ME has spent most of his retirement from service to the United States studying, thinking, and writing about the country he served.
Since this hub was originally written in 2016, much has changed, and all for the worst. What newer studies are showing is the 2016 models were underestimating the rise in global temperatures. So much so that if control isn't established by 2040, major environmental and human damage may not be preventable.
Recently, two new reports have come out that upends previous assumptions about Antarctic ice accumulation. The old theory was that ice accumulation, especially in East Antarctic, will replace the ice due to melting from warmer temperatures. 40 years of data just put the kibosh to that idea. The new data shows that Antarctic is losing ice at an accelerating rate - 6-fold over the those 40 years. If it came to pass that all of the ice on Antarctic did actually melt, the rise in sea lever would approach an astonishing 200 feet. (I am glad I am 73 and probably won't be around to see it, I don't swim that well.)
Claiming The Earth Is Not Getting Warmer
This hub consists mainly of graphs and their explanation. But first, let me set up the problem.
For many decades. an increasing number of climatologists have been worried about the steady rise in average global atmospheric temperature; they assert the Earth is getting hotter, and what's more, it is the fault of Man. I will not address the latter belief in this Hub, but will stick with the fundamental issue of whether the Earth is actually getting hotter over time. Currently, 97 to 98 out every 100 climatologists (scientists whose specialty is everything about Earth's climate) agree this phenomenon is happening. The remaining 2 to 3% of climatologists, as well as the many other non-climatologists; non-scientist ideologues; or others who otherwise have a financial bias against that outcome strongly disagree.
In their disagreement, they point to several studies which show the Earth's temperature is staying flat or actually decreasing, and they have the graphs to prove it. One such graph is contained in the following article that is intended to debunk the idea of global warming; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html. I approximate this chart in Chart 1, below.
This chart, or one of its many variations, is the climate change deniers main graphical evidence that temperatures are no longer increasing or, depending on how you structure the chart, even decreasing. If you compare this chart, which is based on annual numbers, with the one in my citation is that the latter one's data points appear to be quarterly thereby giving the appearance of much more variability.
What Chart 1 is suggesting is that based on the data from 1997 through 2012, the average annual change in temperature (in degrees centigrade) from one year to the next has remained relatively constant, thereby indicating the earth is no longer warming ,,, if it was warming at all. The changes are relative to a global average baseline of 14 C° (56.2 F°) established for the period 1951 - 1980. So, for example, the first data point is about 4.5 C°, which means it was 4.5 degrees higher than the 14 C° baseline or 18.5 C° 1.
By inspection, if you drew a trend line through the data points, it would be rather flat; which is the denier's rationale behind the temperature hitting a "plateau". In Chart 1's case, the slope would be a rather minor .0083 C°, meaning for each year into the future, the "change in temperature" increases by .0083 C°. Further, while my citation's chart has no trend line, I have see others that do. And, depending on the dates chosen, the trend was demonstratively flat or even down sloping; hence the basis for the claim some deniers make that it is actually getting colder!
Only the extremely few climatologists who deny the Earth's temperature is increasing at a rapid rate think Chart 1 is a true representation of reality. It's not that their data is bad; most everybody uses the same data set (find it HERE); and that is why I use it as well. Instead, it is how they conduct and display their analysis that is the problem. Having created their graph, they then try to use physical reality, like volcanoes or the sunspot cycle, to provide a rationale for the result.
The rest of the Hub will be a series of charts to demonstrate the old adage, "looks can be deceiving".
1 To convert from Centigrade to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 and add 32.
The Theoretical "Plateau"
Chart 2 represents a clear theoretical plateau over a longer timeline. The deniers' charts are generally 13 years or less years in length; less than a generation; it must be that short to get the result they want. The point I am trying to make is that if they are right and you took a much longer set of data, this is what their plateau would look like, beginning in 1997.
Now compare this with charts that use real data as I lengthen breadth of our data set. By the time I get done, if the deniers are right, it will look similar to Chart 2.
- Chart 3 is Chart 1 with two additional years added which weren't available when the analysis was first done. Note that 2014 represents a new annual high.
- Chart 4 expands the scope by 10 years by beginning at 1987. Here, there is a distinct upward slope but it still appears to level out after 1997.
- Chart 5 adds another 10 years, extending the time frame by starting at 1967. Again, there is not question about the gradual rise in global temperature over this 37-year look. Now, the 1997 - 2012 period begins to take on an upward tilt as well, just not to the degree of the previous 20 years.
- Chart 6 displays a true "plateau" or pause in the long-term rise in temperatures since the American industrial revolution. The 30-year period from 1947 to 1977 saw no appreciable rise in temperature before resuming its upward march
- Chart 7 gives you the whole Monte, from 1880 - 2014. Included is a 10-year moving average which approximates the period those who think climate change is not a problem. If they are right, then the moving average at the end of the chart would be flat or declining. As you can see, it is not meaning global temperatures are still rising.
