Global Warming

No Global Warming Hiatus After All?

New study adjusts sea surface temperature data and finds warming after all.

|

GlobalWarmingQuestion
dreamstime

One of the great puzzles of climate science is the fact that global average temperature have been largely flat for the past 15 or more years. This hiatus in the rate of warming due to increasing greenhouse concentrations in the atmosphere was unpredicted by the computer climate models. Lots of scientific effort has gone into trying to explain (explain away?) the hiatus. The result has been numerous papers that variously blame ocean currents in the Pacific, the North Atlantic, or both; changes in water vapor in the stratosphere; and the lack of sunspot activity.

Basically all of the surface and satellite temperature records report that there has been a pause in the rise of global temperatures…until now. A new study published in Science jiggers the numbers for sea surface temperatures and finds, voilá, that the supposed hiatus disappears and that global temperatures have actually been going up the whole time. Phys.org reports the results:

"The new analysis suggests no discernible decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century, a period marked by manmade warming, and the first fifteen years of the 21st century, a period dubbed a global warming 'hiatus,'" the report said.

The study uses "updated and corrected temperature observations taken at thousands of weather observing stations over land and as many commercial ships and buoys at sea," it said.

With that data, there is no evidence that temperatures in the 21st century have in fact plateaued.

"Instead, the rate of warming during the first fifteen years of the 21st century is at least as great as that in the last half of the 20th century, suggesting warming is continuing apace," said the study.

Very interesting to say the least. However, Phys.org notes that not everyone agrees with the new results:

Some experts hailed the Science article for using better quality data than the figures used to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2013 report, which found some evidence of a pause in global warming in recent years.

But others, like Piers Forster, professor of climate change at the University of Leeds, pointed out that the IPCC report relies on numerous sets of data, not just NOAA's.

"Even with the corrections in this study, the observed warming has not been as large as predicted by models. Other global datasets, even when corrected for missing Arctic data, still show a decreased trend since 1998," he said.

"I still don't think this study will be the last word on this complex subject."

Interestingly, the folks who compile the satellite temperature record at the University of Alabama in Huntsville recently revised their global temperature trend data downward.

It could be that everyone else is wrong and the new study is right; but it could be also that it is an exercise in confirmation bias. Only time and more research will tell.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

86 responses to “No Global Warming Hiatus After All?

  1. “I still don’t think this study will be the last word on this complex subject.”

    The science is not settled!

    1. STOP THE PRESSES!!!!111 Climate scientists make “adjustments” to inconvenient data. New data matches their expectations and proves their conclusions. AGW is real and there is nothing wrong with the scientists’ models. QED

      note: Ron’s (understated) mention of confirmation bias is duly noted.

      1. If the adjusted data was unreliable before, why should I believe the adjusted data now?

  2. And then there’s this:

    The main claim[2] by the authors that they have uncovered a significant recent warming trend is dubious. The significance level they report on their findings (.10) is hardly normative, and the use of it should prompt members of the scientific community to question the reasoning behind the use of such a lax standard.

    In addition, the authors’ treatment of buoy sea-surface temperature (SST) data was guaranteed to create a warming trend. The data were adjusted upward by 0.12?C to make them “homogeneous” with the longer-running temperature records taken from engine intake channels in marine vessels.

    As has been acknowledged by numerous scientists, the engine intake data are clearly contaminated by heat conduction from the structure, and as such, never intended for scientific use. On the other hand, environmental monitoring is the specific purpose of the buoys. Adjusting good data upward to match bad data seems questionable, and the fact that the buoy network becomes increasingly dense in the last two decades means that this adjustment must put a warming trend in the data.

    1. The extension of high-latitude arctic land data over the Arctic Ocean is also questionable. Much of the Arctic Ocean is ice-covered even in high summer, meaning the surface temperature must remain near freezing. Extending land data out into the ocean will obviously induce substantially exaggerated temperatures.

      Additionally, there exist multiple measures of bulk lower atmosphere temperature independent from surface measurements which indicate the existence of a “hiatus”[3]. If the Karl et al., result were in fact robust, it could only mean that the disparity between surface and midtropospheric temperatures is even larger that previously noted.

