Updated: Satellite Temps, and the Ground Truth
January 29, 2016
The newest Yale Video is looking like one of the more impactful in the series, given that it lays a two by four upside of one of denialdom’s most cherished myths, that satellite temperature data, or more specifically, satellite data since the 1998 El Nino event, are the one and only gold standard measure of whether the planet is gaining heat.
I’ve made a few cosmetic changes in the version above, added in an updated temperature graph to reflect that we now have finalized 2015 – and some, I hope, helpful graphics and animations to emphasize a few points of science-speak. (and I’ve uploaded to the Climate Denial Crock of the Week channel on YouTube, because so many of those subscribers, bless their hearts, still don’t know that I’m working with Yale for the last 4 years…)
One of the main points made by Andy Dessler, Carl Mears, and Ben Santer, is that temperature records of any kind would be suspect if they were not congruent with the actual behavior of biological and physical systems on the planet – many of which can be measured completely independently of one another – and so provide a useful check on each other.
The best example of this in the science literature is a famous 2008 paper from NASA’s Cynthia Rosenzweig and her team, in which more than 29,000 data sets of physical and biological processes are analyzed.
Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Biological systems also were impacted in a variety of ways, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and plant and animal species moving toward Earth’s poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities.
The team conducted a “joint attribution” study. They showed that at the global scale, about 90 percent of observed changes in diverse physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. Other driving forces, such as land use change from forest to agriculture, were ruled out as having significant influence on the observed impacts.