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When Did Global Warming Stop?

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Snowy treetops just after sunrise, February 10, 2011.  Image by author.

Snowy treetops just after sunrise, February 10, 2011. Image by author.

Still relevant after all these years! (Update: 6/29/22)

Warming denialism lives on Twitter! Because, of course it does. Here's a proponent of "warming stopped in 2015."

when-did-global-warming-stop

But CM wasn't the first in this particular line of hooha. Back in 2019, David Whitehouse, of the GPWF, wrote:

Average global temperature has been falling for the last 3 years, despite rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

The clear suggestion would be that "global warming stopped in 2016." Close enough.

It sounds reasonable, if you haven't been paying attention to global temperatures over the years--or, for that matter, to all the folks telling you how and when "global warming stopped."

Click on the link below if you want to read the GPWF article. (I wouldn't, but tastes may vary!)

Then read on to find out just how, er, "credible" Dr. Whitehouse's point of view is, when seen in historical context.


GPWF says "Global warming stopped in 2016."

Has Global Warming Stopped?

As I write, in February of 2011, the temperature outside my door reads 34 degrees Fahrenheit, belying the brilliant sunshine. But our forecast calls for up to an inch of snow tonight, and further West, they are already getting pounded with another in a seemingly endless series of winter storms. And I live in Atlanta, where the average maximum temperature for this time of year is 56 degrees!

So does this mean that global warming has stopped, and everything is OK, if only we remember to lay in a sufficient supply of wool sweaters, blankets and long underwear?

Early morning sun highlights snow on hawthorn branches, February 10, 2011. Photo by author.

Early morning sun highlights snow on hawthorn branches, February 10, 2011. Photo by author.

Well, some folks seem to think so. For example, a person styling him- or herself as “NorthernOnt” commented on a news forum:

Snowy yard, February 10, 2011.  Photo by author.

Snowy yard, February 10, 2011. Photo by author.

Poor AGW advocates. They are now in full damage control, trying to change the narrative they have controlled for the last 20 years. For years we have been bombarded with Global Warming causes mass droughts, melting ice and glaciers, sea level rise etc etc. Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature to co-operate. Now warming has ceased, there is flooding where none should be, places where snow and extreme cold are rare are now experiencing their 3rd year of such weather, etc etc. Only a fool or a paid lackey with vested interests in keeping the AGW charade going still believe in catastrophic Global Warming. All evidence points to a coming Ice Age, which is due anytime soon, and that is backed up by solid 100% real world historical data, not some BS computer models with programmers in the pay of the environmental movement.

Climate Action Day, Copenhagen, 2009.  Who knew these folks employ computer programmers?

Climate Action Day, Copenhagen, 2009. Who knew these folks employ computer programmers?

"Milankovitch cycles"--natural orbital variations which primarily determine the timing of Ice Ages.

"Milankovitch cycles"--natural orbital variations which primarily determine the timing of Ice Ages.

“All evidence points to a coming Ice Age, which is due anytime soon..."

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I guess he thinks warming has stopped, all right.

You may be wondering what evidence supports the prediction of an Ice Age “soon.”

In one sense, so am I—at least, I am if “soon” means anything less than several thousand years. One notable scientific estimate—Berger and Loutre, 2002, in Science --puts the next glaciation 50,000 years in the future.

An 'erratic'--an isolated boulder, mineralogically out-of-place, that is the 'calling card' of glaciation past.  Image by Dr. Charles Nelson.

An 'erratic'--an isolated boulder, mineralogically out-of-place, that is the 'calling card' of glaciation past. Image by Dr. Charles Nelson.

Popular Science's 1887 map of Ice Age North America.

Popular Science's 1887 map of Ice Age North America.

In another sense, we can be considered to be in an Ice Age now—an intermittent Ice Age, characterized by periodic ‘interglacials.’  In this view, the current interglacial just happens to frame the development of human civilization as we know it.  You can’t get much sooner than ‘now!’

But is “Mother Nature” in fact ‘refusing to cooperate’?

Let’s take “NorthernOnt”—I’ll call him “Mr. NO,” for brevity—point by point. He cites AGW predictions of “mass drought, melting ice and glaciers, sea level rise.” What did we see in 2010—looking, of course, at “solid 100% real world historical data?”

Summer temperatures timeseries.  Image courtesy NOAA and the National Climate Data Center.  (A good source for "solid historical data.")

