Aletho News


‘Warmest year’, ‘pause’, and all that

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | January 16, 2015

So, was 2014 the ‘warmest year’?  Drum roll . . .

NASA has just issued its press release NASA, NOAA find 2014 hottest year in record.   Nothing in the way of technical details, such as warmest by ‘how much’ and ‘is it statistically significant?’

NYTimes ‘breaking news’: 2014 was hottest year on record surpassing 2010 interviews Gavin Schmidt:

With the continued heating of the atmosphere and the surface of the ocean, 1998 is now being surpassed every four or five years, with 2014 being the first time that has happened in a year featuring no real El Niño pattern. Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, said the next time a strong El Niño occurs, it is likely to blow away all temperature records.

No word yet from HadCRUT4, I heard we can expect their report next week.  Somewhere I read that Cowtan and Way did NOT expect 2014 to be warmest in their data set?

Berkeley Earth has published a nice analysis of their 2014 data [link].  Summary of their main findings:

1. The global surface temperature average for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of’error, it’s tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.

2. For the land, 2014 was nominally the 4th warmest year since 1753

3. For the sea, 2014 was the warmest year on record since 1850

4. For the contiguous United States, 2014 ranked nominally as the 38th warmest year on record since 1850.

Some other statements of interest:

Several European countries  set all time records for high annual average temperature, as did the continent of Europe as a whole

The margin of uncertainty we achieved was remarkably small (0.05C with 95% confidence).This was achieved, in part, by the inclusion of data from over 30,000 temperature stations, and by the use of optimized statistical methods. Even so, the highest year could not be distinguished. That is, of course, an indication that the Earth’s average temperature for the last decade has changed very little. 

Meanwhile, the ‘warmest year’ is noticeably missing in the satellite data sets of lower atmospheric temperatures.  Roy Spencer reports that 2014 was third warmest year since 1979, but just barely.

Roz Pidcock has penned an article Explainer: How do scientists measure global temperature, that discusses differences among the analyses.

Capitol Weather Gang has reactions from 20 scientists [link], including a few sensible ones (such as moi).

El Nino?

One of the key aspects of the hype about the ‘warmest year in 2014′ was that 2014 was not even an El Nino year.  Well, there has been a great deal of discussion about this issue on the Tropical ListServ.  Here is what I have taken away from that discussion:

A global circulation response pattern to Pacific convection with many similarities to El Niño has in fact been present since at least June.   Convection to the east of New Guinea is influencing zonal winds in the upper troposphere across the Pacific and Atlantic, looking similar to an El Nino circulation response.

So, is it El Niño? Not quite, according to some conventional indices, but a broader physical definition might be needed to capture the different flavors of El Nino.  A number of scientists are calling for modernizing the ENSO identification system. So I’m not sure how this event might eventually be identified, but for many practical purposes (i.e. weather forecasting), this event is behaving in many ways like an El Nino.

What does this mean for interpreting the ‘almost warmest year’?  Well not much; I think it is erroneous to infer that ‘it must be AGW since 2014 wasn’t even an El Nino year’ is useful reasoning here.

That said, there is definitely some unusual events on the North Pacific, including extreme warm anomalies in the mid-high latitudes, and positive value of the PDO.

Bottom line

Berkeley Earth sums it up well with this statement:

That is, of course, an indication that the Earth’s average temperature for the last decade has changed very little.

The key issue remains the growing discrepancy between the climate model projections and the observations:  2014 just made the discrepancy larger.

Speculation about ‘warmest year’ and end of ‘pause’ implies a near term prediction of surface temperatures – that they will be warmer.  I’ve made my projection – global surface temperatures will remain mostly flat for at least another decade.  However, I’m not willing to place much $$ on that bet, since I suspect that Mother Nature will manage to surprise us. (I will be particularly surprised if the rate of warming in the next decade is at the levels expected by the IPCC.)

Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz is  (R-Texas) was just named to be the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness.  The folks at Slate are not happy: Yup, a Climate Change Denier Will Oversee NASA.  What Could Possibly Go Wrong?  They are particularly up in arms over this statement from Ted Cruz:

The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that—that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.

Here is what  Slate has to say:

This is, to put it mildly, what comes out of the south end of a north-facing bull. Yes, the Earth has warmed over the past 15 years, and the science is incredibly, unequivocally clear about that. Anyone making this claim either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or is trying to sell you something (or, to be more accurate, has been bought).

So, what is wrong with Cruz’s statement?  Well, assuming that by ‘recorded warming’, he means the satellite-derived lower atmospheric surface temperatures his statement is absolutely correct.  If he is referring to globally averaged surface temperatures since 2000, there is only a very small amount of warming; this small amount of warming is indeed contrary to the theory of AGW.

Without going into details here, I refer you to my previous post and my invited presentation given at the American Physical Society:  Causes and Implications of the Pause.

Bottom line:  There is nothing irrational or particularly incorrect about Senator Cruz’s statement.  Phil Plait (Bad Astronomer) who wrote the Slate piece made more incorrect statements than did Cruz.

I just spotted this article from Science2.0 re Cruz and NASA, worth reading [link]

January 16, 2015 - Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science


  1. Is it any coincidence that citizens of the largest polluter are the biggest deniers? It’s really only some Americans who don’t seem to get it – and that isn’t because they’re ahead of the curve! If you can’t follow the trend try this:


    Comment by Ram Ayana | January 17, 2015 | Reply

    • You might want to back up your comment with some actual polling results from Indians, Chinese, or for that matter most any third world nation.

      My understanding is that the conformist scientism, or scholasticism, is primarily seen in the highly indoctrinated EU nations (nations which need to import carbon fuels).

      Furthermore, the adherence to the PC global warming agenda results in more, not less, pollution. Nuclear contamination and habitat loss are far worse than co2 in the air, which, after all, is a natural element and has been at much higher levels over the course of evolution.


      Comment by aletho | January 17, 2015 | Reply

  2. If their data is like what was posted lately, it is junk data, they toke readings from picked areas of the planet and for less then a year. Talk about cherry picking data. They are con artists.


    Comment by richard123456columbia | January 17, 2015 | Reply

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