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“There’s been no warming for X years …”

January 10th, 2013 · No Comments

With 1998 either being the hottest or one of the hottest (dependent on which temperature record set one works with) years in recorded history, a constant refrain has been “there has been no warming since …” (or, for awhile, since 1998 was such a peak (aberration), ‘there has been cooling’).  That number has been extending such that “there has been no warming for 16 years” is now often heard.  The recent UK Met office release of revised modeling (Met Office discussion) that indicates that global temperatures might be at something like a plateau for the next five years has thrown meat out for the anti-science syndrome crowd.  They are crowing that the Hadley “model” runs seemingly support their diatribes against global warming science.

As Scott Mandia so eloquently put it

Putting aside the hypocrisy of the very crowd that argues that attacks the Hadley Centre for bad global warming modeling seizing on that same institution’s modeling making grandiose claims, the reality is that they are not looking at/presenting  ‘the rest of the story’ nor are they entering into this conversation truthfully.

Some quite basic points:

  • Even if global temperatures plateau through 2017, this will mean that temperatures will remain in the ‘record-breaking’ / high range throughout the period.
  • With the “no global warming for 16 years”, the 2000s were hotter than the 1990s which were hotter than the 1980s which …
  • If temperatures do plateau, then the 2010s will be warmer than the 2000s — replacing the 2000s as the hottest decade in recorded global temperatures.
  • The crowing ‘no global warming crowd’, who are contrasting the plateaued temperature record with growth in CO2 (no connection), are ignoring ‘signal-to-noise’ in that humanity’s thumb (GHGs and otherwise) on the climate is still operating within the reality of natural variation and non-human impacts on weather/climate variation.  Climate and weather are variable — no one should expect a nice clean, pretty line considering the myriad of factors at place.

On that last point, which could be described as “winter will always be statistically colder than summer”, this video from Skeptical Science is quite telling.  While actually watching it is highly recommended, twelve words summarize it:

Take out natural variation and humanity’s impact on global temperatures is clear.

From Skeptical Science:

once the short-term warming and cooling influences of volcanic eruptions, solar activity, and El Niño and La Niña events are statistically removed from the temperature record, there is no evidence of a change in the rate of greenhouse warming.

The human contribution to global warming over the last 16 years is essentially the same as during the prior 16 years¹. Human-caused greenhouse warming, while partially hidden by natural variations, has continued in line with model projections². Unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control, we will see faster warming in the future³.


  • The 16-year temperature trend provides no evidence to suggest that the consensus understanding of human-caused climate change is incorrect.

This reality — that the scientific analysis tells us that “we must expect increasing global warming in the future” — is, of course, at odds with the climate science deniers’ efforts to distort and disdain science.

Thus, as Leo Hickman put it at EcoAudit,

The news has been seized upon by climate sceptics who were already arguing that global warming had “stopped” since the record breaking year of 1998 and that this new development further undermines both climate science itself as well as any policy response to rising temperatures. Climate scientists have responded saying that to draw such a conclusion is misleading.

For those interested in more, Leo’s post provides much useful material related to the new Met office modeling and graphics — quoting both science deniers and scientists, along with providing substantive discussion of this material.

UPDATE:  The Daily Mail has made a harsh accusation:  “The Met Office’s clumsy attempt to hush up an inconvenient truth was a crime against science and the public.” Not surprisingly, Daily Mail / Delingpole misrepresentations have again led the MET to issue a response. As Eli noted, beyond the strength of the MET Office statement, some of the comments are noteworthy such as:

Maybe you should ship Delingpole over to our side of the pond. He’d be a very small minnow in an ocean of American idiocy and would quickly be lost in the noise.

You Brits would enjoy a statistically significant reduction in idiocy over there, and we would suffer only a statistically insignificant (and unnoticeable) increase in idiocy over here.

UPDATE 2: Excellent piece by Fred Pearce Has Global Warming Ground to a Halt?

The UK’s Met Office has downgraded its forecast for warming at the Earth’s surface over the next five years. Headlines this week announced that global warming is “at a standstill”. Climate sceptics crowed. But the Met Office said the outlook for later in the century remains unchanged. New Scientist looks at the facts ….

What’s the outlook?
Scary. If oceanic cycles do what the Met Office and others expect, then global average air temperatures will stay fairly stable – though still hotter than they have been in the past – until later this decade. The cycles will then flip into a new phase and the oceans will probably start releasing heat instead of soaking it up. Combined with continued accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, that could mean that sometime round 2020, warming will start to race away again as the atmosphere makes up for lost time.

Update 3: Excellent (must read) discussion by Phil Plait, Debunking the Denial: “16 Years of No Global Warming”

The difficulties in debunking blatant antireality are legion. You can make up any old nonsense and state it in a few seconds, but it takes much longer to show why it’s wrong and how things really are.

This is coupled with how sticky bunk can be. Once uttered, it’s out there, bootstrapping its own reality, getting repeated by the usual suspects.

Case in point: The claim that there’s been no global warming for the past 16 years. This is blatantly untrue, a ridiculous and obviously false statement. But I see it over and again online, in Op Eds, and in comments to climate change posts.

Update 4:  See Carbon Brief’s “All the reasons why global hasn’t stopped.

the argument that a slowdown in temperature rise in recent years shows global warming has “stopped” certainly isn’t new – and has been extensively picked apart, discussed, rebutted and critiqued many, many times online.

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Tags: climate change · climate zombies · environmental · Global Warming · global warming deniers · science