New Hansen analysis and global temperature data counter disinformers who say the planet is cooling


A new analysis by James Hansen et al. concludes: “The bottom line is this: there is no global cooling trend.” The authors show how regional short-term temperature fluctuations help explain the “gullibility” with which some people have been “so readily convinced of a false conclusion” that the planet has stopped warming.  The NOAA National Climatic Data Center’s annual summary posted on January 15 says: “The 2000-2009 decade is the warmest on record, with an average global surface temperature of 0.54 deg C (0.96 deg F) above the 20th century average. The years 2001 through 2008 each rank among the ten warmest years of the 130-year (1880-2009) record and 2009 was no exception.”

Hansen invites analysts to review a new article by Hansen, Ruedy, Sato, and Lo titled “If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?” posted on Hansen’s Columbia University web site.  A few key passages from the text of this 10-page analysis, which includes 9 Figures and should be studied in its entirely:

The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature records, in the surface temperature analysis of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The Southern Hemisphere set a record as the warmest year for that half of the world.

Global mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1a, was 0.57°C (1.0°F) warmer than climatology (the 1951-1980 base period). Southern Hemisphere mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1b, was 0.49°C (0.88°F) warmer than in the period of climatology.

There is a contradiction between the observed continued warming trend and popular perceptions about climate trends. Frequent statements include: “There has been global cooling over the past decade.” “Global warming stopped in 1998.” … Such statements have been repeated so often that most of the public seems to accept them as being true. However, based on our data, such statements are not correct. …

[The] popular belief that the world is cooling is reinforced by cold weather anomalies in the United States in the summer of 2009 and cold anomalies in much of the Northern Hemisphere in December 2009. …

What about the claim that the Earth’s surface has been cooling over the past decade? … Given that the change of 5-year-mean global temperature anomaly is about 0.2°C over the past decade, we can conclude that the world has become warmer over the past decade, not cooler.

Why are some people so readily convinced of a false conclusion, that the world is really experiencing a cooling trend? That gullibility probably has a lot to do with regional short-term temperature fluctuations, which are an order of magnitude larger than global average annual anomalies. …

[In December 2009 (Figure 5a)]: There were strong negative temperature anomalies at middle latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, as great as -8°C in Siberia, averaged over the month. But the temperature anomaly in the Arctic was as great as +7°C. The cold December perhaps reaffirmed an impression gained by Americans from the unusually cool 2009 summer. There was a large region in the United States and Canada in June-July-August with a negative temperature anomaly greater than 1°C, the largest negative anomaly on the planet.

How do these large regional temperature anomalies stack up against an expectation of, and the reality of, global warming? How unusual are these regional negative fluctuations? Do they have any relationship to global warming? Do they contradict global warming?

It is obvious that in December 2009 there was an unusual exchange of polar and midlatitude air in the Northern Hemisphere. Arctic air rushed into both North America and Eurasia, and, of course, it was replaced in the polar region by air from middle latitudes.

The degree to which Arctic air penetrates into middle latitudes is related to the Arctic Oscillation (AO) index, which is defined by surface atmospheric pressure patterns and is plotted in Figure 6. When the AO index is positive surface pressure is high in the polar region. This helps the middle latitude jet stream to blow strongly and consistently from west to east, thus keeping cold Arctic air locked in the polar region. When the AO index is negative there tends to be low pressure in the polar region, weaker zonal winds, and greater movement of frigid polar air into middle latitudes.

Figure 6 shows that December 2009 was the most extreme negative Arctic Oscillation since the 1970s. Although there were ten cases between the early 1960s and mid 1980s with an AO index more extreme than -2.5, there were no such extreme cases since then until last month. It is no wonder that the public has become accustomed to the absence of extreme blasts of cold air.

Figure 7 shows the AO index with greater temporal resolution for two 5-year periods. It is obvious that there is a high degree of correlation of the AO index with temperature in the United States, with any possible lag between index and temperature anomaly less than the monthly temporal resolution. …

We conclude only that December 2009 was a highly anomalous month and that its unusual AO can be described as the “cause” of the extreme December weather.

We do not find a basis for expecting frequent repeat occurrences. On the contrary. Figure 6 does show that month?to?month fluctuations of the AO are much larger than its long term trend. But temperature change can be caused by greenhouse gases and global warming independent of Arctic Oscillation dynamical effects. …

The bottom line is this: there is no global cooling trend. For the time being, until humanity brings its greenhouse gas emissions under control, we can expect each decade to be warmer than the preceding one. Weather fluctuations certainly exceed local temperature changes over the past half century. But the perceptive person should be able to see that climate is warming on decadal time scales.

This information needs to be combined with the conclusion that global warming of 1?2°C has enormous implications for humanity. …

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center
January 15, 2009
State of the Climate – Global Analysis – Annual 2009

The 2000-2009 decade is the warmest on record, with an average global surface temperature of 0.54°C (0.96°F) above the 20th century average. This shattered the 1990s value of 0.36°C (0.65°F).

The years 2001 through 2008 each rank among the ten warmest years of the 130-year (1880-2009) record and 2009 was no exception. The global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average, tying with 2006 as the fifth warmest since records began in 1880. [NOAA temperature data indicate 2005 was the warmest year on record, 1998 the 2nd warmest.]

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Land-Ocean Temperature Index, 1880-2009
Northern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere

Also see:
Climate Progress:
Hansen wants your feedback

World Wildlife Fund Climate Blog:
Southern Hemisphere 2009 saw warmest year record

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