The World Meteorological Organization and NOAA have reported that 2000-2009 is the hottest decade on record. 4 NASA scientists now want the public to know that 2005 was the hottest year on record, rather than 1998. Such an assertion by James Hansen, Reto Ruedy, Makiko Sato, and Ken Lo is based upon a belief their dataset is better than the Hadley / CRU dataset.
An assertion of dataset superiority by NASA is most welcomed by Joe Romm, who recently issued a series of critiques about Hadley / CRU data. (See “Why are Hadley and CRU withholding vital climate data from the public?” and Finally, the truth about the Hadley/CRU data: “The global temperature rise calculated by the Met Office’s HadCRUT record is at the lower end of likely warming”).
In an email inviting critique of their draft paper, the 4 NASA scientists expressed concern that people would be so ready to accept a false assertion, “that the world is really experiencing a cooling trend.” Professor Romm referred to such acceptance as “a gullibility problem.” Such gullibility “probably has a lot to do with regional short-term temperature fluctuations, which are often substantially larger than the trend in the global average temperature over time.”
Dean was the first to comment on the specific Climate Progress post and elevated the discussion by observing an all too human characteristic:
One reason that some people are confused is that what seems normal already has been influenced by global warming. (My emphasis) I heard that despite its length and the intense coverage, the recent cold snap that covered most of the US set very few low temperature records. This would have been a normal cold snap some decades ago, but now it seems extreme. By contrast, the heat wave we had here last July didn’t just set specific-day high records, many cities had all-time high records set.
The concept of shifting baselines, writes CP commentator Wit’s End, is a very useful way that explains how most people miss slow changes and judge current standards by yesterday’s condition (weather), not that of many seasons ago (climate).
Another factor unmentioned in the discussion is a desire by human beings to lessen discomfort. People sense that something is amiss. They reflect upon their own perceptions, their anecdotes to others and others to them. And, for whatever reason, whether they side with either the ‘wingnuts’ or the scientists, the public has begun to note an increased, unsettling buzz, which they really would prefer to ignore since it probably means something unpleasant.
The feedback that this blog might have to offer Hansen, Ruedy, Sato, and Lo would most likely prove unhelpful in convincing the general public to heed observed, and quite worrisome, changes in climate. What is disquieting for this blog, a disquietude which it believes more should have, an unease exacerbated as one model after another is discarded as observed trends are worse than predicted, what is especially worrisome is a consensus. Climate scientists agree that we have yet to see the total effect of GHGs already in the atmosphere.
GLOTI (Global Land – Ocean Temperature Index) might be convincing to those who like to read charts and graphs, others may see only a small gradually increasing trend in global warming, not disturbing in the least. Either way you read the chart, there is reassurance that time marches forward, one day follows the next, one year after another, my gosh, another decade already.
OTOH (On The Other Hand), what resonates in this blog’s disquietude is the proposition of non-linearity. The phrase “nonlinear threshold behavior” is much more ominous than an argument over datasets and whether 2005 or 1998 was the hottest year on record.
Non-linearity implies that things will be different. How they will be different and how different will they be is unknown. It is, after all, the future. Yet many in the general public might be willing to accept the premise that the past could be a predictor of the future.
Of course, there could arise discussions about which past to consider and various assertions about what The Past was like. Nonetheless, whether you say 6,000 or 6 million years ago, you are likely to agree that when dinosaurs ruled the Earth is different than the current dominance of Exxon-Mobil.
So while the nature of those conditions are arguable, it is generally agreed that conditions were different. And, that is why Temperature versus GHG charting seems such a strong argument for a critical change in course, which must be accomplished by a reduction in emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.
How so? Because higher concentrations of CO2 back then, when oil was starting to be made just for us to use, correlated to higher temperatures, whereas we have yet to see the same correspondence between Temperature and levels of CO2. So if you accept that the past could be a predictor of the future, and you accept the validity and reliability of measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere, then you might conclude that the small gradual increase in the Global Land – Ocean Temperature Index (Cue the timpanist and cymbalist, or insert iconic representations that carry particular meanings for you) could be an indication of nonlinear threshold behavior.
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- Anti-science disinformers to media: Please make case for something that isn’t true using data we don’t believe. (climateprogress.org)
- Following third warmest November, December not even close to contiguous U.S. record for cold (climateprogress.org)
- NASA reports hottest November on record, 2009 poised to be second hottest year, Hansen predicts better than 50% chance 2010 will set new record (climateprogress.org)