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One more data point

Filed under: — gavin @ 15 January 2020

The climate summaries for 2019 are all now out. None of this will be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but the results are stark.

  • 2019 was the second warmest year (in analyses from GISTEMP, NOAA NCEI, ERA5, JRA55, Berkeley Earth and Cowtan & Way, RSS TLT), it was third warmest in the standard HadCRUT4 product and in the UAH TLT. It was the warmest year in the AIRS Ts product.
  • For ocean heat content, it was the warmest year, though in terms of just the sea surface temperature (HadSST3), it was the third warmest.
  • The top 5 years in all surface temperature series, are the last five years. [Update: this isn’t true for the MSU TLT data which have 2010 (RSS) and 1998 (UAH) still in the mix].
  • The decade was the first with temperatures more than 1ºC above the late 19th C in almost all products.

This year there are two new additions to the discussion, notably the ERA5 Reanalyses product (1979-2019) which is independent of the surface weather stations, and the AIRS Ts product (2003-2019) which again, is totally independent of the surface data. Remarkably, they line up almost exactly. [Update: the ERA5 system assimilates the SYNOP reports from weather stations, which is not independent of the source data for the surface temperature products. However, the interpolation is based on the model physics and many other sources of observed data.]

The two MSU lowermost troposphere products are distinct from the surface record (showing notably more warming in the 1998, 2010 El Niño years – though it wasn’t as clear in 2016), but with similar trends. The biggest outlier is (as usual) the UAH record, indicating that the structural uncertainty in the MSU TLT trends remains significant.

One of the most interesting comparisons this year has been the coherence of the AIRS results which come from an IR sensor on board EOS Aqua and which has been producing surface temperature estimates from 2003 onwards. The rate and patterns of warming of this and GISTEMP for the overlap period are remarkably close, and where they differ, suggest potential issues in the weather station network.

The trends over that period in the global mean are very close (0.24ºC/dec vs. 0.25ºC/dec), with AIRS showing slightly more warming in the Arctic. Interestingly, AIRS 2019 slightly beats 2016 in their ranking.

I will be updating the model/observation comparisons over the next few days.

AGU 2019

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 December 2019

Another year, another AGU. Back in San Francisco for the first time in 3 years, and with a massive assortment of talks, events and workshops. For those not able to go, there is an increasing, though not yet exhaustive, availability of streaming and online content.

Notably, the AGU GO service is streaming 15 sessions live on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the ability to ask questions and interact with other registrants, both in San Francisco and online.

Additionally, there are many posters available electronically at the ‘eLightning’ sessions covering the full range of AGU topics.

The hashtag to follow on Twitter is #AGU19.

How good have climate models been at truly predicting the future?

A new paper from Hausfather and colleagues (incl. me) has just been published with the most comprehensive assessment of climate model projections since the 1970s. Bottom line? Once you correct for small errors in the projected forcings, they did remarkably well.

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10 years on

Filed under: — gavin @ 17 November 2019

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh, only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.

From “One year later”, 2010.

Many people are weighing in on the 10 year anniversary of ‘Climategate’ – the Observer, a documentary on BBC4 (where I was interviewed), Mike at Newsweek – but I’ve struggled to think of something actually interesting to say.

It’s hard because even in ten years almost everything and yet nothing has changed. The social media landscape has changed beyond recognition but yet the fever swamps of dueling blogs and comment threads has just been replaced by troll farms and noise-generating disinformation machines on Facebook and Twitter. The nominally serious ‘issues’ touched on by the email theft – how robust are estimates of global temperature over the instrumental period, what does the proxy record show etc. – have all been settled in favor of the mainstream by scientists plodding along in normal science mode, incrementally improving the analyses, and yet they are still the most repeated denier talking points.

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Sensitive But Unclassified

The US federal government goes to quite a lot of effort to (mostly successfully) keep sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information (like personal data) out of the hands of people who would abuse it. But when it comes to the latest climate models, quite a few are SBU as well.

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Just the facts?

In the wake of the appalling mass shootings last weekend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the pre-eminent scientist/communicator in the US) tweeted some facts that were, let’s just say, not well received (and for which he kind of apologised). At least one of the facts he tweeted about was incorrect (deaths by medical errors are far smaller). However, even if it had been correct, the overall response would have been the same, because the reaction was not driven by the specifics of what was said, but rather by the implied message of the context in which it was said. This is a key feature (or bug) of communications in a politicized environment, and one that continues to trip up people who are experienced enough to know better.

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Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science

We watch long YouTube videos so you don’t have to.

In the seemingly endless deliberations on whether there should be a ‘red team’ exercise to review various climate science reports, Scott Waldman reported last week that the original architect of the idea, Steve Koonin, had given a talk on touching on the topic at Purdue University in Indiana last month. Since the talk is online, I thought it might be worth a viewing.

[Spoiler alert. It wasn’t].

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Nenana Ice Classic 2019

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 April 2019


Perhaps unsurprisingly given the exceptional (relative) warmth in Alaska last month and in February, the record for the Nenana Ice Classic was shattered this year.

The previous official record was associated with the exceptional conditions in El Niño-affected winter of 1939-1940, when the ice went out on April 20th 1940. Though since 1940 was a leap year, that was actually a little later (relative to the vernal equinox) than the ice out date in 1998 (which wasn’t a leap year). 

Other records are also tumbling in the region, for instance the ice out data at Bethel, Alaska:



While the trend at Nenana since 1908 has been towards earlier ice-out dates (by about 7 days a century on average), the interannual variability is high. This is consistent with the winter warming in this region over that period of about 2.5ºC.  Recent winters have got close (2012/14/15/16) (3 to 4 days past the record),  but this year’s April 14th date is an impressive jump (and with no leap year to help calendrically).

As usual, I plot both the raw date data and the version adjusted to relative to the vernal equinox (the official time of breakup was ~12:21am).

  [As usual, I predict that there will be no interest from the our favorite contrarians in this]












The best case for worst case scenarios

The “end of the world” or “good for you” are the two least likely among the spectrum of potential outcomes.

Stephen Schneider

Beware the worst case scenario

Scientists have been looking at best, middling and worst case scenarios for anthropogenic climate change for decades. For instance, Stephen Schneider himself took a turn back in 2009. And others have postulated both far more rosy and far more catastrophic possibilities as well (with somewhat variable evidentiary bases).

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  1. S. Schneider, "The worst-case scenario", Nature, vol. 458, pp. 1104-1105, 2009.

Update day

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 February 2019

So Wednesday was temperature series update day. The HadCRUT4, NOAA NCEI and GISTEMP time-series were all updated through to the end of 2018 (slightly delayed by the federal government shutdown). Berkeley Earth and the MSU satellite datasets were updated a couple of weeks ago. And that means that everyone gets to add a single additional annual data point to their model-observation comparison plots!

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