On 2 January 2009, the Wall Street Journal wrote one of a series of articles apparently co-ordinated throughout the generally alarmist news media throughout the holiday season, trying to overcome the problem posed for "global warming" alarmists by the fact that global mean surface temperatures have been on a downtrend for eight straight years (Figure 1):
Eight straight years' global temperature downtrend: The authoritative SPPI composite index of global mean surface temperature anomalies, taking the mean of two surface and two satellite datasets and updated through November 2008, shows a pronounced downtrend for eight full years. Not one of the climate models relied upon by the IPCC had predicted this downturn. The pink region shows the IPCC's projected rates of temperature increase: the thick red straight line - entirely outside and below the pink region shows the real trend, calculated as the least-squares linear regression on the composite temperature anomalies.
In the article, entitled The Warming Earth Blows Hot, Cold and Chaotic, the Wall Street Journal starts out by admitting that "three independent research groups" had concluded that 2008 was a comparatively cool year. Even so, the article said, the year's global temperature was the 9th or 10th warmest since reliable record-keeping began in 1850, though it was the coldest since the turn of the 21st century.
The article, having mentioned last year's cooling through gritted teeth, but somehow not having mentioned that there has been a downtrend in temperatures not for one year but for eight straight years, then lists a series of bugaboos nearly all of which depend on the weather having warmed over the past decade when in fact it has cooled.
The article frets that "higher temperatures make weather patterns more unstable"; that "the planet has grown steadily warmer in recent decades"; that "almost all of the warming in North America has taken place since 1970"; that "the effects of rising temperatures are accelerating"; that "ice loss is happening faster than the models are showing"; that "Greenland has lost an area of ice ten times the size of Manhattan"; that "Alaska's low-lying ice-fields are disappearing"; that "tropical storms can be expected to increase by 6% every 10 years"; that 2007's Atlantic hurricane season was "the fourth most active in 64 years"; that "solar heat is the energy that drives the world's weather, and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are allowing more of that energy to build up in the atmosphere every year"; and that "so many subtle changes in so many different places, building up decade after decade, add up to something more than the weather's natural variation".
Since global temperatures have followed a cooling trend for eight straight years (or 11, if one goes back to the exceptionally warm el Nino year of 1998), most of the supposed recent consequences of "global warming" mentioned in the article - to the extent that the phenomena mentioned have occurred at all - cannot possibly have arisen because of "global warming", because there has not been any. What is more, it is not only the atmosphere but also the oceans that have shown a cooling trend. Not one of the models relied upon by the IPCC had forecast the cooling. The pink region in Figure 1 is the IPCC's range of projections for future "global warming", starting in 2001. It bears no correlation whatsoever to the observed downtrend. From January 2009, SPPI will be publishing a monthly-updated CO2 Report that will make these and other data regularly available, and will help to dispel climate myths such as those perpetrated and perpetuated in the Wall Street Journal.
"Higher temperatures make weather patterns more unstable": In fact, the reverse is true. The world has warmed by 0.7 degrees C since 1900: yet, despite this warming, the number of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes shows no trend at all throughout the 20th century; the number of intense tropical cyclones and typhoons has been falling throughout the 30-year period of the satellite record; and it is settled science that, outside the tropics, warmer weather will generally mean fewer storms, because the differential between warmer and cooler parts of the globe will diminish.
"The planet has grown steadily warmer in recent decades": In fact, the reverse is true. The fastest rate of growth in global temperature, at a rate equivalent to almost 2 degrees Celsius per century, was between 1910 and 1930. No "recent decade" has matched that warming rate, though 1975-1998 came close. Between 1940 and 1975, and again between 2001 and the present, global temperatures have exhibited a downtrend. In fact, the current warming began 300 years ago, at the end of the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period when there were very few sunspots on the face of the Sun. Between 1700 and 1735, according to the world's oldest instrumental temperature dataset, the temperature in central England rose by 2.2 degrees C, equivalent to 6.3 C/century, or about nine times the warming rate seen in the 20th century.
The warming of the planet parallels the increase in the Sun's activity between the end of the Maunder Minimum 300 years ago and the end of the 70-year solar Grand Maximum in 1998. During the Grand Maximum, the Sun was more active, and for longer, than during almost any similar previous period in the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al., 2005). For at least 275 of the 300 years' warming, humankind cannot have had anything much to do with the warming. Given the inexorable increase in solar activity throughout the past 300 years (see Hathaway, 2004: Figure 2), it is no surprise that the weather is warmer now than it was 30 or 50 or 100 or 200 or 300 years ago.
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