Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Problems With Claiming 2014 Will be the "Warmest Year"

Problems with claims 2014 will be the "warmest year":
  • It isn't true -- Cowtan & Way's dataset definitely won't find 2014 to be the warmest year since 1850; it will probably be second, after 2010. 2014 will be lower by probably 0.03 C, if December's anomaly is the same as November's. December would have to be the warmest month ever (i.e. most anomalous), and then some to beat 2010. That won't happen. And you can't say C&W is a superior dataset -- which it probably is, because it uses satellite data to infill large regions without temperature stations, instead of extrapolating over up to 1200 km -- and then ignore it when other datasets show this year as the warmer year.
  • Such claims look like what they are: spin. If you're going to make a big deal out of 2014 being the "warmest year" -- for NASA's GISTEMP, any record will probably only be by 0.01 C or so -- then you're going to have to accept that next year, when the year is 0.01 C or 0.03 C cooler, that the word is "cooling," which will be the spin used by the other side. Worse, you'll have to accept that label for all the years until another new record is set. If the record-setting year is 2006, then 2010, then 2014, .... , then 3 of out 4 years will be "cooling" and only one year "warming." So you lose 75% of the spin battle anyway.
  • The claim that global warming "stopped 18 years ago" are stupid anyway, because that result only comes from one dataset (that may have problems) and ignores many others. It looks like what it is: desperate numerical wankery. Even Roy Spencer finds it "too funny." So don't be an equal but opposite wanker.
  • Is this about science or not? It's the same with big snowstorms or a hurricane -- Joe Romm can't go on TV claiming every big snow event on the East Coast is a sure sign of global climate change, then make the same claim when it's very warm there, or very cold, or a hurricane happens, or they don't. Attribution is still very difficult, and usually long after the fact. The issue is trends, not snowforts. So stop talking about individual storm, or individual years, like they're trends, when they're not. (Note to self: that means you too, dingus.)
  • Anyway, global warming is ocean warming, and the ocean -- at least the top half -- keeps warming year after year.
  • If you think you have a better scientific case than the deniers, then act like it, and not like them. You can't be a "science communicator" without the science part.


Toby said...

This post seems totally overwrought.

What is the problem with saying (truthfully) that 2014 is the warmest year in some records (Japan Meteorological Agency, NOAA) but not in others? Also, that it is the warmest El Nino neutral year?

I would love it if the climate science community standardised on a single record, or estimation, like Cowtan & Way, but until then situations like this are going to arise. Meh.

Brandon R. Gates said...

David, here and about I've dropped some similar comments in passing. "Scientifically meaningless" is the last phrase I recall using. Thanks for actually putting together a few paragraphs with a full argument about why it's pretty dumb to make hay out of one year.