Category: Global warming

Arguing at a Distance

My vicarious publicity team/deep cover agents in Puppydom (Chris Chupik and The Troll That Walks aka Phantom) like to keep me involved vicariously in the comment sections of Puppy blogs. I think it helps keeps up an impression that I somehow commented a lot on those blogs instead of somewhat occasionally.

Anyway, Phantom is having a bit of a tantrum about my last post on global warming:

“Its funny, actually. floppy goes to all the trouble of matching temp data to sunspot data, and notes that they match up fairly well, like Stephanie mentioned above. Shock, surprise.

But then the curves diverge around 1920, the familiar hockey stick shape. We’ve heard plenty of evidence about “adjustment” shenanigans and the relocation of NOAA thermometers to hotter locations etc. So I look at that and it fairly screams “CHECK DATA!!!”

But not floppy. He’s maintaining that all those years previously that the curves matched are over, and that since 1920-odd the CO2 in the atmosphere has completely decoupled Earth’s temperature from the solar output. The sun is getting cooler, and the Earth is getting warmer. Because magic!

Which isn’t even stupid. It’s just bare-faced lying.”

Ho hum. Yes, yes, it is usual troll stuff and refuting it just leads to a new goalpost position. Readers will recall that Phantom once declared that he would believe in global warming when I could show him cattle farms in Greenland and so I did:

But anyway back to the specific complaint. Phantom doesn’t trust that stinky NOAA data! Oh noes! OK, here’s a different data set.


This time instead of HADCRUT I used the BEST (that’s it’s name) data. The BEST temperature record was a project partly funded by the conservative (and climate denialist) Koch Brothers When the project started, the study was lauded by ‘skeptics’ because they thought it would reveal that the data was all wrong and all the warming would disappear. The founder of the project, physicist Richard Muller had publically voiced sceptcism about the data behind global warming and was seen initially as being favourable to the ‘skeptic’ cause.

That all changed when the BEST results were released. Sure, there are various quibbles and questions around how best to manage complex temperature data sets collected over very long periods of times (i.e. over generations of people) but basically the story the data was telling was correct. Muller wrote in 2011:

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

It doesn’t matter which data set you use. There is difference in the details but the trends are the same. Solar activity has declined in recent years and temperatures have increased. If solar activity is really very closely tied to non-anthopogenic global warming (a reasonable hypothesis) then ipso-facto the current warming MUST be non-non-anthropogenic (i.e. it’s us people!).

Let’s use completely different data! Say the PMOD total solar irradiance index and the UAH Satellite temperatures. They only go back a few decades but, gosh, same pattern.


The theory that global warming in the twentieth century was due to solar activity and not greenhouse gas emissions implies/predicts that temperatures should be colder NOW. It should have already got cooler. Really, forget about the graphs and ask, does it really feel like temperatures are currently lower than they have been in years?

That’s why I call it denial. It literally is denial and no evidence, even the direct evidence of the denialists own senses will shake it.



The Sun and Global Warming

So this morning, I checked out the July satellite temperature record and made a short post about it. I then hopped into my boat (a carefully crafted replica of Lookfar) and quickly circumnavigated the Puppy seas checking on various blogs to see what was what. Coincidentally, Accordingtohoyt had a guest post on climate! Stephanie Osborn is an astronomer who write occasional science essays for Sarah Hoyt and this one was an update on solar activity entitled ‘A Solar Activity Update’ ( ) that seems sensible enough.

The premise of the post was two fold:

  • Current solar activity seems to be winding down towards some sort of minimum.
  • Past solar activity has been related to cooler periods.

Sensible enough. It ends on a rhetorical question:

“But how many correlations does it take before we need to sit up and take notice? Before we seriously start to wonder what is really going on?”

So let’s pick up where that essay leaves off. The sun and solar activity are certainly interesting as far as global warming go and certainly on longer timescales it’s an obvious factor. The Earth is warmed primarily by the Sun, so variations in the Sun should connect with variations in surface temperatures – all else being equal.

All else is not currently equal.

Those who would rather not believe that put a lot of hope in the Sun. Maybe, as the essay partly implies, recent changes in climate are not due to human activity but due to solar activity. Neat question…but also one that climatologists have been thinking about for decades. I’m not a climatologist but it isn’t hard to have a look see at some data to at least get a sense of whether more experienced scientists have somehow missed this connection.

I’m going to make use of the graphic and data set tools at the marvellous Wood For Trees website ( ) The site is clear about its sources and if readers want to do things the hard way and check original data then you can.

I’ll start with sunspot activity. This is one of the indicators the author of the essay pointed at. People have been tracking sunspot activity for hundreds of years, so there is heaps of data and the site has data back to 1750ish. Unfortunately, there’s not a good instrumental record for temperature for that long but HADCRUT4 does go back to 1850. Here’s a graph of sunspots and temperature anomaly for a hundred years 1850 to 1950. The data has been normalised for both sets so that they can be seen together on the same axes.