The fallacy in trying to draw conclusions from a period as short as that in Chart 1 can be illustrated by the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. One version goes like this:
"The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe."
In this case, the elephant is 134-year period from 1880 to 2014 while one of its body parts is the much shorter time frame of 1997 - 2012. The point of this parable is you can't draw a correct conclusion by looking at something myopically. Having said that, is this 134-year period too short, relative to the known or estimated global temperatures, to draw any realistic conclusions? The answer is 'no', sort of.
Here is a link to a NASA article that has interactive charts that also refute this so-called "hockey stick" myth - NASA
Before I get into that, I want to give you two more charts which look at the question the climate deniers bring to the table. They are ---
Chart 8 shows the 134-year history in segments. Consider what each blind man would say if he selected one, and only one of those segments. What conclusion would he come to regarding what the next segment will look like, let alone the whole period. For three of the segments, you would conclude global temperatures were flat and in the other four, you would say temperatures are rising.
Chart 9 answers two questions; 1) could 1997 - 2012 be a transition period from one direction to another and 2) do the local highs exceed the local lows or the other way around.
If the 17-year period from 1997 - 2014 is a transition period, it is a very abnormal one, or what a statistician would call an "outlier". If it is to signal a change from the previous trends, what follows must either be a long continuation of highs and lows being roughly equal, or, decreasing highs and/or lows.
In terms of transition, we can't tell if it is transitioning to anything yet, but, based on history, we should be able to tell by now. Why? Because ALL previous transition periods were between 3 and 6 years in duration. Here, we are working on 17 years. Based on this criteria, 1997 - 2014 cannot be considered a transition to a period of no growth or negative growth.
As Chart 9 shows, I did circle what might be a 4-year transition period from what appears to be rapid growth to slower growth; but, we won't know for sure for another 10 years. The reason is, we are seeing higher highs AND higher lows in the period 2012 - 2014. Further, Chart 9 portrays a series of increasing global highs starting in 1925 and the single string of global lows from 1880 to 1909 (although the local highs remain constant).
Taken together, this strong evidence we are in a period of sustained warming of the Earth's surface.
How Does The 134-Year Period of Temperature Changes Stack Up To A Much Longer History?
CHART 10 below is a reproduction of one in The National Academies titled Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years. This chart compares what is going on today with what transpired for the last 2000 years; a much longer time span.
The various lines on the graph represents estimates using different methods of calculating them. The confidence from high to low is as follows:
- 1856 - present; uses measured data
- 1600 - 1856; the concurrence of proxy data
- 950 - 1600; scarce data more or less agrees
- prior to 950 is much more uncertain due to scarcity of data
It appears that the historical high of the baseline temperature (unknown) occurred between 1000 and 1100 A.D. The next time it got this hot was around 1939. Since then it has been on a dramatic rise! Actually, it has been on a sustained growth pattern since about 1800, with the advent of the industrial revolution.
What About The MUCH Longer Term?
YOU MUST GO BACK SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSANDS OF YEARS to find a point where the Earth's climate was probably warmer than it is today. First let's consider Chart 11. Once we look backward further than 1856, climatologists must estimate temperatures. The most popular methodologies are in Chart 10 above.
Notice that after 1600, the estimating techniques start falling on top of each other. But, before that date, there are only three that are used and the one using tree rings diverges from the other two until you get to 900 AD. In addition, 900 AD is the warmest during this 1100 year period until around 1950. From then on out, the Earth has been hotter than anytime prior to 500 BCE.
Chart 11 is zoomed out to include the last 4,500 years, 2485 BCE to 2015 AD. The reason for this look is to capture the first time global temperatures exceed those we see today.
The things ought to stand out right away. The most obvious is what appears to be an extremely rapid rise in temperature in the few years prior to 2015. The other is the relatively slow rise from roughly 1890 BCE to its maximum in around 90 BCE.
To put this in perspective, in 1910 the temperature change (TC) was 0.31 C, while in 2014 it was 0.61 C. This means it took 104 years to make that change. On the other hand, the last time the TC was 0.32 C was around 1890.
What Will A 11,500 Year Look Tell Us?
CHART 12 USES ESTIMATES WHICH GO BACK 11,500 YEARS before now.
NOAA On Measuring Temperature
Ice Fields in Arctic AND Antarctic Are at Record Lows for any October
FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SUCH RECORDS HAVE BEEN KEPT (1979), the extent of the ice fields in Both the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows. Normally one pole contracts while the other poll's sea ice expands; but not in 2016. No, we have the worst of both worlds, contracting sea ice at both polls. It is more surprising because the extent of sea ice in the Antarctic had been expanding to new records from 2012 - 2014. Not any more; only time will tell if this is the beginning of a trend.
