Faux Pause, Part 2

February 12, 2014

As more research gives a clearer picture of global energy dynamics, we understand more clearly the gaps in our instrumental record.  Recent papers have shed new light on what the surface temperature record has been telling us for the last decade.  I’ve posted on one of those, now another.

Graham Readfern in The Guardian:

The idea that global warming has “paused” or is currently chillaxing in a comfy chair with the words “hiatus” written on it has been getting a good run in the media of late.

Much of this is down to a new study analysing why one single measure of climate change – the temperatures on the surface averaged out across the entire globe – might not have been rising quite so quickly as some thought they might.

But here’s the thing.

There never was a “pause” in global warming or climate change. For practical purposes, the so-called “pause” in global warming is not even a thing.

The study in question was led by Professor Matt England at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre.

England’s study found that climate models had not been geared to account for the current two decade-long period of strong trade winds in the Pacific.

Once the researchers added this missing windy ingredient to the climate models, the surface temperatures predicted by the models more closely matched the observations – that is, the actual temperature measurements that have been taken around the globe.

When the salty water of the oceans heats up, it expands, pushing sea level higher. If ice that’s attached to land – such as the two major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica – melt, they also add to the water in the ocean, further pushing up sea levels. Melting glaciers also add to sea level rise.

So what’s been happening while global warming was apparently having a holiday?

Here’s a chart from Australia’s CSIRO science agency showing sea level rise in recent decades. The drop you can see around 2011 was actually down to water being temporarily stored on the Australian land massfollowing the major flooding and rainfall event that year.

The cryosphere – the Earth’s icey areas – obviously don’t think much of the notion that global warming might have stopped.

A study last year in the journal Science looked at glaciers in all regions of the world. The study found that the world’s glaciers were melting at a rate of 259 billion tonnes a year between 2003 and 2009.

What about the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, which together hold about 99 per cent of the world’s fresh water?

Between 1992 and 2001, ice was melting from the two main ice sheets at a rate of about 64 billion tonnes a year, according to the latest IPCC assessment of the science.

From 2002 to 2011, the ice sheets were melting at a rate of about 362 billion tonnes a year – an almost six-fold increase.  What was that about a pause in global warming?

People suffering in extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, I would argue, don’t stand there muttering: “At least the average global temperature on the earth’s surface is 0.2C less than some climate models thought it would be.”

During this lovely comfortable hiatus when we’re told by some that global warming has stopped and so we can all stop being such worry pots, what else has been going on?

Australia has experienced its hottest year on record after the most widespread heat wave on record. The risk of bushfires is on the rise.

The UK is experiencing extreme flooding – again.

Other research has found that globally, all this extra warmth means that monthly heat records are being broken five times more often.

Even if we do want to look at globally averaged temperatures, the “hiatus” has given the world its hottest decade since records began in 1850.

We could go on and on.


A senior Oceanographer writes me:

“I think England et al. have identified the right reason for the lack of warming trend since 2001. The key news for me here is that it is not just run-of-the-mill ENSO variability, but in fact a highly exceptional strengthening of the trade winds (causing the prevalent La Niña conditions we’ve seen lately).
In other words it is not simply the usual chance occurrence of La Niña events, but there is a real significant change going on, as the trade winds have never been as strong as far as we have records.”

61 Responses to “Faux Pause, Part 2”

  1. A senior oceanographer writes “lack of warming trend”? Give him the dunce cap!

    There is no statistically significant “lack of warming trend”: Tamino has done the math (over and over). Anybody else just have a look: Print out a temp chart since 1970 and play with a ruler and look at the fluctuations above and below the line. It’s not that f$%*n difficult to get.

  2. jabberwolf Says:

    So basically cherry picking with LESS amount of points for data = global warming and you doubt the much LARGER sample of the average of temperatures across the globe ?!?

    Yeah well the larger data set is more reliable and definitely debunks select points.

    So does the ocean being a heat sink where, amazingly, it was not before… (what is water moody and only due so when it wants) and, amazingly, heat is not being absorbed and heating the ambient air ( it must be moody too and decide when it wants physics to work or not).

    The climate change idiots are on the side of a losing battle when their own science proves them idiots.

  3. The planet is an energy system. Just how that energy is expressed is variable and can take various forms, not just temperature increases.

  4. I think Tamino shows very clearly in these graphs that there is simply no pause in the warming no matter which temperature set we look at. The majority of temperatures are above the trend line if you draw that from 1979 to 1997 (which was a period with very rapid warming).


    This warming is consistent in spite of more La Ninã’s than El Ninõ’s since 1997.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    It seems to me the Trade Winds are driven by the Hadley Cell, which itself is driven by latent heat pumped into the air at the equator as moisture rains out there. That Cell ought to strengthen as overall atmospheric moisture increases, and the Trade Winds strengthen as well. So perhaps this is a negative feedback (to the atmosphere, not the ocean) to AGW, that may activate every now and then to heat the oceans (which are playing ‘catch up’ to the atmosphere anyway, since its the atmosphere that begins the AGW heating process).

    • Even (especially!) if it is, it will just be used as the new base-point for the likes of Anthony Watts and the Heartless Institute to claim that there’s no more warming going on for the next N years.

      • uknowispeaksense Says:

        So? What’s your point? My concern isn’t for the inane ramblings of idiots like Watts and his ilk. They will turn anything into an argument regardless of how moronic they appear.

        If this El Nino develops, the only good thing that will come out of it will be that the idiotic climate change denying politicians will be seen by more people for what they are and hopefully be kicked to the kerb, so we can get on with doing what has to be done.

        I’ve got $50 riding on your next response so go ahead, I want to take my partner out for lunch.

        • So? What’s your point? My concern isn’t for the inane ramblings of idiots like Watts and his ilk. They will turn anything into an argument regardless of how moronic they appear.

          That’s not quite true.  Watts and those who promote him as an authority can’t go so far as to invite skepticism about his veracity.  He’s only useful as long as people believe what he writes.  If 2014 brings a heat wave like no one can remember despite this winter being insanely cold, there will be many who will say “the climate scientists said that the weather would go crazy, and THEY’RE RIGHT!”  Should Watts be seen as a fool or a tool, that’s the end of Watts.

          the only good thing that will come out of it will be that the idiotic climate change denying politicians will be seen by more people for what they are and hopefully be kicked to the kerb, so we can get on with doing what has to be done.

          Which is a bone of contention itself.  The track records of the various options are laid out here.  Should we go the way of 385 gCO2/kWh Denmark, or 77 gCO2/kWh France?  We can argue about it for years… and already have.

        • I bet you won. Like taking candy from a baby. You creep 🙂

      • Haha, “Heartless Institute” – indeed a fitting name. 🙂

  6. Just to add: the point about “no pause” statistically and looking for where the energy went do not contradict each other in any way. The statistical model defines signal and noise in a given way. It’s always possible to dig deeper into the ‘noise’ if one wants to seek a more fine-grained view of underlying causes. Just depends on what level of explanation you’re interested in.

    As a comparison thought experiment: seasonal variation often means (about 1/3 of the time) ~30 day trendlines appear to go against the seasonal trend. Statistically, that’s noise – but one can look for explanations in regional weather patterns if one wants. If it’s a particularly cold summer spell or warm winter period, there will be reasons for that. That hardly means you’re conceding that the seasons have changed direction – which is what Watts et al appear to want to conclude.

    I mean, I’m not expecting them to ever do anything else but confirm their already set views and spit chewed up peanuts at everyone else, but I thought it worth pointing out (or just supporting Tamino’s point) there’s zero problem here.

  7. […] post of yours below and a video that will explain it a bit better for some […]

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