme “More or Less” four years ago has been won by Dr David Whitehouse, a former BBC Science Editor and a scientific adviser to the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

In 2008, the BBC programme-makers came up with the idea of a bet. It was for £100 that, using the Met Office’s data set (HadCrut3), there would be no new warming record set by 2011. It was made between Dr Whitehouse and climatologist Dr James Annan.

Later today, the BBC’s “More or Less” (16:30 on BBC Radio 4) will report about the outcome of the bet and announce the winner.

A full report of the scientific background to the bet is available here:

Winning A Climate Bet

by Dr. David Whitehouse, the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Predictions, Neils Bohr once said, are difficult, especially about the future. They are even more interesting however, when there is money at stake.

In December 2007 I wrote what I thought was quite a straightforward article for the New Statesman pointing out that it was curious that when so many voices were telling us that global warming was out of control, and that the global warming effect dwarfed natural fluctuations, the global annual average temperature hadn’t increased for many years. I wasn’t promoting any particular point of view just describing the data. The New Statesman jumped at it.

It caused quite a storm resulting in an Internet record number of comments that were complimentary by a large majority, although there were some less than supportive remarks. It evidently also caused quite a fuss in the offices of the New Statesman. Realclimate.com responded with, in my view, an unsatisfactory knock-down of my piece based on trend lines, which I had expected. Trend lines, especially of indeterminate length in the presence of noise, can tell you almost anything, and nothing.

The New Statesman environment correspondent Mark Lynas chipped in eventually with, “I’ll be blunt. Whitehouse got it wrong – completely wrong,” after saying he was initially reluctant to comment. He reproduced Realclimate.com’s trendlines argument and accused me of deliberately or otherwise setting out to deceive. It was a scientifically ignorant article which subsequent events, and peer-reviewed literature, emphasise. Moreover, when I asked New Statesman for redress against such an unnecessary, and in my view unprofessional insult, they declined, and stopped answering my emails. In doing so they missed out on an important, though perhaps inconvenient, scientific story.

More or Less

To my surprise interest in my article was worldwide, and eventually the BBC’s radio programme “More or Less” got in touch. The programme is about numbers and statistics and they set up a series of interviews. You can hear the programme here.

Almost at the last minute the programme-makers came up with the idea of a bet. It was for £100 that, using the HadCrut3 data set, there would be no new record set by 2011. It was made between climatologist James Annan and myself. His work involves analysing climatic data and validating climate models. He accepted enthusiastically as he has a perchant for taking on ‘sceptics.’ The presenter said that if the global temperature didn’t go up in the next few years, “there would be some explaining to do.”

Later today, January 13th, “More or Less” returns to the bet, which I am pleased to say I won, though I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.

Writing shortly after the wager was placed James Annan said he believed it was a fairly safe bet, though not certain, as the trend since the current warming spell began, around 1980, was upward (showing those same trendlines!) He drew a straight line from 1980 to 2007 and projected it forwards concluding that sometime over the next few years HadCrut3 would rise above its highest point which was in 1998 (a strong El Nino year.)

The problem with this approach is that it destroys all information in the dataset save the gradient of the straight line. In climate terms 30 years is usually held to be the shortest period to deduce trends (though shorter periods are used often if the trend deduced is deemed acceptable) but that is not to say there is not important information on shorter periods such as volcanic depressions, El Nino rises and La Nina dips. Then there are the so-called, poorly understood decadal variations.

My view was that the information in the dataset was important, especially if projecting it forward just a few years when natural variations were clearly dominant. Looking at HadCrut3 it is clear that there isn’t much of an increase in the 1980s, more of an increase in the 1990s, then there is the big 1998 El Nino, followed by no increase in the past decade or so. It therefore seemed far more likely that the temperature would continue what it had been doing in the recent past than revert to an upward trend, in the next few years at least.

My approach was to listen to the data. The approach taken by James Annan was flawed because he didn’t. He imposed a straight line on the data due to theoretical considerations. I always wonder about the wisdom of the approach that uses straight lines in climatic data. Why should such a complex system follow a straight line? Indeed, the rise of HadCrut3 is not a straight line, but the past ten years is, and that in my view is very curious, and highly significant.