Summer temperatures timeseries. Image courtesy NOAA and the National Climate Data Center. (A good source for "solid historical data.")

Droughts

Serious droughts occurred in China (first half of the year) and in Brazil; the latter drought is ongoing and extremely severe.  Drought in northern China continues, with significant impact on the global price of wheat. New Zealand experienced drought in 2010.  Eastern Australia emerged from multi-year drought, although Southwestern Australia’s ongoing drought continued with their driest year on record.  Multiyear drought also ended for Israel and Jordan late in 2010.

It was, overall, a wetter-than-average year, but “mass drought” was not in short supply.

Melting Ice and Glaciers

Arctic sea ice experienced the third-lowest minimum extent ever in 2010, and several times set new records for lowest extent for those points in the year. Antarctic sea ice temporarily reversed a modest growth trend and is below average at present.

As to glaciers, I’m not aware of anyplace where 2010 summary data is available; it takes quite a while to compile glacier data, perhaps because the predominant methods of measuring mass loss involve actually going to the glacier, and it takes time to make and compile all the information. But the World Glacier Monitoring Service has a graph of glacier mass balance to 2009 now available. Since a picture is proverbially worth a thousand words, here’s the latest ‘picture’:

World Glacier Monitoring Service graph of global glacier mass balance.

World Glacier Monitoring Service graph of global glacier mass balance.

Enough said?

Sea Level Rise

Here’s the latest satellite data from the University of Colorado, which (rather oddly for a university in a landlocked state) is the primary institution monitoring Sea Level Rise:

University of Colorado graph of satellite sea level data.  Rise is due to both melting ice and the thermal expansion of warming ocean waters.

University of Colorado graph of satellite sea level data. Rise is due to both melting ice and the thermal expansion of warming ocean waters.

Well, what about the other three points, made a couple of sentences further on? Mr. NO said:

“. . . warming has ceased, there is flooding where none should be, places where snow and extreme cold are rare are now experiencing their 3rd year of such weather. . .”

As my lead paragraph indicates, I’ve got to give him something on point 3—where I live it is indeed unusually cool this winter, and the same was true last winter—though not the winter before. So there are clearly some places experiencing cool winter weather over the last two or three years. The question is, what does that mean, if anything?

Let’s come back to that later, and address the other two points first.

World View of Global Warming

Flooding Where None Should Be

What, then, about the “flooding were none should be?” Well, that’s a tough one—because there isn’t anyplace flooding shouldn’t be. Search as you will, you will not find a climate scientist forbidding flooding anywhere. Period.

Poor Mr. NO may assume that predictions of drought in certain areas—Eastern Australia, perhaps?—mean no flooding. But that would only be true for droughts that were literally endless. By contrast, real world droughts, however bad, do break eventually.

And it may very well be terrible floods that break those droughts--as we saw in Queensland and Victoria in January of 2011.

NASA Earth Observatory image of the flooding around Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, January 9, 2011.

NASA Earth Observatory image of the flooding around Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, January 9, 2011.

Woman trapped on car roof, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, January 10, 2011.  Photo by Kingbob86.

Woman trapped on car roof, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, January 10, 2011. Photo by Kingbob86.

Warming Ceased. . .

All of which brings us back to the allegation that ‘warming has ceased.’  Before we look at whether or not we have evidence to support Mr. NO, let me note that he’s not the first to make the claim.

Henrik Svensmark, 2001.  Self-portrait.

Henrik Svensmark, 2001. Self-portrait.

. . . in the mid-1990s?

For example, the scientist Dr. Henrik Svensmark wrote in 2009 that “In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning.”  He did not say just when the warming had stopped, but his reason for believing that Earth is cooling was decreasing Solar magnetic activity, which he noted he and his colleagues had been watching “with increasing concern, since it began to wane in the mid-1990s.”  So perhaps warming stopped in the mid-1990s?

. . . in 1998?

Well, that would be in accord with Dr. Bob Carter, who the UK Daily Telegraph describes as “a geologist at James Cook University, Queensland, engaged in paleoclimate research.” In his 2006 op-ed for the Telegraph, Dr. Carter said that warming “stopped in 1998,” describing the temperature graph from that year forward to 2006 as being in “stasis.”

So warming must have stopped in 1998.

Temperature trend, 1998-2006.  Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Temperature trend, 1998-2006. Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

. . . in 2001?

Or you could take the opinion of David Whitehouse, who created a tempest in a teacup in 2007 by stating (you guessed it) that “global warming has ceased.” His grounds for saying so were that “The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001.”

