A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

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One or Two Warm Years is not Global Warming

(Part of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide)

This article has moved to ScienceBlogs

It has also been updated and this page is still here only to preserve the original comment thread. Please visit A Few Things Ill Considered there. You may also like to view Painting With Water, Coby Beck's original fine art photography.



  • At March 14, 2006 10:40 AM, Blogger lucid-dream said…

    You may want to be careful about these numbers. For one, it is not very statistically significant to show "x" number of hot years after the 1970's since there was a pronounced cooling from the 40's to the 70's. All this shows is that there is a 30 year trend in warming.

    Also, it is hardly significant to note that 60 out of the last 79 years were the hottest on record, when the crediable temperture records are a little more than are 100 years long!

  • At March 14, 2006 11:14 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Both your comments are correct, I am fine with simply showing an unequivocal 30 trend, and 90 year trend as the objection here is a rather shallow one anyway.

    I removed the line about 60/79 for the reason you stated. Thanks.

  • At April 09, 2006 1:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is no statistical relevance to even 200 years of 'temperature data' as the irregularly periodic oscillation is of the order of thousands, and millions, of years.

    Using 'standardised' statistical processes is also not valid methodology, as there is no guarantee of 'statistical independence' tween either 'plots' or 'oscillators', and this does need to be established, not just 'assumed'.

    Again there are processes to determine such, and simple 'guidelines' are NOT encompassing non standardised experimental designs, which 'climate studies' actually present a need for.

    The first exercise is to validly determine a 'function' for the 'oscillation' with a reasonable correlation to the REAL process(es) working.

    Your's, Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

  • At April 09, 2006 10:39 AM, Blogger coby said…

    While it may be true that 200 years of data is not relevant to a million year trend, it is certainly relevant to humans with children and grandchildren and/or a concern for a sustainable society.

  • At May 27, 2006 8:27 PM, Blogger Peter K. Anderson said…

    There is NO evidence of 'human induced greenhouse global warming' and there is NO evidence at all that NATURAL climate change is even being interfered with
    There is NOT even viable a 'greenhouse effect' as the 'theory' attempts to outline, instead the 'greenhouse illusion' is only disguising the path to Uranium fueled generation.
    To see how, notice the link:-

    Perhaps this 'greenhouse misdirection' is what those with children, worrying over a 'sustainable future society' as are mentioned, need to understand MORE. Then worry over platformed 'greenhouse illusions', and the attached platforming, much less.

    There is not in fact 'global greenhouse warming'. Glaciers have been melting for 20,000 years, which is how the last Glaciation Event was reverted with this Natural process still proceeds.

    There is not infact even any valid 'historical temperature record' beyond ~250 years that is made within the requirements of valid SCIENCE. With the FIRST intelligible meteorological records dating from the late 1600's and reproducible temperature measure from the 1720's, there is little that can be validly made of median 'temperature' trends with regard to climate, which are expected to be rising within natural trends anyway.

    The flaw in logic of 'unnatural effect' global warmists is that there IS notice of 'rate', and in disproportional 'humanistic' time frames. There is no validity garnered from these 'humanistic time frames' due to the irregular periodicity in natural climate processes of 'rates' in a 'climate time frame'. It is a Human foible to consider a few decades as at all relevant to Climate processes.

    The 'last' Glaciation reverted as Natural warming processes again 'accelerated'. That process has not stopped; simply the glaciation is still retreating. Glaciers, especially those still at altitude (the lowest already having melted) alter 'melt rate' however as the Permanent Ice level rises through the Atmosphere. This altitude was around 1500 metres within the glacial event. NOW it is around 2500 metres and rising still (even if slowly), the 'irregularity' muted by the ability of Gases to exhibit Turbulence to inputs of kinetic energy. This is sometimes reported as a 'temperature' but these are inconsistent due to Turbulence.

    There are not viable valid Climate trends made in 30 or 200 years, that is SCIENCE, taking a guess is not a substitute.

    Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

  • At June 16, 2006 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Peter. I've had many earth science undergrads make similar arguments, and I agree with them, and you, in part.

    The data over the last 126 years gathered by the GISS is mute to this whole argument.

    When in comes to real evidence supporting the greenhouse gas theory, look no father than the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration of Paleoclimatology, which found a correlation between atmospheric co2 consentration and earth tempature over the last 400,000 years in a study conducted on prehistoric glaciers. There are other proxies as well, all of which are cohroborative, as I'm sure Coby would be quick to point out.

    What we can say is, for a long long time, increased CO2 levels have lead to an increase in tempature.

    It then becomes a question of exactly how much will it get hotter at X,Y,and Z levels of CO2? What is the direct correlation, today, on a year by year basis, rather than a decade, century or mellenia basis, and at much much steeper increases in CO2 than ever before?

    I agree with you that to use GISS data to answer this question is foolhardy. Just as it would be to conclude that a man who had two beers before getting into a car accident would not have had the accident if he was 100% sober.

    Maybe he would have, maybe he wouldn't have. Maybe the tempature of the earth would have been significantly cooler over the last 200 years if we hadn't discovered fossil fuels, maybe it woulsn't have.

    Even if the earth's temperature had stayed the same or even decreased slighty over this time, ask yourself this: given what we know about the greenhouse effect and the levels of CO2 gases the world is creating, would you not be concerned that if we continue at the current rate, things are gonna get a hotter, eventually?

    Just as you say that we don't really know if it was the greenhouse gases that caused the increase in tempature, we have no idea that it wasn't.

    I concede, the whole thing is a bit of a crap shoot right now, but while we better the science behind it, would it not be prudent to hedge our bets and start preparing for the worst? The oil is running out in the next 200 years anyway, and people are already dying from pollution related illnesses in places like Beijing and Mexico City.

  • At July 20, 2006 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Any good statistician...and no scientist should fail to be one...can tell you that the list of "worst ever" claims you cite are irrelevent.

    We only have hard measurements of the global mean for how many years? Oh, I'm willing to be generous and go from extrapolations, since if we meant using modern standards it's probably not even a century.

    The odds of having ten "hottest days ever" out of fifteen are actually pretty good in any naturally changing system. At SOME point there's going to be an uptick, regardless of the reason, and it will almost certainly involve a number of record days in a row. Likewise all of the other "worst ever" records. Each is a perfectly believable occurrance in a sampling as short as this one.

    But, of course, we can also get back to the dubious nature of defining the "global mean" to determine what is the "hottest ever" in the first place. One must define down "global mean temperature" to focus on surface temps (not effected by the greenhouse effect) and a few other narrow things, and to make up just the right combination of ways of extrapolating from what are actually a relative dearth of samples, in order to come up with this "record-breaking" system.

    Focus on stratospheric and oceanic temps, or other factors, and suddenly things fall apart.

  • At July 20, 2006 3:08 PM, Blogger coby said…

    If you are trying to argue that there is no trend, I'm not very interested.

    You are wrong about what one should expect in a steady climate with only chaotic interannual variation, record breaking years should become more and more rare. The fact that new records are being set frequently is clear statistical evidence that the temperature is trending upwards. Most of the rest is rather incoherent, sorry. What's so hard to get about a globally averaged surface temperature?

    The oceans are warming, and the stratosphere, consistent with expectations, is cooling. Nothing falls apart but your weak objections.

  • At September 11, 2006 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The "Every year since X has been warmer than X" arguments are bogus.
    Even if there was no global warming at all, even if there was global cooling, you could make those assertions for a particular set of years (unless temperature was constant or uniformly descending).
    While I agree with most of your points, those few sound so bogus that weaken your whole argument.

  • At September 11, 2006 8:09 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Technically you are correct. In a stable climate, it would be statistically inevitable that we would go many hundreds of years even never again breaking one extreme or another. However, taken with all the rest, this is relevant to making the case that temperatures are rising.

  • At December 20, 2006 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I thought the hottest year on record actually occurred during the 1930s, or is that just in the United States, as opposed to globally?

