Thursday, 10 March 2011

This is how it was. What’s next? Feeling lucky, punks?

Calculated from NASA’s (click for more info) “Five-Year Average Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2010” and animated. Even a trainee climate scientist has been surprised at how fast things speed up right near the last couple of decades.You need to be at least a little bit scientifically literate to realise why anomalies are way more important to show the trend rather than absolute temperatures – a distinction which many cherry picking denialists, with their “it’s really cold here, so we must be in a cooling trend” garbage thinking cannot get clear in their heads but still, even they must get it, surely?

Note how the warming anomalies are by far the greatest in the Arctic zone where all the permafrost and Northern sea ice is. This is happening far faster than the last full IPCC digest of the science delineated in 2007. Those models did not take this faster heating and consequently faster rate of shrinkage of the ice into account in their models. Neither did they consider the release of methane from the permafrost nor the entrained carbon.

To those complacent enough to comfort themselves with the belief that the models’ predictions are wrong I say – you were right! Sort of. The predictions of the models were wrong – they did not take enough into account – but they were wrong in a bad way. Things are worse than previously suspected. Read again my post of the 19th February entitled  We’re ***’ed (We’re hosed…) which is about melting permafrost. I quoted Greg Craven who spoke recently at the AGU (American Geophysical Union):

AGU rattled me to the core because my worst-case fears were not just confirmed, but exceeded (I found four paleoclimatologists who admitted to making plans for survival retreats), and my last hope–for the scientific community to enter the public debate–was completely dashed.

I’ve since found out directly from Greg that the full story is that, of those he spoke to, he found four who would admit to this but they also confirmed that “many” more that they knew were doing the same.



TonyTheProf said...

How widespread were the thermometer readings globally since 1880?

I know that certainly by the 1950s, they would have been widespread, but I saw an early film on Antarctic pioneers ("The Home of the Blizzard"), and it was one of only a few station in Antarctica in the early 1920s.

Nick Palmer said...

Umm. You're not going over to the denialist dark side are you?

There is a link in the post which helpfully said "click for more info".

Importantly, the base period on which anomalies are measured against was 1951-1980, also anomalies are very well correlated up to 1000 km unlike individual absolute measurements of the type that pathological sceptics like Wattsupwiththat choose to play misleading mind games on people with.

In short, you need nowhere near as many stations to monitor anomalies so the comparative lack in the 1800s is no problem - although no doubt the denialosphere will pretend that it is.

Scientists can also do proxy measurements of temperature anomalies using oxygen isotopes and a whole bunch of other methods.

Nick Palmer said...

From the explanation of the Gisstemp record used here:

The analysis is limited to the period since 1880 because of poor spatial coverage of stations and decreasing data quality prior to that time. Meteorological station data provide a useful indication of temperature change in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics for a few decades prior to 1880, and there are a small number of station records that extend back to previous centuries. However, we believe that analyses for these earlier years need to be carried out on a station by station basis with an attempt to discern the method and reliability of measurements at each station, a task beyond the scope of our analysis