June 2016 surface temperatures break monthly record, but not by much

June 2016 surface temperatures break monthly record, but not by much

NASA has released its global surface temperature anomaly calculation for June 2016 and it sets a new record for June. June 2016 had an anomaly of 0.79°C, edging out the previous record from June 2015 (0.78°C) and the previous record from June 1998( 0.77°C). As the mighty El Niño of 2015/2016 has ended, no longer are monthly temperature anomalies setting blockbuster records, mere records are all we are left with. The string of monthly records now extends to nine and may continue for a few more.


The four-month decline from February to June was 0.54°C, the largest four-month decline on record. (The second-largest decline, since you ask, was 0.52°C from August to December 1916.)

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Brexit: Sad!

This a rather personal rant about the recent referendum in Britain on the EU. There’s really nothing to do here with climate change, energy or science, so this is off-topic for this blog. I really have little to add to the many excellent commentaries about what this means for the economy. Read Martin Wolf in the Financial Times (Google the headline  “Martin Wolf Brexit will reconfigure the UK economy”to get around the paywall).

You have been warned. This is more personal impression than objective analysis. More anecdote than data.

The Brexit decision hit me in the gut. I’m saddened by the way my generation and my parents’ generation has suddenly reversed a trend towards peace, prosperity and openness in Europe. I feel oddly complicit in younger generations being denied the opportunity that my generation experienced as a result of dissolving frontiers and a chance to identify with an expanded European identity.

I’m of the Baby Boom generation, born in England in 1954. It was an excellent time and place to choose to be born. Like many other members of my generation, I can’t remember when my family did not have a car, telephone, central heating, washing machine or telephone. Sometime in the mid-sixties, we started going on camping holidays in Europe, to France, the Bavarian Alps, Switzerland and the Spanish Costa Brava. Previous generations of my family had only visited Europe to fight in wars. Continue reading

Carbon budgetting

Carbon budgetting

Originally published online at Corporate Knights Magazine on May 18, 2016 and in the hardcopy magazine in June 2016.

The Paris Agreement on mitigating climate change seeks to limit emissions with the goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 C above preindustrial levels while also pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C.

As with any complicated international deal, the devil is in the language. While it acknowledges that developing countries will take longer to peak their greenhouse gas emissions, it agrees that these reductions will be made on the basis of equity.


This phrasing, “basis of equity,” probably means very different things to different parties to the agreement. The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 was based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility,” which is to say that developed countries, with their disproportionate historic responsibility for past emissions, were expected to cut sooner and deeper. This same language is still used in the Paris Agreement reached last year. Continue reading

¡Hasta la vista, el Niño! Surface temperature update for May 2016

¡Hasta la vista, el Niño! Surface temperature update for May 2016

The huge El Niño of 2015-2016 has now ended and global surface temperatures are now declining very quickly. In fact, the global temperature anomaly fall from February-May 2016 was 0.40°C; the biggest three-month decline since November 1928-February 1929 (0.48°C). Even the times of big volcanoes like Pinatubo did not see such rapid declines over any three-month period. This is surely a result of the extraordinary intensity of the now-departed El Niño.


Despite the rapid decline, May 2016 was the warmest May in the temperature record and had the highest temperature anomaly for any month in the record prior to October 2015. [Edit, this is not right, actually it was the second highest; January 2007 recorded an anomaly of 0.96 degrees, h/t Sou.] Nevertheless, the period of extraordinary record-breaking monthly records could well be over soon. All of the temperatures shown in this post are NASA’s GISTEMP data. Continue reading

Jimmy Kimmel does climate change and the 97%

It’s probably obvious from the weird eyes and barely coherent ramblings that Sarah Palin’s brainwashing in Skeptical Science’s secret prison has done some permanent damage. We’re sorry. Nevertheless, she did get one of  her programmed lines nearly right:

 “…if 97% of scientists believe that man’s activities are creating changes in the weather then who am I to question that?”

The original programmed line had “conclude” rather than “believe” and “climate” instead of “weather”, but we are new to this. We promise to do a better job once we get hold of The Donald.

Seriously, take seven minutes to watch the whole clip from Jimmy Kimmel. He does a great job. The scientists speaking at the end are very funny.

Update: Jimmy Kimmel reads his feedback:

Consensus on Consensus

Consensus on Consensus

Originally published in Corporate Knights Magazine


In 1998 and 1999, American scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes published two papers that reconstructed the average temperatures of the northern hemisphere back to the year 1000. The articles showed a temperature profile that gently declined from 1000 to 1850, fluctuating a little along the way, with a sudden increase in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.  The graph was nick-named “the Hockey Stick”, with its long relatively straight handle showing the stable pre-industrial climate and the blade representing the sudden uptick in the last 150 years.

The diagram was a striking depiction of the abrupt warming that had occurred since the Industrial Revolution compared to what happened before. For those opposed to the scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), the Hockey Stick posed a threat and had to be broken. Continue reading

No global warming since February 2016

No global warming since February 2016

Forgive the facetious, click-bait headline.

The NASA GISTEMP global temperature anomalies for March are now available. March 2016 had by far the largest temperature anomaly (1.28°C) for any March on record and the second highest anomaly for any month ever, beaten only by February 2016 (1.34°C), hence the snarky headline.

Here is the plot of month-by-month anomalies for recent warm years.


Clearly, my guesswork, what-if, forecast for the year is still running one-tenth of a degree cool. The NOAA forecast is for the El Niño to end in the next few months, with a rising probability of a La Niña forming in the latter half of the year. Continue reading

James Powell is wrong about the 99.99% AGW consensus

James Powell is wrong about the 99.99% AGW consensus

In a recent article in Skeptical Inquirer, geologist and writer James Lawrence Powell, claims that there is a 99.99% scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). You might think that after all of the harsh criticism that the 2013 Cook et al. paper (C13) has received from climate contrarians that we would be pleased to embrace the results of a critique that claims we were far too conservative in assessing the consensus. While it certainly does make a nice change from the usual rants and overblown methodological nit-picks from the contrarians, Powell is wrong to claim such a very high degree of agreement.

He makes many of the same errors that contrarian critics make: ignoring the papers self-rated by the original authors; and making unwarranted assumptions about what the “no-position” abstracts and papers mean.

Powell’s methodology was to search the Web of Science to review abstracts from 2013 and 2014. He added the search term “climate change” to the terms “global climate change” and “global warming” that were used by C13.  He examined 24,210 papers co-authored by 69,406 scientists and found only five papers written by four authors that explicitly reject AGW. Assuming the rest of the abstracts endorsed AGW, this gives consensus figures of 99.98% (by abstract) and 99.99% (by author).

His definition of explicit rejection would align roughly with the seventh level of endorsement used in C13: “Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming” . In the abstracts from 1991-2011, C13 found 9 out of 11,914 that fit level 7, which using Powell’s consensus calculation assumptions, would yield 99.92%. So, there is probably not much difference between the two approaches when it comes to identifying an outright rejection paper. It’s what you assume the other abstracts say—or do not say—that is the problem.

C13 also counted as “reject AGW” abstracts that: “Implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly, e.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming”. These are more numerous than the explicit rejections and include papers by scientists who consider that natural causes are more important than human causes in recent warming, but who do not outright reject some small human contribution.


Competing Climate Consensus Pacmen. Cook on the left, Powell on the right.

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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

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