      1. The significance level…hardly normative…use of it should prompt members of the scientific community to question the reasoning behind the use of such a lax standard
        Extending land data out into the ocean will obviously induce substantially exaggerated temperatures

        If you engage in this kind of activity in the private sector it’s called fraud and you can go to prison for it.

    2. In addition, the authors’ treatment of buoy sea-surface temperature (SST) data was guaranteed to create a warming trend. The data were adjusted upward by 0.12?C to make them “homogeneous” with the longer-running temperature records taken from engine intake channels in marine vessels.

      Jesus Christ. “We ‘discovered’ a warming trend after we made it up in the first place.”

      1. I’ll play devil’s advocate here for a sec. (I haven’t read the paper so I can’t comment in detail). One of the major problems with the “hockey stick” graph was that Mann failed to calibrate his older proxy data with the new direct measurements (which showed warmer temps for the same period). If previous datasets failed to make the proper calibration to bring channel data in line with bouey days, then you might see the same effect in reverse.

        1. I had the same thought – you’re either going to revise the newer data up, or the older data down, and thus, same trend in the end.

          What’s striking is the level of uncertainty that is being touted as confirmation of the dominant theory. I.e. “we’ve shown that these numbers are crazy unreliable, and can be jacked around fifteen ways from Tuesday, which *proves* that *our* theory is correct.”

          I get that there’s a spirit of crisis here that says “we don’t have time to be super careful about the science,” but the fact that this one very recent and not well vetted study that takes as its foundation the uncertainty of the measurements is being trotted around the media as conclusive proof that the hiatus is bunk is just concerning on the face of it and shows the culture of confirmation that has taken over in the media.

          Just the whole “ha-ha, the world really *is* ending – suck on *that* right-wingers!” tone is disturbing.

          1. Given that the buoys provide the more accurate measurement, they really should have revised the old temps downward. So the “pause” would be less dramatic, but the ’90s would show less warming.

  3. The data doesn’t agree with the theory, but we know the theory is right, so the data must need correcting. Seems legit.

  4. This sounds like a pretty strange way to do science. Instead of taking the data and analyzing it, they’ve got a conclusion and they keep tweaking the data until it fits their conclusion.

    Why is this variation on which datasets to use any better than any other choices? It seems like they have allowed themselves way, way, way too many degrees of freedom.

    There have to be some serious scientists out there who are really investigating what the raw numbers are telling us. All of this passion over proving the infallibility and unalterability of global warming is deflecting them from actually understanding what the data is telling them. There could be all kinds of interesting effects being revealed in these numbers, but nobody is paying attention because they all want a political win.

    1. There have to be some serious scientists out there who are really investigating what the raw numbers are telling us.

      Of course there are. However, their methodologies are seriously flawed.

      1. So basically the same as mainstream economists.

        1. Mainstream economics is nothing more than a way for politicians to point to academics and say “They’re like really smart and stuff and they say government needs to spend more money!” Climate science is the same thing, except that in addition to spending more money, it’s an excuse for government to control industry. Because industry uses energy, and the production of energy is “killing the planet,” industry must be controlled in order to save us from ourselves.

          1. Short version; they are ‘court intellectuals’. Taxes poison everything.

    2. There could be all kinds of interesting effects being revealed in these numbers, but nobody is paying attention because they all want a political win.

      If you don’t have a political win, then what do you have?

    3. That’s what happens when science becomes a religion, not a process.

    4. They learned this from politics – if you don’t like the voters you were given, get some new voters.

  5. Man this paper has a million holes. Probably the most egregious is the adjustment of the very accurate Argo buoy temps to match the ocean going sea vessel inlet measured temps. The inlet temps are known to have a warm bias. The authors basically adjusted accurate readings to match known inaccurate readings.

    This paper is mostly bullshit.

    1. Additionally, these NOAA hacks really just made a policy paper for the admin. If Curry, Watts, and all the rest can just easily shoot holes in this paper then you have to wonder about the veracity of the peer review. The review was prefunctory, made to order for policy purposes.

      Climategate like collusion is still business as usual for most of the alarmists.

