Temperature tantrums on the campaign trail

Temperature tantrums on the campaign trail

Originally published at Corporate Knights on March 17, 2016.

Sorry Ted Cruz. There’s no conspiracy among scientists to exaggerate global warming by fudging the numbers.

Last year was the warmest year recorded since the measurement of global surface temperatures began in the nineteenth century. The second-warmest year ever was 2014. Moreover, because of the persisting effects of the equatorial Pacific Ocean phenomenon known as El Niño, many experts are predicting that 2016 could set a new annual record. January and February have already set new monthly records, with February half a degree Celsius warmer than any February in history.

This news is deeply unsettling for those who care about the future of the planet. But it is even more upsetting for people opposed to climate mitigation, since it refutes their favourite talking point – that global warming has stalled in recent years.

U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith claims there has been a conspiracy among scientists to fudge the surface temperature records upwards and has demanded, by subpoena, to have scientists’ emails released.

Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz recently organized a Senate hearing on the temperature record in which he called upon carefully selected witnesses to testify that calculations of temperature made by satellite observations of the upper atmosphere are superior to measurements made by thermometers at the Earth’s surface.

It’s easy to cherry-pick data in order to bamboozle people. The process of making consistent temperature records from surface measurements and satellite observations is complicated and is easy to misrepresent.

But the fact remains that there are no conspiracies afoot. Here’s why. Continue reading

Another startling monthly global temperature record: February 2016

It would be great to put these monthly global temperature updates on pause. After all, analyzing changes from month-to-month tends to  focus too much on weather, when what matters is the long term trend. I was hoping to take a hiatus from making monthly updates and instead just report quarterly. But then the February data came in and the RSS satellite data had a major revamp. Let’s start with the Nasa data. The anomaly for February average global temperature was an astonishing and unprecedented 1.35°C, the warmest monthly anomaly ever (by 0.21°C over January 2016), 0.25°C warmer than the warmest month of the previous warmest calendar  year (December 2015) and and by far the warmest February ever measured (0.47°C over February 1998) . So, to summarize, the anomaly for February 2016 was:

  • One fifth of a degree warmer than the previous warmest month;
  • One quarter of a degree warmer than the warmest month of the warmest ever year;
  • Nearly half a degree warmer than the previous warmest February.

Here’s the graph comparing monthly anomalies to those of  recent warm years:


The month’s temperatures came in 0.25°C above my inexpert expectations, which were updated just a month ago. Here’s what the annual temperatures look like: Continue reading