So global warming stopped in 2001.

Temperature trend, 2001-2007.  Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Temperature trend, 2001-2007. Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

. . . in 2002?

Then again, you could go by the word of renowned climate contrarian Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley. He’s responsible for this graph showing that warming stopped in 2002:

when-did-global-warming-stop

. . . in 2008?

There was another outbreak of ‘global warming cessation’ in 2008. 2007 had been an extremely warm year in terms of global temperature, inconveniently following on the heels of Drs. Carter and Whitehouse’s articles, and it was followed by a relatively cooler year in 2008.

In February, blogger Michael Asher rather breathlessly wrote in a dailytech.com post that “over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded.” (I’m tempted to quip here about the advisability of trusting exploding evidence, but let’s move quickly on.) His headline? “Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming.”

So we saw global warming not just stop, but actually ‘reverse’ itself in 2008.

(In essence, this is also the lode being mined by Viscount Monckton.)

Temperature trend for 2007.  Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Temperature trend for 2007. Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Wow!  What a shocking decline!

. . . in 2010?

Alas, the respite proved to be short-lived; 2009 was warmer than 2008, and 2010, as we have now learned, set numerous records for warmth.

All the global warming ‘wiped out’ in 2008 had returned, like a particularly nasty stain upon the carpet.

Not to worry. 2010 was warm, but that can only mean one thing:

An Ice Age is due anytime soon!

Ice Age Due?

Temperature trend, 2008 to time of writing.  Graph by author using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Temperature trend, 2008 to time of writing. Graph by author using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

There's a name for this!

OK, I'm getting a little facetious. What we've been looking at in detail here is the fallacy called "cherry-picking"--basically, taking information out of context.

In statistics, this fallacy is often manifested by using too small a number of samples--in the case of global temperatures, too short a timeline. There are well-known tests that should be used to ensure that one doesn't use too small a sample size--tests you'd really think Drs. Carter and Whitehouse would be familiar with, and even the good Viscount of Brenchley.

What do temperature trends look like if you use a longer timeline, say the generally-accepted 30 year baseline?

Temperature trend, 1980-present.  Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

Temperature trend, 1980-present. Graph by author, using online tool available at: http://www.woodfortrees.org

You can see two things in this graph.

First, the trend is consistently upward over the longer term. You can't tell just by looking at the graph, but standard criteria show that this trend is statistically significant, meaning that there is a very low probability that it could be due to chance.

Second, there are lots of upward and downward 'squiggles' along the way. By picking them out, you can make it look as if it's cooling--or warming!--at just about any point in time. But these 'cherry picks' have no value, if you are looking for the truth. They are only valuable if you want to support 'your' point in debate.

Case in point would be the downward squiggle at the end of graph. That's the 'cooling' we're experiencing right now. It's real--but almost certainly not meaningful. You'll find no shortage of folks claiming otherwise.

But just remember, their claims are only the latest in a series--and you now know why they are nearly sure to be wrong.

Or maybe it just stopped in my back yard?

Oh, yes, I promised earlier to consider one more thing: does the cold weather I personally experienced in December (and continue to experience into early February) mean anything in terms of how hot or cold the planet as a whole was?

"We are the world"--but how about my back yard?

As you can see in the photos below, there was enormous warming in my yard. (OK, this is the front, not the back!) Consider the rosemary shrub at 8 AM, and the sloppy street behind it. Then compare the appearance not two hours later:

Rosemary shrub, February 10, 2011, about 8 AM.  Photo by author.

Rosemary shrub, February 10, 2011, about 8 AM. Photo by author.

Rosemary shrub, February 10, 2011, about 11:30 AM.  Photo by author.

Rosemary shrub, February 10, 2011, about 11:30 AM. Photo by author.

Or take a wider view across the street. At 9, my neighbor's house and lawn are covered in snow. Before noon, both have melted dramatically.

Would I be justified in claiming that this somehow 'proves' the planet is warming?

Surely, such a claim would be met with derisive laughter. But it's little more foolish than many of the claims examined above. Really, it's just more obviously foolish.

View across street, about 9 AM, February 10, 2011.  Photo by author.

View across street, about 9 AM, February 10, 2011. Photo by author.

View across street, about 11:30 AM on February 10, 2011.  Photo by author.

View across street, about 11:30 AM on February 10, 2011. Photo by author.

No, looking at the graph below, my little patch of heaven--or at least, suburbia--doesn't say much about world temps. (Perhaps I should have said, “Mr. NO, not much?”)