  • At December 20, 2006 4:21 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hottest year in the 1930's is a US thing, though I do not know if it is true or not.

  • At January 29, 2007 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You may want to check your data. The 10 hottest years on record per 2006 Annual Climate Review, U.S. Summary, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina
    January 9, 2007 are

    1. 2006 55.01
    2. 1998 54.94
    3. 1934 54.91
    4. 1999 54.53
    5. 1921 54.49
    6. 1931 54.34
    7. 1990 54.24
    8. 2001 54.23
    9. 1953 54.18
    10. 1954 54.13

    and it does not appear show a warming trend.

    Your statements of

    * every year since 1992 has been warmer than 1992
    * the ten hottest years on record occured in the last 15
    * every year since 1976 has been warmer than 1976
    * the 20 hottest years on record occured in the last 25
    * every year since 1956 has been warmer than 1956
    * every year since 1917 has been warmer than 1917

    would appear to be false.

  • At January 29, 2007 10:07 AM, Blogger coby said…

    You are of course using continental US data when the subject is global average temperature.

    Nice try, but you won't fool anyone.

  • At March 26, 2007 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The other one that shouldn't fool people is the idea that measuring surface temperature only gives a false result. As the reason for global warming is that we have effectively added a "blanket" around the earth that traps heat into the lower levels of the atmosphere, its hardly surprising that above this blanket there is less warmth coming from the earth and so it is colder.

    And there is also the point that surface temperatures are pretty important - as that tends to be where most of us live.

  • At August 30, 2007 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    great arguements.

  • At November 27, 2007 7:37 PM, Blogger Tilo Reber said…

    "What we can say is, for a long long time, increased CO2 levels have lead to an increase in tempature."

    This is not true. While there appears to be a correlation, a close look at those charts shows that temperature leads CO2, not the other way around.

  • At November 27, 2007 7:38 PM, Blogger Tilo Reber said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At November 27, 2007 7:51 PM, Blogger Tilo Reber said…

    "The other one that shouldn't fool people is the idea that measuring surface temperature only gives a false result. As the reason for global warming is that we have effectively added a "blanket" around the earth that traps heat into the lower levels of the atmosphere, its hardly surprising that above this blanket there is less warmth coming from the earth and so it is colder."

    The problem is not with taking surface temperature measurements; it's that so many of those thermometers are in heavily populated areas where the population has been increasing for a long time, creating heat islands.

    If you use only rural thermometers in your data set, the measurements agree very closely with satellite and ballon data.

  • At November 28, 2007 8:12 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Tilo,

    You should read the article on Urban Heat Islands.

    Do you have some reference for your claim that rural stations only match balloon and satelite data?

  • At November 28, 2007 8:14 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Also check the article on CO2 Lag vs Lead

    Thanks for the visit!

  • At December 12, 2007 5:44 PM, Blogger Will Nitschke said…

    OK, your post *sounds* good. But is anything you've written here statistically significant if we look at the geological record of global temperature change? Since we both know the answer is 'no' what purpose does this article serve, other than to distort the facts? This is good debating stuff, but poor science, and it won't convince intelligent people who want to focus on the facts as they can best be understood.

    As for 2005 being the hottest year, here is an interesting quote from someone who actually accepts global warming theories:

    "1998 was a blistering hot year, caused primarily by an enormous El Nino that year. 2005 was hot, too, and while some claim it was hotter than '98, my view is that it was a statistical tie."

    - Andrew Dessler

    Associate professor in the Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.

    Link to his website for more info:


  • At February 28, 2008 7:15 AM, Blogger barry said…

    Hi Coby, everyone.

    There is some confusion about whether 1998 or 2005 is the hottest year. Apparently it depends which dataset you use (GISSTEMP or HADCRU).

    "The only thing I know about the difference is that GISS attempts to estimate the temperature over the arctic region (by interpolation) while HadCRU doesn’t. That’s probably the reason GISS shows more warming over the last decade than HadCRU; the arctic region seems to be the fastest-warming part of the planet. That’s the main reason I prefer to use GISS data, considering it more representative of the planet as a whole."


