- Education and Science
Debunking Global Warming and the Climate Change Deniers. (updated 11/20/16)
Claiming The Earth Is Not Getting Warmer
THIS HUB WILL MAINLY CONSIST OF GRAPHS and their explanation. But first, let me set up the problem.
For many decades. an increasing number of climatologists have been worried about the steady rise in average global atmospheric temperature; they assert the Earth is getting hotter, and what's more, it is the fault of Man. I will not address the latter belief in this Hub, but will stick with the fundamental issue of whether the Earth is actually getting hotter over time. Currently, 97 to 98 out every 100 climatologists (scientists whose specialty is everything about Earth's climate) agree this phenomenon is happening. The remaining 2 to 3% of climatologists, as well as the many other non-climatologists; non-scientist ideologues; or others who otherwise have a financial bias against that outcome. strongly disagree.
In their disagreement, they point to several studies which show the Earth's temperature is staying flat or actually decreasing, and they have the graphs to prove it. One such graph, and most of the others are some variation of it, is contained in the following article that is intendedd to debunk the idea of global warming; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html. I approximate this chart in Chart 1, below.
THIS CHART, OR ONE LIKE IT, IS THE GLOBAL WARMING DENIER'S main graphical evidence that temperatures are no longer increasing or, depending on how you structure the chart, even decreasing. If you compare this chart, which is based on annual numbers, with the one in my citation is that the latter one's data points appear to be quarterly thereby giving the appearance of much more variability.
What Chart 1 is suggesting is that based on the data from 1997 through 2012 (some graphs start at 2002), the average annual change in temperature (in degrees centigrade) from one year to the next has remained relatively constant, thereby indicating the earth is no longer warming ,,, if it was warming at all. The changes are relative to a global average baseline of 14 C° (56.2 F°) established for the period 1951 - 1980. So, for example, the first data point is about 4.5 C°, which means it was 4.5 degrees higher than the 14 C° baseline or 18.5 C° (to convert to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 and add 32).
By inspection, if you drew a trend line through the data points, it would be rather flat; which is the rationale behind the temperature hitting a "plateau". In Chart 1's case, the slope would be a rather minor .0083 C°, meaning for each year into the future, the "change in temperature" increases by .0083 C°. Further, while my citation's chart has no trend line, I have see others that do. And, depending on the dates chosen, the trend was demonstratively flat or even down sloping; hence the basis for the claim some deniers make that it is actually getting colder!
Only the extremely few climatologists who deny the Earth's temperature is increasing at a rapid rate think Chart 1 is a true representation of reality. It's not that their data is bad; most everybody uses the same data set (find it HERE); and that is why I use it as well. Instead, it is how they conduct and display their analysis that is the problem. Having created their graph, they then try to use physical reality, like volcanoes or the sunspot cycle, to provide rational for the result.
The rest of the Hub will be a series of charts to demonstrate the old adage, "looks can be deceiving".
The Theoretical "Plateau"Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chart 2 represents a clear theoretical plateau over a long timeline. The deniers charts are generally 13 years or less in length; less than a generation; it must be that short to get the result they want. The point I am trying to make is that if they are right and you took a much longer set of data, this is what their plateau would look like, beginning in 1997.
Now compare this with charts that use real data as I lengthen breadth of our data set. By the time I get done, if the deniers are right, it will look similar to Chart 2.
- Chart 3 is Chart 1 with two additional years added which weren't available when the analysis was first done. Note that 2014 represents a new annual high.
- Chart 4 expands the scope by 10 years by beginning at 1987. Here, there is a distinct upward slope but it still appears to level out after 1997.
- Chart 5 adds another 10 years, extending the time frame by starting at 1967. Again, there is not question about the gradual rise in global temperature over this 37-year look. Now, the 1997 - 2012 period begins to take on an upward tilt as well, just not to the degree of the previous 20 years.
- Chart 6 displays a true "plateau" or pause in the long-term rise in temperatures since the American industrial revolution. The 30-year period from 1947 to 1977 saw no appreciable rise in temperature before resuming its upward march
- Chart 7 gives you the whole Monte, from 1880 - 2014. Included is a 10-year moving average which approximates the period those who think climate change is not a problem. If they are right, then the moving average at the end of the chart would be flat or declining. As you can see, it is not meaning global temperatures are still rising.
The fallacy in trying to draw conclusions from a period as short as that in Chart 1 can be illustrated by the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. One version goes like this:
"The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe."
In this case, the elephant is 134-year period from 1880 to 2014 while one of its body parts is the much shorter time frame of 1997 - 2012. The point of this parable is you can't draw a correct conclusion by looking at something myopically. Having said that, is this 134-year period too short, relative to the known or estimated global temperatures, to draw any realistic conclusions? The answer is 'no', sort of.
Here is a link to a NASA article that has interactive charts that also refute this so-called "hockey stick" myth - NASA
Before I get into that, I want to give you two more charts which look at the question the climate deniers bring to the table. They are ---
Chart 8 shows the 134-year history in segments. Consider what each blind man would say if he selected one, and only one of those segments. What conclusion would he come to regarding what the next segment will look like, let alone the whole period. For three of the segments, you would conclude global temperatures were flat and in the other four, you would say temperatures are rising.
Chart 9 answers two questions; 1) could 1997 - 2012 be a transition period from one direction to another and 2) do the local highs exceed the local lows or the other way around.
If the 17-year period from 1997 - 2014 is a transition period, it is a very abnormal one, or what a statistician would call an "outlier". If it is to signal a change from the previous trends, what follows must either be a long continuation of highs and lows being roughly equal, or, decreasing highs and/or lows.