    2. It’s model all the way down. Who needs data when you have model?

      1. +1 Consensus!!!!

  6. I suspect that if a study with this poor a confidence interval indicated much less global warming than previously indicated it would have been savagely attacked. The fact that it’s being given a pass is most probably confirmation bias, just as Ron Bailey points out.

    1. The confidence interval used is the same as used by the IPCC, right? They’re just meeting the crappy standard.

  7. corrected temperature observations

    The data stands corrected.

    1. No, REALITY stands corrected. These are scientists telling us about what’s real, right? RIGHT?

  8. this data manipulation isn’t science. It’s politics.

  9. So wait, if they are just applying new corrections to a standard data set, why do these corrections have a bigger impact on the “hiatus” data than the late 20th century data? Did collection methods change around 2000 for this data set? Did I miss this explanation in the article?

    1. My understanding is that it has to do with when they started using the buoys.

  10. Yawn.

    Another “study” which is no more than a search for a pretext to adjust the data to fit the theory.

    I wonder, just to pick an example out of thin air, what the reaction would be to “study” after “study” that adjusted data on intelligence to fit the theory that black people are inherently less intelligent.

    1. My understanding is that the adjustments go the other way, typically. And don’t get talked about, because nobody likes the implications.

  11. I’ll have to give Bailey props for learning a little bit in the past few months. His comments were reasonably balanced.

    1. I don’t get the problem with Bailey. He reports on science for a political magazine, he can’t avoid talking about the most politicized science in history, I’ve never seen him say we should turn our lives over to the government so they can save us from global warming.

    2. Ron is a non-scientist who came to believe that within the preponderance of data noise, that the theory of AGW had merit. I disagree with him, but I don’t think Ron is dishonest. Quite the opposite.

      Disclosure: I personally spoke with Ron in a drinking establishment.

      1. Suck up

        1. To be fair, his back was to me and the management eventually asked me to quit bothering the patrons or leave.

  12. I don’t see a problem here. The scientists took a vote and determined that global warming is real. I mean, they voted. And they’re really smart. So if they determined that global warming is real, and let me remind you that they’re like really smart and stuff, then it must be real. Any data that does not fit this conclusion must be flawed, and it’s up to those really smart scientists to fix it. Because they voted. How could they possibly be wrong? Voting is like sacred and stuff, and they’re really smart. Did I mention that they’re really smart? Oh, and they voted too.

    1. +1 Democratization of Science!

      1. Are you as smart as them? Huh? Because they’re like really smart and stuff! If you disagree with them then you’re not as smart as them because they’re really smart! And if you agree with them then you’re really smart, because they’re like really smart and stuff! And they voted! If you disagree with them then you’re going against the vote! Voting is sacred! You can’t disagree with the vote! And they’re really smart! Why are you disputing the vote! You can’t do that! Voting is sacred! And did I mention that they’re smarter than you?

        1. We are but the unwashed…

        2. This is what ‘Tony’ really believes.

          1. That’s mild compared to his other beliefs. Tony literally believes that deniers should be lined up and shot, soviet style. He came right out and said it in some thread someone linked to the other day.

  13. Besides the unconventional adjustments in the Arctic and SST (kinda like adjusting the atomic clock to conform to random peoples wristwatches), this study brings up another interesting point about climate science : how close they are to detections limits.
    We had the same problem in a lab I worked in. The contaminants we were monitoring were so low (less than 30ppb for one of them) that the accuracy and precision of our analysis could be thrown off by the smallest problem with calibration, instrument error or improper handling. That’s also the reason climate science data adjustments can show temps up, down or steady – the differences in temp changes are very, very small so “corrections” have large effects. The hiatus is not so much an artifact of the data but ,in truth, CAGW claims are based on interpretations of the raw, unadjusted data and the political bias of the researchers.

    1. Differences computed by ground based global temp sensors are real close to the uncertainty limitations of those devices. Then you have the homogenization issue where they interpolate values between sensors separated by vast distances.

  14. Permanent Employment for Shitty Hack “Scientists” Climate Change ™ is never going away, is it. It’s now just another parasitic fucking crony industry that will suck its share off the host, the host being us, of course. Yay!

