The Climate Dictionary

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I see that there is some confusion over terminology in the climate field. In response, I’ve put together a list of common terms, along with what far too often they mean in climate science. So without further ado, here’s my climate dictionary.

climate dictionary.png

TERM                                                    DEFINITION

an expected result of global warming — “We predicted warming and got a heavy snowfall instead”.

anthropogenic — see “human fingerprint”.

anthropogenic change — “It’s warmer than usual”.

anthropogenic climate change — “Weather we don’t like”.

autocorrelation — “Say what? We don’t have to deal with that”.

Bonferroni correction — see “autocorrelation”

carbon dioxide — “The secret knob that controls the climate”.

cause — “Greenhouse gases”

climate — “It’s warmer than usual”.

climate change — “What ‘global warming’ became after we repeatedly predicted warming and got heavy snowfalls instead”.

climate feedback — see “natural variability”.

confounding factors — “Things that we choose to ignore.”

coupled non-linear chaotic system — ” y = ax + b “

effect — “dangerous anthropogenic global warming”

ever — “qualifier of superlatives to indicate things that haven’t happened since the Earth was first formed in 1970”.

external forces — see “other factors”

human fingerprint — “We can’t explain what caused it, so it must be from people acting badly”.

hundred-year flood — “Any flood recurring more than one news cycle apart”.

Industrial Revolution — “The time of the climate Eden when the temperature was exactly right”.

IPCC Conference of the Parties — “A recurring party attended by only the wokest of the woke”.

it is well known — “I believe this”.

it’s a boundary value problem — “This depends on future boundaries we can’t predict but we’ll act like we can.”

multiproxy study — “We left out the proxies that don’t agree with our theory”.

natural climate fluctuation — “We don’t know why it goes up and down”.

natural variability — “We have no idea what the cause was”.

naturally occurring dynamics — “Something happened that we can’t explain”.

other factors — “Deus ex machina”.

phase reversal — “Cause and effect just went 180° out of phase for no reason”.

predicted sea level rise — “Run for the hills! We’ll all be drowned!”

projections — “It’s a forecast but we don’t stand behind it”.

proxies show — “One tree in Yamal had this to say”.

regime change — “Cause and effect just went 180° out of phase for no reason”.

renewable energy — “This solution requires extensive subsidies”.

requires further study — “Give us more taxpayer money”.

social cost of carbon — “Our analyses will completely ignore the benefits of fossil fuels and the greening of the planet”.

the effect of various lag times — “Things that don’t line up can be made to line up”.

weather — “It’s colder than usual”.

well within expectations – “It’s colder than usual”.


Finally, we have the IPCC Likelihood Scale:

Virtually certain – “All my cool scientist friends agree”.

Very likely – “We really hope this is true”.

Likely – “Two climate models out of three agree”.

About as likely as not – “Nobody has a clue”.

Unlikely – “This outcome offends us”.

Very unlikely – “We really don’t want you going down that path”.

Exceptionally unlikely – “Stephen McIntyre said it first so it can’t possibly be true.”

Best to all,



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🙂 but true.

Off Topic:
Well maybe not.
There’s a new “Sea Level Report Card” study that is making the rounds in media outlets:
Sea-Level Report Cards
Tide gauge data is being extrapolated from 1969 (not 1968 and not 1970 but 1969) out to 2050 for 32 tide gauges Maine to Alaska.
Apparently extrapolation of time lines shorter than the existing data is in vogue.


ECS = Exceptionally Conflated Secrets

Tom Halla

I presume you admire Ambrose Bierce, Willis.


There’s another one in an adjacent wuwt post: Climate Justice—–ie——-“give us money”.


PDO = Painfully Damaging Observations
I will stop. Nice job Willis!

Duke C.

I always try to reduce things down. Weather can be reduced down to Precipitation, wind and temp. Climate is the range of these three factors in a given region. simple.

Humidity and sky conditions (i.e. cloudy, sunny, etc) are not included?

Duke C.

I consider relative humidity and clouds as precipitation. Helps to simplify things.

John F. Hultquist

Keep your day job.


My father used to live up north. He used bucket of water as thermometer.


……And ‘normal’ is a range for each whereas ‘average’ is a specific number for each. And don’t forget humidity. Without humidity the so-called ‘greenhouse’ effect is virtually zero.


ROFL but it’s all true!

guide to strawmanning is a better title.

Straw Manning? He looks more like the Cowardly Lion.


Mikey likes it!