My back yard was cold this morning. It was cold in December, too, like a lot of back yards in the eastern US--and in Northern Eurasia.

Temperature anomaly map for December, 2010.  Although large areas were colder than usual, still larger areas were warmer, for a slight warm anomaly--.37 C.  It was the coolest December since 2000.  Image courtesy National Climate Data Center.

Temperature anomaly map for December, 2010. Although large areas were colder than usual, still larger areas were warmer, for a slight warm anomaly--.37 C. It was the coolest December since 2000. Image courtesy National Climate Data Center.

But that wasn't the case in the Canadian Arctic, or Africa, or Southeast Asia, or the Middle East. To get a sense of the whole, you need to look at the whole--or at least at a sufficiently representative sample.

Specific times and places can be examples. My yard this morning exemplifies a cold snap in a warming world.

Toowoomba on January 10--tragically!--exemplified the sort of intense flooding we may expect to see more frequently in a warming world.

But arguments from an overly-restricted context are examples, too: examples of misleading argumentation. I'm very much afraid we can also expect to see a great deal more of that in a warming world.

And disproportionately, it will be intended to mislead us into thinking that nothing is wrong.


when-did-global-warming-stop

UPDATES

Here ends the original article... but the cessation of global warming, as predicted, continues to reappear, much like sequels to successful horror movies. In the spirit of archiving the curious ways of the 21st century Internet for incredulous future generations, I've posted occasional updates as needed.

However, as they have become numerous, they have also become somewhat... repetitive. That's not to say they are without entertainment value, but I began to feel that the '3rd Act' was starting to drag pretty seriously. Therefore I've reorganized the updates into reverse chronological order so that the more casual reader can get right to the latest foolishness, while the determined can still access the full sad, sordid story.

Warming stopped in 1998--or is it 2016?

Update--10/26/17

Global warming stopped stopping for several years, as new record-warm years came in each of 2014, 2015, and 2016. But proving that hope does, indeed, spring eternal, Marc Morano's denialist site Climate Depot found a few cherries to pick in the summer of 2017. Among them was the UAH temperature record, which was breathlessly proclaimed to be "in freefall." (See, if you must, the link above.)

Too bad that Marc hadn't read this article, or he'd have known the folly of making a call too soon. His "freefall" hit serious updrafts, and as of the end of September, UAH anomalies were up by nearly a third of a degree Celsius and 2017 appeared to be on track to surpass 2014 and 2015 in the record books.

UAH graph to September, 2017.

UAH graph to September, 2017.

RSS anomaly with trend, extended to September data, graphed by author using woodfortrees.

RSS anomaly with trend, extended to September data, graphed by author using woodfortrees.

Update--3/1/16

"Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be," wrote Romantic poet Robert Browning to his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And as global warming denialism ages, it, too, gets better and better--if, that is, one is speaking of comic value.

For the venerable Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a UK-based denialist outfit, has just published a new statistical analysis. Its utterly amazing conclusion is that warming stopped in either 2002 (based on the HADCRUT instrumental data) or 1999 (based on the RSS satellite data). It's probably just a coincidence that the GWPF picked the instrumental data and satellite data that give the lowest rates of warming… right?


http://www.thegwpf.org/statistical-forecasting-how-fast-will-future-warming-be/

Segmented line analysis of HADRUT data, per GWPF

Note last line segment's beginning in 2002.

Note last line segment's beginning in 2002.

Segmented line analysis of RSS data, per GWPF

Segmented line analysis for RSS, showing no warming from 1999.

Segmented line analysis for RSS, showing no warming from 1999.

GWPF forecasts for HADCRUT

Two statistical models, applied to the HADCRUT data, show quite different predictions, albeit both with wide margins of error.

Two statistical models, applied to the HADCRUT data, show quite different predictions, albeit both with wide margins of error.

It's pretty funny that the GWPF is predicting no warming based on statistical analyses that can't agree whether warming stopped in 1998 or 2002, and pretty funny that the two modeling techniques used deliver quite different forecasts, making not one, not two, but four different forecasts--all of which we are apparently supposed to take more seriously than anything that is based on, you know, physics.

However, funnier yet is the fact that the HADCRUT temperature had already exceeded the margins of error in the relevant analyses by the time the report was published!

HADCRUT monthly values, superimposed on GWPF graph.

HADCRUT monthly values, superimposed on GWPF graph.