    1. It’s worse than that because it’s become a tool to justify terrible policy. Just as Keynesian economics is little more than an academic stamp on government spending, climate change is an academic stamp on government controlling energy. And everything we do uses energy. Control energy and they will control every nuance of our lives. Which, of course, is the goal.

      1. Hydraulic despotism… but with electricity. That’s what cap-and-trade is.

        1. Hydraulic despotism

          Nice band name.

    2. What we need is more tax dollars devoted to validating any theories that empower the state studying climate change.

  15. Well, no matter what the facts are, I don’t think we should concentrate on the outrageous stupidity of the left’s solutions. The important thing is that we vehemently deny every statistic that might support global warming. Because pretending that the facts don’t exist if we don’t like their implications is what libertarianism is all about.

    Either that, or we can start asking questions like, “How much would we have to forgo in GDP per capita–and for how long–before our sacrifices had any meaningful impact whatsoever on your warming trend?”.Nah, much better to close our eyes, plug our ears, and scream, “The science isn’t settled!” until everyone realizes that we’re ingenious and right.

    1. “How much would we have to forgo in GDP per capita–and for how long–before our sacrifices had any meaningful impact whatsoever on your warming trend?”

      Yeah. I’m sure that will persuade them. Just as economic arguments against minimum wage have been so effective at persuading the left not to raise it to fifteen bucks an hour.

      1. It’s the best reason to ignore the left’s solutions to global warming. If we had a decent estimate of how much the average American would have to give up in their standard of living–and for how long–before we had any impact at all, then support for the left’s policy prescriptions would dry up entirely.

        Look at Australia. Their carbon tax was fairly popular–right up until the day it was implemented. Then it chased their green government clear out of office.

        Oh, and we do have some fairly useful numbers. The left has been pushing the 2,000 watt society for almost 20 years! Why aren’t we talking about that?!

        Apparently the average American was using 12,000 watts of electricity per year. Their solution is for the average American to slash their energy use by some 80%?!

        If we only cut our energy use by 50%, and that won’t be enough to solve the problem, then isn’t their solution–where we make giant sacrifices without solving the problem–the very worst possible outcome?

        No matter what the global warming trend is or isn’t, why aren’t we talking about that?

        1. You really think the left in this country gives two shits about any of those things? I don’t. It’s all emotionally driven. Those fossil fuel industries are profiting from destroying the planet! They must be crushed at all costs! So what if it reduces our standard of living? If that’s the price to pay for saving the planet and taking away their profits, then so be it.

          1. It isn’t the left that matters. Yeah, many of them are pushing global warming simply because they like its implications against free market capitalism and for government intervention. Those people would believe in anything so long as its implications were anti-capitalist.

            There’s another group of people, God bless ’em, who are instinctively pro-capitalist. They’re also highly susceptible to their own blessed biases.

            It’s the people in the middle that make the difference. When they vote, we call them swing voters. They need to understand how much they’re being asked to sacrifice because they’re the ones who will really decide what happens in terms of public policy.

            Many on the left are probably unreachable like you say, but there are still a lot of minds still up for grabs. They need to understand how much they’re being asked to sacrifice, and it isn’t the left that’s going to explain that to them.

            1. Yup

            2. Yeah, many of them are pushing global warming simply because they like its implications against free market capitalism and for government intervention.

              Exactly.

              They need to understand how much they’re being asked to sacrifice, and it isn’t the left that’s going to explain that to them.

              If they’re capable of understanding that, then I figure they’re capable of figuring it out on their own.

              1. Nobody’s talking about it but us.

                And, hell, I’m even catching static talking about it here!

            3. It isn’t the left that matters.

              Bull. The left and all their default claims and assumptions govern almost everything in the country now. Yeah, they matter.

              1. They matter because the people in the middle hear what they say, but they haven’t been able to implement their solutions to global warming yet.

                The reason they haven’t is because they don’t have enough support from swing voters. The hardcore progressive isn’t changing his vote no matter what.

                People who can’t be persuaded to vote differently generally don’t matter. It’s the people who can change what they think and do that are responsible for change.