Why, I wonder start the linear increase in 1980? Obviously the temperature starts rising then, but why not start the straight line in 1970? The answer is that the temperature is flat between 1970 and 1980. It seems illogical to take notice of flat data at the start of a dataset but totally ignore it at the end!

When a record is not a record

During the recent interview for “More or Less” James Annan said that had other temperature databases been used he would have won. This is a moot point that also strongly reaffirms my stance. In NasaGiss 2010 is the warmest year, with a temperature anomaly of 0.63 deg C, only one hundredth of a degree warmer than 2005, and within a whisker of 2007, 2006, 2002, 2001 and 1998. Given the 0.1 deg C errors even Nasa did not claim 2010 as a record. Technically speaking 2010 was slightly hotter because of a string El Nino. Otherwise, NasaGiss shows hardly any increase in the past decade.

During the “More or Less” interview the question arose of extending the bet to “double or quits” for the next five years. I was game for it with a proviso. Betting against a record for ten years raises a higher possibility that there might be a statistical fluctuation than betting for five years. Because of this I would like to see two annual datapoints, consecutively more than one sigma above the 2001 – date mean level. After all, that is the minimum statistical evidence one should accept as being an indication of warming. James Annan did not commit to such a bet during the programme.

It just has to start getting warmer soon.

Back in 2007 many commentators, activists and scientists, such as Lynas, said the halt in global temperatures wasn’t real. It is interesting that the Climategate emails showed that the certainty some scientists expressed about this issue in public was not mirrored in private. Indeed, one intemperate activist, determined to shoot my New Statesman article down but unable to muster the simple statistics required to tackle the statistical properties of only 30 data points, asked the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office, to provide reasons why I was wrong, which they couldn’t.

What was true in 2007 is even more so in 2012. Since 2007 the reality of the temperature standstill has been accepted and many explanations offered for it, more than can possibly be true! We have seen predictions that half of the years between 2009 and 2014 would be HadCrut3 records (a prediction that now can’t possibly come to pass) which was later modified to half of the years between 2010 and 2015 (likewise.) The Met Office predict that 2012 -16 will be on average 0.54 deg C above the HadCrut3 baseline level, and 2017 -2021 some 0.76 deg C higher. Temperatures must go up, and quickly.

So how long must this standstill go on until bigger questions are asked about the rate of global warming? When asked if he would be worried if there was no increase in the next five years James Annan would only say it would only indicate a lower rate of warming! Some say that 15 years is the period for serious questions.

We are already there

In a now famous (though even at the time obvious) interview in 2010 Prof Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia confirmed that there was no statistically significant warming since 1995. There was an upward trend, but it was statistically insignificant, which in scientific parlance equates to no trend at all. In 2011 Prof Jones told the BBC that due to the inclusion of the warmish 2010 there was now a statistically significant increase between 1995 and 2010. Since 2011 was cool it doesn’t take complicated statistics to show that the post 1995 trend by that method of calculation is now back to insignificant, though I don’t expect the BBC to update its story.

The lesson is that for the recent warming spell, the one that begins about 1980, the years of standstill now exceed those with a year-on-year increase. It is the standstill, not the increase, that is now this warm period’s defining characteristic.

The nature of the anthropogenic global warming signal is that, unlike natural fluctuations, it is always additive. Sooner or later, it is argued, it will emerge unambiguously, perhaps at different times in different parts of the world, but it must emerge. Some argue that by the time it does it will already be too late, but that is another debate.

James Annan is keen on a “money markets” approach to forecasting global warming, and bemoans the reticence of so-called climate sceptics to put their money where their mouth is! I hope that his early-stage financial loss won’t be too much of a setback and a deterrence for potential investors, not that I will be among them.

Now that I am joining the ranks of those who have made money out of global warming (or rather the lack of it) I wonder where the smart money will be placed in the future.

Feedback: david.whitehouse@thegwpf.org


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[snip. Off topic. ~ dbs, mod.]

