I was surprised by the shrill headlines from a British newspaper with the old fashioned name the Telegraph: “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever”. So what is this all about?
Last Friday, NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC had a press conference and jointly announced the end-of-year analysis for the 2014 global surface temperature anomaly which, in both analyses, came out top. As you may have noticed, this got much more press attention than their joint announcement in 2013 (which wasn’t a record year).
In press briefings and interviews I contributed to, I mostly focused on two issues – that 2014 was indeed the warmest year in those records (though by a small amount), and the continuing long-term trends in temperature which, since they are predominantly driven by increases in greenhouse gases, are going to continue and hence produce (on a fairly regular basis) continuing record years. Response to these points has been mainly straightforward, which is good (if sometimes a little surprising), but there have been some interesting issues raised as well…
The “zoo” of global sea level curves calculated from tide gauge data has grown – tomorrow a new reconstruction of our US colleagues around Carling Hay from Harvard University will appear in Nature (Hay et al. 2015). That is a good opportunity for an overview over the available data curves. The differences are really in the details, the “big picture” of sea-level rise does not change. In all curves, the current rates of rise are the highest since records began.
The following graph shows the new sea level curve as compared to six known ones.
Fig 1 Sea level curves calculated by different research groups with various methods. The curves show the sea level relative to the satellite era (since 1992). Graph: Klaus Bittermann.
All curves show the well-known modern sea level rise, but the exact extent and time evolution of the rise differ somewhat. Up to about 1970, the new reconstruction of Hay et al. runs at the top of the existing uncertainty range. For the period from 1880 AD, however, it shows the same total increase as the current favorites by Church & White. Starting from 1900 AD it is about 25 mm less. This difference is at the margins of significance: the uncertainty ranges overlap. More »
- C.C. Hay, E. Morrow, R.E. Kopp, and J.X. Mitrovica, "Probabilistic reanalysis of twentieth-century sea-level rise", Nature, vol. 517, pp. 481-484, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14093
Most of the images showing the transient changes in global mean temperatures (GMT) over the 20th Century and projections out to the 21st C, show temperature anomalies. An anomaly is the change in temperature relative to a baseline which usually the pre-industrial period, or a more recent climatology (1951-1980, or 1980-1999 etc.). With very few exceptions the changes are almost never shown in terms of absolute temperatures. So why is that?
The “World Climate Widget” from Tony Watts’ blog is probably the most popular deceptive image among climate “skeptics”. We’ll take it under the microscope and show what it would look like when done properly.
So called “climate skeptics” deploy an arsenal of misleading graphics, with which the human influence on the climate can be down played (here are two other examples deconstructed at Realclimate). The image below is especially widespread. It is displayed on many “climate skeptic” websites and is regularly updated.
The “World Climate Widget” of US “climate skeptic” Anthony Watts with our explanations added. The original can be found on Watts’ blog
What would a more honest display of temperature, CO2 and sunspots look like? More »