        2. 12,000 watts of electricity per year

          12,000 watts continuously, i.e. 288000 Wh (288 kWh) per day.

    2. The important thing is that we vehemently deny every statistic that might support global warming.

      Well, so far we seem to be objecting to bullshit statistics cooked up to support “global warming”.

      Testing the validity of data is, what’s the word? Oh, yeah: “scientific”.

      1. Dude. They voted. And they’re really smart. If you question the data or methods then you’re going against the vote. And since they’re like really smart and stuff, then they must be right. Hasn’t Tony taught you anything?

      2. I appreciate the scientific method.

        I wish more people appreciated that the left’s solutions are wrong regardless of whether global warming is a serious problem or not.

        If the left’s policy prescriptions should be rejected regardless of what the facts are on global warming, then the statistics are a kind of red herring.

        I also hope you appreciate that there are a lot of people who are rejecting the data as it comes in because they don’t like the implications of the data as it pertains to public policy. I hope you appreciate that these people are not being scientific–even if they turn out to be right on the facts!

        1. RTFA. The ones rejecting the data are the ones claiming CAGW. Take a look at Mann rejecting(splicing!) Briffa’s bristlecone dendro data once it started to diverge,i.e. cool from the late 20th century surface temp.

          Steyn is right, they are frauds, and this latest joke of a paper couldn’t be more blatant.

          1. Or inverting sediment proxies from lakes in Scandinavia. Mann literally did that. I forget the exact relationship but if thicker sediments (varve is apparently the tech term) meant warmer temps, he said thicker sediments meant cooler temps, etc.

            The fraud in his Hockey Stick papers was strong.

          2. RTFA?

            Read my comment!

            “If the left’s policy prescriptions should be rejected regardless of what the facts are on global warming, then the statistics are a kind of red herring.”

            If new legitimate data becomes available tomorrow showing that global warming is real–just like they say it is–then are you going to jump on the socialist bandwagon?

            You don’t have to think in socialist environmentalist terms just because the socialist environmentalists told you to. You can choose to think for yourself!

            And the question of whether we should adopt socialist environmentalist policies does depend on accurate global warming data. You understand that, don’t you?

            1. “And the question of whether we should adopt socialist environmentalist policies does [NOT] depend on accurate global warming data. You understand that, don’t you?”

              Fixed!

            2. “They need to understand how much they’re being asked to sacrifice because they’re the ones who will really decide what happens in terms of public policy.”

              “Look at Australia. Their carbon tax was fairly popular–right up until the day it was implemented. Then it chased their green government clear out of office.”

              Just like the ACA, people will turn against it once it come time for *them* to sacrifice. Everyone I know who lives by this stuff is convinced it’s the 1% and the evil capitalist industrialists who are causing the problem, and that they themselves won’t be much impacted by the necessary sacrifices beyond buying Priuses and solar panels.

              Everyone else I know is unwilling to make any sacrifices and doesn’t put much stock in any of it.

              I understand your frustration, but the trouble is that this is an “end of the world” thing. Either the world is ending and we’re all going to die, or this isn’t really a big deal at all. When you ask “what sacrifices are justified to keep the world from ending?” the answer is “just about any.” When you say “what sacrifices are worthwhile given that the world is not ending,” the answer is “none.”

              This is why the debate over policy prescriptions, while theoretically relevant, isn’t really. If it’s as big a problem as claimed nothing less than returning to the Stone Age is justified, if that’s what it takes. If it’s not, well . . . it’s just not.

              1. In conclusion, just barely over the word limit:

                As long as we “deny the facts” we will be painted as heretics, but nothing less than that will defeat the policy prescriptions.

            3. I have to sorta agree with Ken here. The AGW argument comes down to:

              1) Are we warming?
              2) Are humans responsible?
              3) Can we stop it?
              4) Is the cost of stopping it less than the cost of adapting to the impact?

              All the scientists are focused on 1 & 2, as well as making silly predictions about the costs of adapting. There have been very, very few studies to compare the cost of reducing emissions compared to the cost of adaptation.

