In 2008, Research Institute for Global Change climate modeller James Annan and David Whitehouse, an astrophysicist who is a scientific advisor with the Global Warming Policy Foundation in Britain bet a £100 that, using the HadCrut3 data set, there would be no new global temperature record set by 2011. The HadCrut3 data set is put together by the Hadley Centre's Climatic Research Centre in Britain. The bet was made at the instigation of the BBC radio program "More or Less." The result?
Whitehouse has won.
Over at the GWPF website, Whitehouse offers his view on global temperature trends and his take on the bet:
Back in 2007 many commentators, activists and scientists … 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.
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.
Unfortunately, the polarization in the climate change debate makes the partisan shenanigans in the U.S. Congress look like a kumbaya campfire singing circle at a girl's summer camp.
In December, Grant Foster, proprietor the global warming proponent blog, Open Mind, and Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research published a new analysis in Environmental Research Letters that asserts that there has been no "standstill" in global temperatures. In their article they claimed to have teased a steady global warming temperature rise from five different temperature data sets by accounting for the noise of El Ninos, solar variations, and volcanic eruptions. After making their adjustments to the data, the two find that 2009 and 2010 are the two warmest years on record. Go here for Foster's explanation.
In addition, the World Meteorological Organization issued in December a provisional statement which declared:
Global temperatures in 2011 have not been as warm as the record-setting values seen in 2010 but have likely been warmer than any previous strong La Niña year ….
La Nina years occur when the eastern Pacific Ocean cools substantially and thus affects the global average temperature.
As background, in December University of Alabama in Huntsville climate researchers John Christy and Roy Spencer after analyzing 33 years of their satellite temperature data report:
While Earth's climate has warmed in the last 33 years, the climb has been irregular. There was little or no warming for the first 19 years of satellite data. Clear net warming did not occur until the El Niño Pacific Ocean "warming event of the century" in late 1997. Since that upward jump, there has been little or no additional warming.
"Part of the upward trend is due to low temperatures early in the satellite record caused by a pair of major volcanic eruptions," Christy said. "Because those eruptions pull temperatures down in the first part of the record, they tilt the trend upward later in the record."
Christy and other UAHuntsville scientists have calculated the cooling effect caused by the eruptions of Mexico's El Chichon volcano in 1982 and the Mt. Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991. When that cooling is subtracted, the long-term warming effect is reduced to 0.09 C (0.16° F) per decade, well below computer model estimates of how much global warming should have occurred.
Interestingly, the Foster and Rahmstorf analysis finds that global warming has increased at almost twice the rate (0.16 C per decade) that Christy and Spencer report.