“He drew a straight line from 1980 to 2007 and projected it forwards concluding that sometime over the next few years HadCrut3 would rise above its highest point…”
Therein lies the absurdity of the global warming science. We also see this naive approach with expected sea level rise, etc.

Luther Wu

Let the warmist rationalizations begin.

John from CA

Great article and Congrats on the Bet.
…was slightly hotter because of a string El Nino.
was slightly hotter because of a strong El Nino.

John Marshall

Using trends in a cyclic system is foolhardy. Realclimate should have got this by now.

Scott Covert

That bet is just a dice roll. With the flat trend it was an even bet. Warming is real, it’s the cause that is in question. You can cite correlation till you are blue in the face but it doesn’t prove anything. We need real empirical studies to nail down the real causes of warming/ cooling. Blaming anything on one cause is a gross oversimplification. The climate system is chaotic and there are hundreds if not thousands of factors in a constant tug of war and a steady rise in C02 can not bias the whole system above the noise level in my opinion. AGW is a convenient myth used as political leverage over economic control.
Wow, that was not original at all and I bet everyone here is tired of hearing it. It’s so obvious, it hardly needs mentioning.

Roger Andrews

“Predictions, Neils Bohr once said, are difficult, especially about the future”
I think Yogi Berra said it.


Maybe if we keep making these bets, we can finally defund these fraudsters indirectly.

The Hadley-CRU data for december 2011 appears not to be available yet : http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadcrut3gl.txt
However – it looks like 2011 will be drum role…… the 11 th warmest year !


What a wonderful example of statistics abuse!
What did they do wrong this time? I would mainly put this in the camp of cherry-picking their data. That ain’t how honest sampling works, and skewed sampling is a prime data analysis fallacy.

@ p gosselin –
On the other hand, we can’t accuse the CAGW supporters of not being able to even draw a straight line!
Seriously, the travesty here is that the CAGW supporters refuse to look at the observational data while they prefer to live in their “model” world.
Whether we are cooling or warming on a global scale isn’t the important thing – what is important is whether anything we humans do can have a measureable effect on either that cooling or warming and whether that effect is or is not desireable.
“Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

David, you know they’ll howl about the 1995 to present as not showing warming. You’re right, of course, about statistical significance, but why bother with the wailing an gnashing of teeth?
Just go here…..http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1997/plot/rss/from:1997/trend
That’s 15 years of no warming!!!! The wailing and gnashing of the teeth will be much improved this way! 😀

John from CA says:
January 13, 2012 at 6:37 am
…was slightly hotter because of a string El Nino.
was slightly hotter because of a strong El Nino.

John, Thanks for the clarification. I was about to start researching what a string El Nino was! Looking for the Nexus of course. 😉

Frank K.

Congratulations to Dr. Whitehouse (have fun spending your winnings :).
I was struck, however, by the following statement from the article:
“I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.”
Annan’s Wikipedia entry?? Really?
To say that these climate elites have egos is an understatement! It fits in with my belief that these CAGW scientists have a “rock star” mentality about what they do, and part of their motivation is cultivating the fame and notoriety that comes with their “job”…

Weather Genius, Piers Corbyn has made a small fortune
betting against those BBC & Met Office forecasts in the UK.
“Piers Corbyn wins Xmas UK snow bets despite all other forecasters”
Wikipedia entry ….
There is a special webpage dedicated to the pronouncements and work of Piers Corbyn, where many talks and videos are included featuring the pre-eminent meteorologist / astrophysicist. Of interest is the new science that he is developing; Volcano & Earthquake prediction, using analysis of Solar/Lunar Magnetic fluxions. So far this looks very promising. No-one so far has been able to accurately predict when and where Earthquakes will occur. Should he prove reliable in this latest endeavour, then he should be nominated for a Nobel Prize !
See also the website of the ! Fraudulent Climate of Hokum Science !
Click the name “Axel” above and then select Corbyn Vs Met Office
from the Quick Page Menu Droplist at the top left of the page.