In terms of transition, we can't tell if it is transitioning to anything yet, but, based on history, we should be able to tell by now. Why? Because ALL previous transition periods were between 3 and 6 years in duration. Here, we are working on 17 years. Based on this criteria, 1997 - 2014 cannot be considered a transition to a period of no growth or negative growth.
As Chart 9 shows, I did circle what might be a 4-year transition period from what appears to be rapid growth to slower growth; but, we won't know for sure for another 10 years. The reason is, we are seeing higher highs AND higher lows in the period 2012 - 2014. Further, Chart 9 portrays a series of increasing global highs starting in 1925 and the single string of global lows from 1880 to 1909 (although the local highs remain constant).
Taken together, this strong evidence we are in a period of sustained warming of the Earth's surface.
How Does The 134-Year Period of Temperature Changes Stack Up To A Much Longer History?
CHART 10 below is a reproduction of one in The National Academies titled Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years. This chart compares what is going on today with what transpired for the last 2000 years; a much longer time span.
The various lines on the graph represents estimates using different methods of calculating them. The confidence from high to low is as follows:
- 1856 - present; uses measured data
- 1600 - 1856; the concurrence of proxy data
- 950 - 1600; scarce data more or less agrees
- prior to 950 is much more uncertain due to scarcity of data
It appears that the historical high of the baseline temperature (unknown) occurred between 1000 and 1100 A.D. The next time it got this hot was around 1939. Since then it has been on a dramatic rise! Actually, it has been on a sustained growth pattern since about 1800, with the advent of the industrial revolution.
What About The MUCH Longer Term?
YOU MUST GO BACK SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSANDS OF YEARS to find a point where the Earth's climate was probably warmer than it is today. First let's consider Chart 11. Once we look backward further than 1856, climatologists must estimate temperatures. The most popular methodologies are in Chart 10 above.
Notice that after 1600, the estimating techniques start falling on top of each other. But, before that date, there are only three that are used and the one using tree rings diverges from the other two until you get to 900 AD. In addition, 900 AD is the warmest during this 1100 year period until around 1950. From then on out, the Earth has been hotter than anytime prior to 500 BCE.
Chart 11 is zoomed out to include the last 4,500 years, 2485 BCE to 2015 AD. The reason for this look is to capture the first time global temperatures exceed those we see today.
The things ought to stand out right away. The most obvious is what appears to be an extremely rapid rise in temperature in the few years prior to 2015. The other is the relatively slow rise from roughly 1890 BCE to its maximum in around 90 BCE.
To put this in perspective, in 1910 the temperature change (TC) was 0.31 C, while in 2014 it was 0.61 C. This means it took 104 years to make that change. On the other hand, the last time the TC was 0.32 C was around 1890.
What Will A 11,500 Year Look Tell Us?
CHART 12 USES ESTIMATES WHICH GO BACK 11,500 YEARS before now.
NOAA On Measuring Temperature
Ice Fields in Arctic AND Antarctic Are at Record Lows for any October
FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SUCH RECORDS HAVE BEEN KEPT (1979), the extent of the ice fields in Both the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows. Normally one pole contracts while the other poll's sea ice expands; but not in 2016. No, we have the worst of both worlds, contracting sea ice at both polls. It is more surprising because the extent of sea ice in the Antarctic had been expanding to new records from 2012 - 2014. Not any more; only time will tell if this is the beginning of a trend.
What is sea ice anyway and why is it important? Sea ice is simply frozen salt water ocean. As such, it has no effect on sea level. But ... it will have a huge impact on weather in the Northern hemispheres and maybe in the Southern one as well ...and involves "polar vortexes", not of movie fame but of meteorological fame.
You see, the temperatures in the seas around the poles as well as in the air above the polls determine whether these polar vortexes are strong or weak. A polar vortex is a huge low pressure area high above each poll, it is always there. The air below each vortex is generally the coldest in the world, although we are now seeing exceptions. It is this very cold air combined with the strength of the polar vortex determines how much cold air rushes south from the Arctic sometimes all the way down to South Florida. These cold air flows are often known as a "polar express", "Siberian express" or "arctic express" among many others. They all have one thing in common in meaning ... a very fast moving mass of cold air.
Global warming is a complex interactions of many factors, but the basic outcome is unstable weather. As the air warms up globally, the swings in weather throughout the year become more pronounced (hot and cold), more violent, and more frequent. The reason you will find many Winters getting colder while the overall temperature of earth keeps on climbing.
Here is why. As the temperature of the earth rises;
- Average temperature over the the Arctic is rising as well; something like 35o F (20o C) above normal.
- As the polar temperature increases, then the ice fields get smaller, as they are.
- As the ice fields shrink, it exposes more ocean which warms as well, heating the air above it.
- The warmer air, in turn, weakens the polar vortex and a weak vortex lets more cold air (maybe not as cold as normal but still dangerously low) rush south more frequently causing much more damage more often
If you have been paying attention, this is exactly what has been happening the last ten years. Now, it is fair to say that scientists are still trying figure out the details and relationships but Everything points to almost irreversible climate change.
and for a detailed explanation of what is happening see: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
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- Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Carbon Dioxide
- Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years
- No Pause in Global Warming - Scientific American
A new study suggests that global warming continues to steadily increase
- Has Global Warming Stopped? - CSI
The latest public confusion about climate change involves an apparent slowing of the rise of global temperatures. What is the reality concerning this putative temperature ‘plateau’?