You missed one: “Climate Denier” = “Someone who knows the scientific method and can think logically.”

coupled non-linear chaotic system — ” y = ax + b “

Alan Tomalty

The reason why the PhDs can get away with that equation for a non linear system is that they give the coefficient of x (which is “a” ( in the equation above )) magical qualities. In some of their equations a can even be negative. The standard model basic equation for global warming is
Heat anomaly = @T + Heat forcing
The Heat anomaly is a fictitious number and is only non zero if not in equilibrium so they set it to ZERO to have an equilibrium
That means that -@T = Heat forcing
Since T is in K and Heat forcing is in watts/m2 they assign the units of @ to be (watts/m2*K)
Okay so the 2 terms are now in the same units but at equilibrium it means as Heat forcing goes up the left side will always be negative. Doesnt make sense so to make it work in the climate models they had to put the coefficent positive. Voodoo math

Leo Smith

That should be y = a.log(x) + b….
BUT there it is,
Real Sums’n’stuff are too hard, that’s why I became a Climb-it Sine-tits.


You left out “tipping point.” = The point of no return that occurs when nobody alive now will ever see it.


You forgot:
Robust — “Good enough to get some headlines and another grant.”


Robust – “Gossamer is more solid”

Nor’easter — “New England can expect up to three feet of fresh anecdotes.”



Post hoc ergo propter hoc — “huh?”

“Ante hoc ergo propter hoc” = “the relationship between CO2 and warming is complicated” (see “complicated”)
“complicated” = “Al Gore just finished using Mike’s Nature trick to hide the lag”

Climate sensitivity — “Your nipples are showing.”


*turns computer camera off*


“Climate Change is no laughing matter”
said no one ever with a straight face.

Great article on climate definition sarcasm, but I was hoping for some actual definitions of some of the common/recent acronyms bantered about. BTW (by the way) I hate acronyms…there are just too many – just spell it out each time and forget the abbreviations CAGW: example:
CAGW Citizens Against Government Waste
CAGW Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (climate change)
CAGW Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington (Washington, DC)

J Mac


Mann-splaining — “Climate modeling is easy as one, two, tree …”


Another one to add. Alarmists are confused. Acidic/acidification/more acidic

Oreskes — “Anthony Weiner / Howard Stern Venn diagram.”

97% of scientists — “Argumentum ad verecundium? Never heard of it. Is that a homeopathy thing?”

Ad verecundiam. Latin for ‘argument from shaming.’

Error bars — “Moral outrage and righteous indignation attenuators.”


I thought an “Error Bar” was a bar where they always served the wrong drinks.

Kelvin scale — “A magic device that makes +0.6 degrees invisible.”

average global temperature — “No, I did not take STEM. I majored in trans-fluid power dynamics in a cis-normative patriarchal paradigm, with a minor in which bathroom to use.”


Don’t feel bad Max, I never did get through the multiple choice question on sexual orientation.

Leo Smith

Critical thinking – “No, I did not take STEM. I majored in pharmacology and needlework. Wanna score?”

evidence — “Anecdotes. The more the better!”

precautionary principle — “We got nothin’.”

Leo Smith

precautionary principle — “We cant work out if doing nothing is worse than doing something, so we just decided to do the profitable popular virtue signalling thing and to hell with the future”


I once threw a rock at a hornets nest, a hornet flew into my mouth and stung me. (true story).
Lesson learned, needless to say.
So, I don’t mind stirring up a hornet nest, I just try to keep my mouth shut, old habits die hard 🙂

John F. Hultquist

Attitude – – – see Bald-faced hornet (I love picture dictionaries)

Wonderful list, Willis!
One recent word, overused of course, is unequivocal. It’s also likely the climatoons don’t know the true meaning.
Some other words used in dubious climate research that could use definition are:
All of which appear to mean something similar to “Don’t hold us, legally, to any of these statements”.


“It’s worse than we thought.” = Time to wake up the masses again with a scary fake scenario caused by climate change.

Thanks, Willis. I really enjoyed that.


Anybody has a definition of permafrost? I keep finding in the news and even in scientific articles that some scientists call permafrost to soils that are NOT frozen all year round and where trees are therefore capable of growing and do grow. Read any news about the Batagaika crater and you will see what I mean. The place is surrounded by trees, yet they claim that the crater is caused by melting permafrost.

John F. Hultquist

permafrost – – – see old style freezer

robust – the thing we call our results when our stats are a bust


Let me add …
Drought = 2 consecutive days without rain (caused ALWAYS by manmade Global,Warming)
For example … CA’s never ending “drought” has returned(?)
Pay no attention to the 12feet of new snow in the Sierra or constant rain over the 3-weeks. Jerry’s Drought will NEVER end


So that would make:
major drought : two consecutive weeks without rain
historic drought three consecutive weeks without rain
never ending drought a summer without [much] rain
Snow doesn’t count.

John F. Hultquist

Nice Willis!
Perhaps you can define “ship of fools”.
Of course some use little boats, sleds, skies, and ice bergs.
The phrase does seem to have an affinity to cAGW adherents.


Happy St Patty’s Day Willis. I think you’re feeling a wee bit cynical.


Ah, you guys are just so much smarter than everybody else. It’s just a shame there’s not enough of your there to run the whole world better.

“carbon” means “pollution”.