There is something else truly remarkable and already noticed by Whitehouse in the past…the fact that in the face of increasing GHG concentrations, the temperatures have managed to go nowhere, as if by magic something happened in 1999 and exactly counterbalanced the effect of CO2.

Also look how David Whitehouse is described by “More or Less” as an “astrophysicist”.
I guess journalists are too smart to trust the word of other journalists 😎


Scott Covert says: “Warming is real, it’s the cause that is in question.”
Actually, I think you meant to say that temperatures HAVE warmed. The future warming is still in question.

[snip -off topic]

Rhys Jaggar

As to where things go from now?
1. Solar – still unclear whether the two solar cycle decrease in output will really happen – if it does, contributes to cooling to 2035.
2. Oceanic – PDO now in cool mode with AMO going that way soon. Predict cooling contribution until 2025/2030.
Overall, I’d say likelihood is for further stasis or, more likely, cooling until 2030. After that, it will depend significantly on what the sun decides to do……

The stupidity of linear extrapolation has been known for a long time. 300 years ago Swift expertly sliced up linearists in the Laputa chapter of Gulliver. You’d think someone would have learned something by now.

Kurt Myrhagen

Great article, thank you! Somehow and don’t ask me why but it reminds me of a remark of a Swedish trade union chieftain when commenting on salary differences. He said: “We are not satisfied until people in the low income brackets earn more than those in the high income brackets”.

Kelvin Vaughan

Take the CET daily maximum temperatures for December 1900. Add them up.
Take the CET daily maximum temperatures for December 2011. Add them up.
December 2011 has been very mild here in the UK. The total for 2011 is only 90% of that for 1900.
Do the same with the minimums. The total for 2011 is only 67% of that for 1900!
And thats with lots more CO2!


It does not matter how data is “massaged” or “conveniently” treated, there is a cooling which began after the 1997-98 “El Niño”, and a bit tempered after the new cycle 24 began reaching higher peaks, just because, no matter how ACRIM, etc. satellites were “fixed”, temperatures follow the Sun (that round and shining thing above us), of course delayed, as right now happens, because of that temperamental girl called “La Niña”, who is still cold and in need of some warm.
Of course the BBC is in its daily endeavor of promoting “anthropogenic global warming/ climate change” and the establishment of “Green policies” to avoid “catastrophe”. But, in these times other catastrophes are looming, one of these the economical viability of such a big government owned media; that is a real and hotter issue. It should be privatized just for the sake of cooling down the, more than probable, accumulated “red” heat in its accountability, and some “green” measures should be taken before an armageddon happens.

I’ve made so many offers of bets to alarmists. 50-50% bets.
ie. I win if its under their prediction. They win if its over.
None, not a single one has take any off the bets.

David L.

@John Marshall says: January 13, 2012 at 6:41 am
“Using trends in a cyclic system is foolhardy. Realclimate should have got this by now.”
and @ Scott Covert says: January 13, 2012 at 6:41 am
My gawd yes!!!! These Climate idiots constantly plotting lines. Can’t they find another function? Logarithmic, sigmoidal, even qudratic or cubic (or a Taylor expansion). What is the problem with these guys? Is it they can’t understand anything other than y=mx+b or they can’t use the appropriate software to do proper nonlinear least squares routines?
Also, as Scott relates, the complex and chaotic climate system is far too complex to boil down to summary statistics (average temperatures) and fit them to lines to extrapolate the future temperatures to within 0.1C precision. This is so obvious I can’t believe anyone believes otherwise at this point.
Oh wait, Phil Jones doesn’t even know how to use excel. I guess I got my answer


Roger Andrews says:
January 13, 2012 at 6:44 am
“Predictions, Neils Bohr once said, are difficult, especially about the future”
I think Yogi Berra said it.

They both said essentially the same thing. I don’t know who said it first. GIYF


Can’t believe my ears. The BBC in 2008 (after the futerra re-education) allows such a bet AND mentions FACTS about the global temperature?
They don’t have their house in order.


An object will continue in a straight line unless operated on by an external force.
External forces are not relevant to AGW alarmists.

