The number of excuses for the global warming pause or hiatus had grown to more than 66 when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) added yet another one to the list in a just-published study in Science. In their argument that came out yesterday, NOAA said that long-existing instrument bases have masked rising sea surface temperatures. Once they “readjusted” the data, the warming hiatus disappeared. By cooling the past, they were able to make the most recent years even warmer.
This assessment has drawn heavy criticism from both sides of the bitter climate debate, but one thing no one disputes: NOAA may have overstepped its authority in rewriting climate history and relying on faulty data sets. By making the early 1900s colder, and using only land-based temperature stations and less-reliable ocean temperatures, NOAA can now readjust the past to chart a new future.
This new study also comes at a time when President Obama has shifted his focus to climate change, not to mention the EPA’s proposed plans to completely revamp the country’s power plant system through new regulations.
One thing is clear: NOAA didn’t rely on satellite temperatures, which clearly shows a global warming pause for the past 19 years. or the much more reliable ARGO buoys for ocean temperatures. According to The Daily Caller, “new satellite-derived temperature measurements show there’s been no global warming for 18 years and six months.” Satellite data is preferable because it measures the first two miles of the lower atmosphere, and is accurate to within .001 degrees Celsius.
Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledged two years ago that the rise in Earth’s mean surface temperatures had begun to slow since 1998, and since then everything from volcanic activity to solar output to the oceans absorbing the extra heat have been put forward to explain the pause. Others believe the missing heat is hiding in the Deep Oceans, far from any sort of sensors or temperature gauges. NOAA is one of four independent organizations that gather and analyze global temperatures, and the three other groups have all detected a slowdown in the rate of global warming, which is why the IPCC mentioned the “hiatus” in the first place.
The study, led by Thomas Karl, of NOAA’s Climatic Data Center, said once the data was ‘adjusted’ and the biases accounted for, “this hiatus or slowdown simply vanishes.” Karl et al insists that global average surface temperature has climbed 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit each decade since 1950, without interruption, due to the heat-trapping effects of carbon dioxide emissions.
Not everyone agrees. Judith Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech who doesn’t find this analysis at all convincing, writes, “While I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on.” She went on to say that it “seems rather ironic, since this is the period where there is the greatest coverage of data with the highest quality of measurements — ARGO buoys and satellites don’t show a warming trend.”
Three climatologists at the CATO Institute released a joint statement about the NOAA adjustment report: “While this will be heralded as an important finding, the main claim that it uncovers a significant recent warming trend is certainly dubious. The significance level (.10) is hardly normative and the use of it certainly will prompt many readers to question the reasoning behind the use of such a lax standard.”
“I would argue the study is misleading on the implications of its results,” said Piers Forster, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Leeds, in England. “This study has not ‘magicked’ the hiatus away or somehow corrected the IPCC.” Indeed, scientists who have investigated the warming hiatus said the study’s “key shortcoming is that it does what mainstream climate scientists accuse climate skeptics of doing: cherry-picking start and end dates to arrive at a particular conclusion.”
Gerald Meehl, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, told Mashable in an email that “My conclusion is that even with the new data adjustments, there still was a nominal hiatus period that lasted until 2013 with a lower rate of global warming than the warming rate of the last 50 years of the 20th century, and a factor of two slower warming than the previous 20 years from the 1970s to 1990s.”
Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University, also told Mashable that “the study does not support the conclusion that global warming didn’t slow down for a relatively short time period. ‘It is clear that Karl et al. have put a lot of careful work into updating these global products,’ Goddard said in an email. ‘However, they go too far when they conclude that there was no decadal-scale slowdown in the rate of warming globally. This argument seems to rely on choosing the right period — such as including the recent record-breaking 2014.'”
Another climate researcher, Peter Thorne, a climate researcher at Naynooth University in Ireland, said in an interview that “more investments should go toward establishing redundant, carefully calibrated temperature-observing networks where data is currently sparse, such as the Arctic, much of Africa and especially the oceans.”
Even more surprising is that climate scientists who believe that man is solely responsible for the planet warming less than a degree Celsius in the past 100 years also rejected NOAA’s assessment that the slowdown is not occurring. “It is a bit misleading to say there is no hiatus,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
“This new study suggests that the slowdown in the rate of warming may be much less pronounced than in the global temperature records that were available for the IPCC to assess,” said Professor Tim Osborn of the University of East Anglia, which handles the UK dataset with the Met Office Hadley Centre. “The IPCC’s assessment wasn’t wrong, but perhaps the emphasis would be slightly different if the assessments were carried out afresh with the new studies since 2013 that could now be considered.”
“I would caution against dismissing the slowdown in surface warming on the basis of this study … There are other data sets that still support a slowdown over some recent period of time, and there are intriguing geographical patterns such as cooling in large parts of the Pacific Ocean that were used to support explanations for the warming slowdown,” Osborn added.
As Judith Curry writes, “In my opinion, the gold standard data set for global ocean surface temperatures is the UK data set, HadSST3. A review of the uncertainties is given in this paper by John Kennedy. Note, the UK group has dealt with the same issues raised by the NOAA team. I personally see no reason to the use the NOAA ERSST data set, I do not see any evidence that the NOAA group has done anywhere near as careful a job as the UK group in processing the ocean temperatures.”
As Marc Morano of the site Climate Depot noted in an interview with National Geographic, “NOAA’s new study will have “virtually no impact in the climate debate. … This latest study merely adds to the dueling data sets and of course time lines in the climate debate.”