    Unfortunately, that is only an inline blog response, but I'm sure the info could be dug up, as suggested by Tamino. The top post on that page is about temperature trends in light of the 1998 temperature - so you may want to include this bit, or research for proper articles and pop them in the global warming finished in 1998 thread.



  • At March 19, 2008 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These numbers have been revised by NASA. 1934 is actually the hottest year in the 20th century. The mistake in NASA's data was discovered on 8/8/2007.

  • At March 19, 2008 7:46 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi John,

    Actually, that mistake only changed the rankings for the continental US, not global. So before, 1934 and 1998 were a statistical tie for hottest year in the US with 1998 slightly higher and after 1934 and 1998 were a statistical tie with 1934 slightly higher.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • At May 28, 2008 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All over the web, this error is perpetuated. I travel around quite a lot and the incidence of repetition is stunning.

    NASA corrects the temperature record for the US, making it clearer that 1934 was the hottest year on record - for the US - and skeptics talk about it as if it was the global temperature. It's amazing, and quite instructive. In their eagerness to debunk AGW, skeptics demonstrate less than basic reading skills - or rather, their ideology occludes simple facts.

    And when the mistake is pointed out, the ideological skeptic scrambles for a new angle ("how can we trust these guys?" "US temp records are the best in the world, so how can we assign much confidence to records for other countries?").

    Not a peep of, "I was wrong". Ideologically motivated skeptics shift the argument (and I mean the same skeptic will make the transition without batting an eyelid) with no concession of the original mistake. Reaching for rebuttal, intellectual honesty gets booted out of the ball park.

    I mention this only because this particular meme, this fundamental error of data assignation, has been repeated again and again and again.

    However, this whopping error can be accounted for by assuming these skeptics get their information from decidedly non-scientific sources, never bothering to check. Why bother to corroborate a talking point when it fits so well with your disposition?

    Blogs like these are typical of the kind of sources skeptics get their talking points from;

    On this particular matter,


    Although US temps are mentioned, check out the errant distortion!

    I mean to take issue with 'ideologically motivated' skeptics, not with true skeptics, who actually bother to understand what they're talking about and who improve the state of knowledge and the science with facts.

    Something else skpetics should know. Prior to the US temperature record adjustment, 1934 and 1998 were a statistical tie, with 1998 considered likely the hotter - there was virtually no difference. The adjustment leaves 1934 and 1998 in a statistical tie with 1934 likely hotter. Furthermore, the adjustment was made the day after a useful skeptic, S McIntyre, reported the anomaly, and the correction was publicly attributed to him on the page the adjustment showed up.

    Good science does not claim to be foolproof. But it does claim to adjust its findings according to better information. McIntyre did a good thing finding that error, and the scientists who publish the data did the right thing by immediately adjusting it.

    Regarding the (dodges to) new 'arguments' I mentioned above, the temperature record is continually checked and adjusted based on improved data. McIntyre's good work is business as usual. Errors happen. This one was makes no discernible impact on the global temperature record, and a very insignificant change to the US temperature record.

    And why assume the US temperature record is so superior? The UK temperature record has been going longer, the Australian temp record is excellent (we have less urban 'noise', too), and plenty of countries in Europe have very fine historical temperature records.

  • At May 28, 2008 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    BTW, HADCRU (Hadley Center UK) puts 1998 as the warmest year on record globally. GISTEMP (NASA), which includes the polar regions (extrapolated), has 2005 as the hottest year on record. Globally, that is.

    As there is no question the Arctic has warmed faster than anywhere else, with huge cracks appearing for the first time in recorded history in old ice across the cap just recently, and with last year's record melt and the winter recovery well below the average for the 29 years satellite data has been collected, the GISTEMP record may be given more credence.

    (Antarctic temperature has remained pretty much the same, with probably a very slight cooling)

  • At July 11, 2008 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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