Steve McIntyre

This is the same incident as the one in which Phil Jones was asked by Bob Ward to calculate a trend in order to respond to Whitehouse and Jones confessed that he was unable to calculate a trend on his own and that there was no one in the office at that time who could help him with this onerous task. See http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/11/23/the-scientific-firmament.html.


The reason temperatures have flat-lined is simple. The upward trend in the 90’s was a result of the large reduction (90% in some areas) in weather stations worldwide. This introduced a bias in the signal that was not accounted for in the trend analysis. Now that the number of weather stations has stabilized, so has temperature.
If temperatures today were anything like as warm as the 1930’s the US would again be a giant dust bowl. Common sense has flown out the window. Scientists are crowding around thermometers, ignoring what is happening outside their windows.

Bill Parsons

Trend lines, especially of indeterminate length in the presence of noise, can tell you almost anything, and nothing.

You may as well bet on the Dow Jones: In a year’s time, will it be up? or down?

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. — Yogi Berra

John Blake

Why cite a wholly discredited Phil Jones or anyone else as a statistical authority for anything? Perfectly standard measures of frequency and distribution, regression analyses deriving non-linear and other trends with margins-of-error aka uncertainty, are available to anyone. Resorting to “argumentum ad verecundiam” is not only a mug’s game in itself, but revealing of a profoundly anti-scientific mindset akin to Wonderland’s “sentence first, verdict afterward.”
Expertise in technical matters is always desirable, but inflated credentials can never substitute for independent third-party verification. Integrity requires examining not only input-data, but scrutinizing conclusions’ analytical principles and procedures as amenable to not-so-subtle bias on any number of substantive levels.


I don’t think we will get any less “Ananism” [sp?] in the future. The “climate scientists” are really Masters of such Perturbations of computer climate science.


“I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.”
It is interesting that Annan has been editing his own Wikipedia entry. He’s been doing it carefully and properly — only removing erroneous information. But he could have pointed out in the Talk page that some information was missing from the entry, and if the show talked to him recently then he’s been reminded of it.

cui bono

On the UEA website: http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2011/November/bodyofwork
“Body of Work: 40 years of creative writing at the University of East Anglia”. This is a new book about Malcolm Bradbury and other writers of fiction at UEA.
Curiously there is no mention of Phil Jones et al, who I thought would be eminently qualified for inclusion. 🙂


Annan is an intellectually lazy media hack, and not the first one or the last one. Praise be to the Internet (which ironically Al Gore invented) for breaking the media’s grip on the masses.

Truly wonderful article, couldn’t stop reading. Now about the question:
“Now that I am joining the ranks of those who have made money out of global warming (or rather the lack of it) I wonder where the smart money will be placed in the future.”
This is quite simple. Ignore the facts and impose mandates. You force people to buy electicity from solar and wind and you force them to buy the cars you specify, using legislation in the form of carbon tax or emissions reductions standards.
The Obama Administration has always been keen on putting federal Smart Meters on people’s homes, using tax payer money to purchase and install them. The Smart Meter helps “suppliers” remotely gather info from each home to determine it’s electricity consumption and it’s co2 emissions footprint.
One producer of Smart Meters is the Styron Division. ref: http://www.styron.com/company/sustainability/sustainability_in_action_g.htm
Styron was purchased from Dow by Bain Capital in 2010. ref: http://www.dow.com/news/corporate/2010/20100302a.htm
One of our candidates is a direct beneficiary of Bain Capital. (NYT “Retirement Money…Romney”)
Pish posh, you say. How does he know what the venture firm he retired from does after he leaves? I cannot answer this in full except to say that an important pattern in Romney’s past and present political positions is that he clearly believes it is “good business” to force people to buy products. Romneycare forced residents of Ma to buy health insurance. When he was gov of Ma, a major cornerstone of his economic policy involved the switch to renewables in the region, forcing people to buy electricity from wind turbines. He now proposes 20bn in federal spending on research in “car technology.” He supports world wide emissions reductions agreements and a carbon tax. So there is clearly a pattern of mandating what people buy and claiming that that is “good business.” Now, his company happens to have reps on solar and wind suppliers, and happens to own a Smart Meter** manufacturer. These energy policies have done nothing but destroy the economies of those who adopt them. You cannot point to any country in which global warming policies have been a success.
**”More than 250 million smart meters will be installed worldwide by 2015, representing a penetration rate of 18 percent of all electrical meters by that time (up from 46 million in 2008).(20)
This is being driven by a goal of reaching 55 percent penetration of all electric meters in North America by 2015 and a 20/20/20 goal in Europe to achieve a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent increase in renewable energy and a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption, all by 2020. This Directive in Europe also includes a goal to replace 80 percent of electric meters with smart meters by 2020.” Styron