What is sea ice anyway and why is it important? Sea ice is simply frozen salt water ocean. As such, it has no effect on sea level. But ... it will have a huge impact on weather in the Northern hemispheres and maybe in the Southern one as well ...and involves "polar vortexes", not of movie fame but of meteorological fame.
You see, the temperatures in the seas around the poles as well as in the air above the polls determine whether these polar vortexes are strong or weak. A polar vortex is a huge low pressure area high above each poll, it is always there. The air below each vortex is generally the coldest in the world, although we are now seeing exceptions. It is this very cold air combined with the strength of the polar vortex determines how much cold air rushes south from the Arctic sometimes all the way down to South Florida. These cold air flows are often known as a "polar express", "Siberian express" or "arctic express" among many others. They all have one thing in common in meaning ... a very fast moving mass of cold air.
Global warming is a complex interactions of many factors, but the basic outcome is unstable weather. As the air warms up globally, the swings in weather throughout the year become more pronounced (hot and cold), more violent, and more frequent. The reason you will find many Winters getting colder while the overall temperature of earth keeps on climbing.
Here is why. As the temperature of the earth rises;
- Average temperature over the the Arctic is rising as well; something like 35o F (20o C) above normal.
- As the polar temperature increases, then the ice fields get smaller, as they are.
- As the ice fields shrink, it exposes more ocean which warms as well, heating the air above it.
- The warmer air, in turn, weakens the polar vortex and a weak vortex lets more cold air (maybe not as cold as normal but still dangerously low) rush south more frequently causing much more damage more often
If you have been paying attention, this is exactly what has been happening the last ten years. Now, it is fair to say that scientists are still trying figure out the details and relationships but Everything points to almost irreversible climate change.
and for a detailed explanation of what is happening see: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #1
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #2
- Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Carbon Dioxide
- Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years
- No Pause in Global Warming - Scientific American
A new study suggests that global warming continues to steadily increase
- Has Global Warming Stopped? - CSI
The latest public confusion about climate change involves an apparent slowing of the rise of global temperatures. What is the reality concerning this putative temperature ‘plateau’?
© 2015 Scott Belford
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on May 25, 2018:
I'm glad you liked it, Arthur; thanks for reading.
Arthur Russ from England on May 24, 2018:
Fascinating read, I can see you have been very fastidious in your research and analysis, and put a lot of thought into it. It’s certainly filled a few gaps in my knowledge; thanks for the information.
Britain had a taste of the polar vortex for about three days in early March this year (2018), and for that brief period Britain was actually colder than the North Pole, with the North Pole being unseasonally warm, and actually above freezing at the time; which for the winter months should be a little worrying!
The Polar Vortex called ‘The Beast from the East’ came via Russia and hit the east coast of Britain on the last day of February. It took 24 hours to work its way across Britain to hit Bristol (on the West Coast) arriving in Bristol on the 1st March; Bristol being where I live.
At the same time the remnants of a tropical storm, bringing warmer wet air) from the south, called Storm Emma, was working its way north and also hit Bristol on the 1st March.
Bristol got off lightly compared to the rest of the UK because we’re in a basin, protected by higher ground all around us; so when the ‘Beast from the East’ hit we only had 4 inches of snow, over two days (less than half of most parts of the UK, and significantly less than some places); and by the 3rd day temperatures rose again, and it all melted within 24 hours.
Because such an event is unusual in Bristol these days e.g. I hadn’t seen snow like that in Bristol since the 1980s, I filmed it on our in-car camera and posted the event on YouTube: The Day the Beast from the East meets Storm Emma over Bristol https://youtu.be/ryts_r9ESx0
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on May 21, 2016:
But here is the problem with your view (in mine it is already resolved), if you are wrong? The price tag will be unbearable; much more than preventive measures would cost today.
By the way, if you didn't notice, that is the same argument Christians use to coax people into believing in God ... "what if your wrong?"
BTW, I will be updating Charts 3 to 7 and have added a link to a NASA article that has a pretty good interactive tool to show how bad it is getting ; while defeating this "pause" myth at the same time.
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on May 20, 2016:
This is something that will get resolved one way or another in a few years. The problem with projections are that at some point they need to be confirmed with reality.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on May 20, 2016:
If you are talking about Chart 3, you need to know that the temperature change increase in that blip on the time scale is +0.009 oC; when you add in 2015, the hottest year on record, that slope goes up to +0.0119 oC. While not as rapid an increase as say the last 50 years, it is still increasing, it is not "pausing" as you like to put it.