Interesting enough I guess. Not a slamdunk relationship just using eyeballs to judge but you wouldn’t dismiss it.

Now keep going.



The essayist is quite right about that sunspot decline but note what has been happening with temperatures? That’s not because she is wrong about solar activity being related to global temperatures but rather that the current global warming is NOT due to solar activity and worse, it is still going DESPITE reduced solar activity.

It’s not that solar activity is irrelevant to global temperatures — there is a solar signal in that data — it’s just that it can’t explain current global warming. Now I don’t know enough to know whether a sufficiently low solar minimum would put a break on the effects of anthropogenic global warming but even if it did and we used that as an excuse to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions, the problem would still be waiting for us when the solar cycle ticked up again.

It is literally wishing on a star to think that solar activity will make global warming go away. In the meantime, I have to worry that the dry winter means my water tanks are low for the coming bushfire season which may be a month earlier this year in New South Wales were farmers are already suffering from the impact of a sustained drought.


July Temperatures

Northern Hemisphere folks won’t be surprised to hear that according to the satellite record, temperature anomalies went up a bit in a July.



Being winter, this was less obvious down here and, as always, local weather conditions are not always representative of global conditions.

Temperatures have been increasing for decades but in a meandering pattern of local peaks and troughs. However, whether you watch the peaks, the means or the troughs, they’ve all been increasing. Looks like June 2018 may have been a bit of a local trough and yet still hotter than the peaks of the early 1980s.

*[The usual caveats apply. This satellit record is not neccesarily the most accurate or most appropriate summary of global temperatures but it is the one that so-called ‘skeptics’ should accept.]

Hot, Cold and Fire

Greece is reeling from the impact of severe fires

There are multiple human components surounding the cause and impacts of bush fires, including where and what is built, planning, firefighting strategy, escape routes and of course arson as initial causes. However, weather and climate are in that mix as well.

I’ve already pointed at the fact that the Northern Hemisphere summer has had some unusual fire activity. Less disasterous than the fires in Greece, a huge fire in South Lancashire ( ) may also have been started by arson but the scale and nature of the fire was undoubtedly impacted by a hot, dry summer in the UK. Those conditions in the UK mean that fire remains an issues ( ) with farmers warning of the danger of more fires. Again, human activity compounds these issues, but that activity isn’t new.

More selfishly, I’m looking at current conditions in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s winter in Australia and fire season is still some time away but the signs are bad. The winter has been unusually dry. This is on top of persistent drought for some ( ) and the impact of the dry weather means bush fire season will likely start earlier ( ). Even if the weather shifts and the rest of the year is damp, the impact and the preperation all act as a cost on society. Clear skys mean cold nights and sunny days, which is pleasant enough but bodes ill.

Currently, this dry weather in Eastern Australia is not due specifically to El Niño conditions, but those conditions maybe on their way ( ). The cycle is still at a neutral stage but heading towards a possible El Niño event in the Southern Hemisphere spring. If it does, then expect more exterme weather in the next few months.


January Temperatures

As usual, here are last months satellite temperature anomalies – not because they are best data set for this stuff but because they are the one that engenders the fewest pointless arguments.


The green line is my addition, otherwise this graph is from here

As per the last goodness knows how long, the moral is – natural cycles exist but they don’t explain global warming. Things have cooled after EL Niño peaks but the ‘cool’ of 2018 resembles the ‘hot’ of the 1980s and early 1990s. Why, it’s almost as if things have got  systemically hotter over the decades.

2017 Third Warmest Year in Satellite Record

Apparently, it is disproportionately cold in North America at the moment but the globe, in general, remained warm. 2017 as a whole was warm – once again one of the warmest years on record and the hottest year on record without an El Niño event.

I usually put up the UAH satellite temps (not because it is the best data set but because it is the set that the denialist should in principle accept as correct if they had any commitment to rationality) and here they are:


As I’ve pointed out, current anomalies are comparable with the EXTREMES of the previous 2000 to 2015. This should be alarming to those who have previously been claiming that it was all due to natural cycles.

Still Warm

Most months I show the UAH Global Temperature update. As I’ve explained before this is not neccesarily the best way of tracking global warming but it is the one, that in principle, puts the best case forward for the denialists. Produced by a climate change ‘skeptic’ and using a process that doesn’t use weather stations and is not an artefact of an urban heat island effect etc etc.


After last months spike there is a dip back down but as the green line I’ve added shows this ‘low’ relative to the past few years represents the kind of anomaly that was a ‘high’ for most of my lifetime.

The skeptical/non-global warming/its-all-natural hypotheses (such as they are) predicted rapid and substantial cooling in the wake of the highs at the end of 2016 – sufficient to bring temperatures back to the baseline level. Nearly a year on and temperature anomalies are still running consistently higher than most of 21st century – itself a period of record warmth.