              On the other hand, and where I disagree with Ken is that if we concede 1, 2, and 3, then all the scientists will proceed to drumming up bullshit statistics for #4. We need to be attacking them at all 4 questions. Hell, #3 alone is a doozy. You cannot look at the needs of billions of people in the developing world and think that even cutting OUR emissions in half would be a drop in the bucket.

    3. Yeah, fuck facts and reality. We should just focus on the economics and the politics. What’s that you say? Bad facts give rise to bad policies? Surely not!

      What a completely facile argument. I’m not going to concede a point I’m right on unless there’s possibly a tradeoff to be made. Here there isn’t.

      1. “Yeah, fuck facts and reality. We should just focus on the economics and the politics.”

        There are a few things wrong with that.

        For one, I’m not saying we should “fuck facts and reality”. But I am saying that the debate has been centered on facts and reality that aren’t necessarily what they should be.

        Indeed, how much the average American would have to sacrifice in terms of their standard of living (GDP per capita, even) is also a fact. It’s a pertinent fact. It’s an essential fact!

        Who can claim that we should make sacrifices–no matter how much the cost or whether the sacrifices will be effective–and then turn around and claim to be unbiased, scientific, or rational on the issue?

        Certainly nobody on the left.

        The fact is that how much we’re willing to sacrifice isn’t a scientific question. It is a questions of ethics and politics. It’s a question that is informed by scientific facts–like how much we’d need to sacrifice–but whether we are willing to sacrifice our standard of living to accomplish something is not a scientific question.

        Pointing that out doesn’t mean I’m saying “fuck facts and reality”. It means I’m pointing out facts and reality you don’t seem to be aware of.

  16. If someday we find that there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere, I can solve this cheaper than the Government . Each fall school kids collect acorns, maple tree seeds, pine-cones, etc. Instead of paying farmers “not” to grow something, let them plant trees. They get the seeds for free, don’t have to do much and they can sell the woods to the lumber industry in 50/60 years when the CO2 levels have come down. And we don’t need to tax our citizens into oblivion.

  17. It’s called “hiding the decline” (or sometimes “the trick”), and it was explained well in those e-mail that got leaked from East Anglia a few years ago that were never supposed to see the light of day.

  18. A new study published in Science jiggers the numbers for sea surface temperatures and finds, voil?, that the supposed hiatus disappears and that global temperatures have actually been going up the whole time.

    So much for “The Zience Is Zettled!”

    I am guessing the warmistas are not going to be troubled by this sudden moving of the goalposts and continue to argue that this change of heart (and numbers) is perfectly normal. My God, the fact that for FIFTEEN YEARS the numbers were fine for everybody and suddenly, they’re not, is going to be a never-mind for them! Should it be for the rest of us?

  19. But others, like Piers Forster, professor of climate change at the University of Leeds, pointed out that the IPCC report relies on numerous sets of data, not just NOAA’s.

    “Even with the corrections in this study, the observed warming has not been as large as predicted by models[…]”

    Denier! Denier!

    Burn the witch!

  20. Interestingly, the folks who compile the satellite temperature record at the University of Alabama in Huntsville recently revised their global temperature trend data downward.

    Which means the truth is somewhere in the middle: Right between “This is a Joke” and “These guys are total frauds and mountebanks.” Riiiight there, in between the two.

  21. Confirmation bias in global warming theory? Not possible.

  22. I for one am relieved that after burning the midnight oil, they finally found the missing heat.

  23. HIDE THE DECLINE!

  24. I have to admit, Ronald, you’re a funny guy.

    The new science report might be a case of confirmation bias. How about Spencer et. al. and their revised data (uh oh, revised data) showing a decrease in temperatures. Confirmation bias there? No? They are pure in their search? How about that new effort you touted a week or so, which is going to review the revisions to data by groups like NOAA…are they also going to review the revisions to data by Spencer? No? Any confirmation bias there?

    You’re pretty selective in your charges about confirmation bias.

  25. The study is less conclusive than most reports of it are making it out to be. If you read the paper in Science, the new trend is significant only at a p value of 0.10. Which any statistician will tell you is not significant at all.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.