When you look at Charts 4, then 5, then 6 it is easy to see the last 17 years is just a continuation of the same upward trend.
There is only a very small handful, you can probably count them on one hand, of real Climatologists that this is a meaningful pause.
Your list is compiled by non-climatologists and has been debunked itself many times over in the climate scientific community
Well, 2015 was a big jump from 2014 and 2016 has proven to be the hottest to date. Those aren't anecdotes, just a continuation of the same series that has been going on since the industrial revolution.
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on May 20, 2016:
Actually, my own unscientific opinion is that the pause was the result of Mann's hockey stick projection... Which is unsustainable... Anyone who knows charts and big data has to know that the Mann chart was made up by cherry picking temperature data. Therefore, when the anticipate growth rate did not materialize, the "slow in growth" became the "pause".
My prediction is that in the next 5 years, we will know definitively whether AGW is fact or fiction.
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on May 20, 2016:
Here is the big list...
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on May 20, 2016:
Are you saying there is no pause over the past 17 years in the global warming projections of rising temperature? That's news to many climate scientists. They are working on numerous explanations for the pause.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on August 27, 2015:
But why is the ice melting in the first place? To melt as fast as it is happening, even accelerating for that matter, the average global temperature must be going up ... and staying there for an extended period of time, wouldn't it?
Personally, I don't think the amount of ice laying around at the poles of the Earth and a few mountain tops has much to do with global temperatures, just local ones. It must be the amount of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere that surrounds the whole Earth that control temperature in a major way and on a global scale.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 27, 2015:
Let's get basic here. Is there less ice now than there was? Yes. This is measurable statistic.
Now an experiment. Fill a cooler full of ice. Take the temperature. Wait for all the ice to melt. Just as the last bit of ice melts, take the temperature. It won't be much higher at that point, but it will be soon!
Without large deposits of ice, like the cooler, the earth will get hot! It will be catastrophic! Just because we have a few unseasonably cool days here and there means nothing. The overall trend is catastrophic!
Yes, the earth naturally transitions from ice age to tropical climates, but this is a process that is supposed to happen over 1000s of years, not decades!
Very though provoking article.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on August 27, 2015:
Thank you Larry for reading and more importantly, providing your observations.
The baseline for the vast majority of climatologist, something you read in every report by them, is the near perfect correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature, i.e., higher concentrations of CO2 = higher average global temperatures.
That is why the focus is on net carbon changes in the atmosphere; and those can be measured throughout much of the earth's history. Clearly, the inability to accurately measure temperature before 1856 presents challenges. But, for studies like this, accuracy isn't the end-all-be-all; consistency between estimating techniques is, as well as the presence or lack of trends in the basic data and correlations between pairs of data.
Further helping the estimation effort is the fact that we are looking at "differences" between some baseline temperature (created from what ever estimating techniques are available) and the point temperature using those same techniques. That way, the uncertainty about the actual temperature is mostly eliminated.
While you are quite correct that paving over large swaths of land does raise the ambient temperature in the surrounding atmosphere, the amount of earth so covered is minute and would not account for the melting of glaciers and ice caps.
I hadn't thought about the increase in population, given we exhale CO2, as being a factor but I certainly hope they have considered that. I say "hope", because I haven't seen that mentioned in the literature. Fortunately, since the population explosion is a relatively recent phenomenon, and the quantity of extra CO2 emitted is estimable, they should be able to develop a good regression to see if that is highly correlated of not.
Larry Wall on August 26, 2015:
Sire, you offer an interesting presentation. It parallels my view of any historical event where it is necessary to look an adequate period of time and studies any relevant factors in that period.
Not being a scientist it would appear to me that the increasing population of the earth is one factor that might be causing a warming of the atmosphere, to which we are growing accustomed.
Secondly, I contend that the covering of large portions of the earth with concrete for highways, parking lots, etc., generates some heat, perhaps not enough to cause actual changes resulting but having enough impact to make those persons living in this era and experiencing the higher heat index conclude global warming is indeed a problem.
The burning of oil and natural gas is among the prime targets, for some groups claiming that the surface of the earth is warming. However, no viable replacements as to manmade causes been found.
Finally, I have questioned the accumulation of historical data. The instrumentation of today is far more precise than 00 years ago. The protocols for measuring temperatures and other data streams are more accurate and are subject to closer to more in-depth analysis.
Thus, based on the data that you have offered and my own observations, again admitting I am not a scientist of any kind. It would appear that there may be some warming eras and cooling periods over time. We will have to let the next generation, a hundred years henceforth, make that determination.
There are things we can do to enforce a lesser impact on the climate. However, the overall changes in the climate, again measured over a meaningful time frame—had an impact than some were led to believe.