Close. Carbon is an element that readily binds with the pollution anion, forming either a gritty black miasma, or billows of white steam, or a major constituent of the atmosphere that acts like a glass “blanket” to trap head and keep women from attaining wage parity, and definitely IS NOT “plant food.”

“unprecedented” – happened all the time in the past, but the millenials and snowflakes don’t do history..

AGW is not Science

I was thinking of this version – “Unprecedented – something that happened long enough ago that nobody will remember that you’re lying about it being something that never happened.”

“worse than we previously thought” – we were wrong, therefore why would you believe us now?

AGW is not Science

Heh my version of that one – “Worse than we previously thought – not as bad as we previously thought, but we don’t let facts get in the way of a good headline, and we know the gullible masses won’t bother to fact check.”


For the statistically-minded:
Very likely – “Would be wrong about as often as rolling a single die produces a six – in a field where systematic error, confirmation bias, and a need to save the planet didn’t exist.
Virtually certain – “Worthy of mention in the abstract of a traditional science paper.” However, Ioannidis and others have show that perhaps 50% of papers meeting this standard are likely wrong. Before approving a new drug, the FDA normally requires two clinical trials – which they help design and fully audit – demonstrating that the new drug is “virtually certainly” efficacious. Physicists demanded the equivalent of three independent studies showing that the Higgs boson was virtually certain to exist.

Alan Tomalty

ya but the gravity wave discovery was not held to the same standard. There is a raging debate about the existence of gravity waves. I think it is another boondoggle. I have lost faith in science.


I haven’t lost faith in science. I have lost faith in scientists.

The Advanced LIGO detector was too big to fail?

Bernard Lodge

“Radiant Gas” … a gas that radiates heat in all directions
“Carbon Dioxide” … The only radiant gas that only radiates downwards
“15 microns” … wavelength of very low energy emissions
“Carbon Dioxide” …a gas that emits 15 micron, very low low energy radiation that somehow heats up an entire planet.
“Greenhouse Effect” … the heating of an glass-enclosed volume of gas by emissions from an extremely hot star
“Carbon Dioxide” … a cold greenhouse gas whose emissions somehow make the Earth’s surface warm
“Dependent Variable” … a variable that changes after the independent variable has changed first
“Carbon Dioxide” … the only dependent variable in the universe that changes before the independent variable does
“Real Mathematics” … 2 + 2 = 4
“Trenberth Radiation Budget Mathematics … 2 degrees plus 2 degrees = 4 degrees
“Real World Climate Temperature Mathematics” … 2 degrees plus 2 degrees = 2 degrees

Moderately Cross of East Anglia

And there’s me thinking radiant gas was a nice warm glow from my gas fire on a cold evening, well live and learn!
Thanks for a great giggle Willis and others.
Oh, ocean acidification – the children have just urinated in the sea instead of going to the public toilet.


I might add:
Carbon – “see Carbon Dioxide”
Carbon Dioxide – “see Carbon”

DeLoss McKnight

Great list! No definition of model? Maybe GIGO? Or RWS (Real World Replacement) Or POS (Preferred Observational Substitute)

AGW is not Science

“Climate model – a computer program built upon the assumption that CO2 drives the Earth’s temperature, even though no observation agrees with this mistaken assumption, that we will promote as an accurate simulation of the Earth’s climate to convince the gullible that man’s fossil fuel use is the root of all evil and must be stopped.”


A peer reviewed study suggests = a pre MSc/PhD student wanting more funding to finish the dissertation.


I was looking/hoping for something on peer review


that would have to be circular with “pal review”

AGW is not Science

I’ve got one – “Peer review – three of my buddies who ALSO couln’t analyze their way out of a wet paper bag gave it a thumbs up after I assured them I’d do the same for their garbage papers.”

Geoff Sherrington

A couple of years ago I was gnashing my teeth from yet another poor quality climate paper, so I directed my unease to a simple exercise to help me calm down.
It does not compete with the Willis effort, but it is meant to be complementary and complimentary, see under Einstienium. Geoff.

Geoff Sherrington

Oh dear, I dislike auto corrects.


Interesting, need to add titles, names of organizations and other impressive official appellations. I suspect there is meaning in there somewhere as when I was in college few outside of an ecology class knew what the word meant. Still not many.
I have collected some to keep from doing yard work. Here are a few.
Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology
Center for Diverse Leadership in Science
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Communication#
Department of Earth and Exact Sciences
#This one bothers me much. Maybe have a contest for the longest, dumbest, shortest, etc.

AGW is not Science

“IPCC – Intergovernmental Propaganda on Climate Control.”

Geoff Sherrington

Did you miss the point of the link to that reference work for Chemists, the Periodic Table of the Elements?


I’m predicting an upcoming Tipping Point because my beer glass is empty.

How about these ?
“climate amnesia”
Any weather related event that happened more than 5 years ago.
“Extreme events” See ‘climate amnesia.’