Darren Potter

clivehbest says: However – it looks like 2011 will be drum role…… the 11 th warmest year !
Given the source, you can safely bet 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, …; will be whatever they need the years to be – to justify more Taxpayer funding.

Mike M

If only there was a way to snag Al Gore into making a losing climate bet; for say around $80 billion that’s been wasted on this nonsense?


Me too. My warmist friends refuse to bet. And yet how certain they are. Guess they’re just not wanting to take my money.( Not.)

Jarrett Jones

A few years back I looked into betting on the temperature trend being less than predicted but the only market I found was based on Hansen’s “data”. No way was I going to bet on that shell game. If there is a market based on the satellite record then I am a player.

Bloke down the pub

Just listened to programme and the warmists came off worst in the discussion.

Crispin in Waterloo

“Maybe if we keep making these bets, we can finally defund these fraudsters indirectly.”
They are smart enough not to bet on what they suspect is a lie but are too worried to oppose directly. There are still terrible and very public consequences for a warmist who starts talking about reality. Reality bites, hard.
Morally, is it really fair to have a battle of wits against the unarmed? Taking candy (something real and beneficial) from a baby is frowned upon socially. Betting against a warmist might end up in court because the warmist will claim they were scammed by a lose-lose bet.
You think not?? The skeptic will be blamed for not providing ‘full disclosure’ about the fact that the warmist propaganda was manipulations and lies in service of the gas industry (lower CO2/MJ). The skeptic will reply that they tried and the warmist refused the knowledge. That will in turn serve as proof that the skeptic was knowingly taking ‘candy’ from someone not possessed of their full mental faculties, i.e. analytically incompetent or restricted, by indoctrination, to the state of being for legal purposes, a perpetual minor. That will, in consequence, give rise to a court-ordered refund plus punitive damages. It’s the American way.

Is HadCrut3 subject to influence by ego-driven activists, the way GISS is?


Dr. Whitehouse,
Congratulations on your winnings!
In retrospect James Annan must feel a bit silly for making the bet – I mean really; we certainly need to admit that we humans scarcely know enough about weather and climate to be able to confidently bet on GATA outcomes some years in advance. But though (IMHO) the bet was done we a certain levity and not for too much money, it is worthwhile to consider for a moment that activist/scientists of the alarmed variety and politicians of all stripes are more than willing to make these silly climate bets in our interest, and using public (our) money.
And the sums are not trivial. Suddenly this whole idea of betting on the climate isn’t fun or funny.


David L. says (in response to several people)
“…My gawd yes!!!! These Climate idiots constantly plotting lines. Can’t they find another function? Logarithmic, sigmoidal, even qudratic or cubic (or a Taylor expansion). What is the problem with these guys? ”
The reason is simple. They assume that the general public is too stupid to understand anything but a straight line. When you get into the vagaries of how a coefficient affects a curve, the eyes gloss over and people loose interest. If they can’t shoe-horn it into a straight line, they have no chance to convince the populace of their claim(s).

I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.
Don’t forget, anybody can edit Wikipedia! Change it!


Just listened to the program. No mention of CO2 or carbon dioxide. Just disultery talk about global warming occuring or not. Anyway, the bet still seems to be on for double or quits.
And another four years before the BBC has to pronounce on global cooling. 🙁