Why was 2014 warm AND wet?

It’s certainly a wet start to 2014 here in Brighton, but did you know that 2014 was the warmest year in the UK since records began as well as one of the wettest?

Protons for Breakfast Blog

Colour-coded Map of UK showing how each region of the UK exceeded the 1981-2010 average temperature. Crown Copyright Colour-coded Map of UK showing how each region of the UK exceeded the 1981-2010 average temperature. Crown Copyright

2014 was the warmest year in the UK ‘since records began’ – and most probably the warmest since at least 1659. You can read the Met Office Summary here

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) also report that 2014 is likely to have been the warmest year in Europe and indeed over the entire Earth for at least 100 years.

This was briefly ‘news but somehow this astonishing statistic seems to have disappeared almost without trace.

In fact there are three astonishing things about the statistic

  • Firstly – we know it, and it is likely to be correct.
  • Secondly – the warmest year was ‘warmer all over’ but did not include the ‘hottest month’.
  • Thirdly- the warmest year was also overly wet – both in the UK and world wide.

This article is about why

View original post 519 more words

30 Responses to “Why was 2014 warm AND wet?”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Based on noncomprehensive terrestrial data I expect. Satellite data, which is the only way to sample the entire globe and therefore more reliable when discussing possible global warming, find that 2014 was only the 3rd warmest year since 1979:

    http://www.reportingclimatescience.com/news-stories/article/uah-ranks-2014-third-warmest-year-just.html

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2015/01/uah-global-temperature-update-for-december-2014-0-32-deg-c/

    • Adrian Burd Says:

      Satellite data, including the UAH data, also has its problems, as I’m sure you are well aware, particularly if comparing it with surface data; there have also been inherent issues with the satellite data. The statement that satellite data is “more reliable” is questionable; it’s another useful tool, but you have to know the limitations of that tool, just as one has to do with all tools one uses.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Satellite data has the great advantage of interrogating the entire globe at once. It does, of course, go back only to the 1970s, but what other limitation does it have that might make it less reliable than terrestrial data?

    • Anton Garrett: there are advantages to satellite temperature measurements, and there are disadvantages as well. It’s not actually easy to infer the temperature of the lower atmosphere when looking at it through the stratosphere and mesosphere from 500 miles away. And furthermore, satellites die and new ones are launched, instrument sensitivities degrade unpredictably with time, and orbits change with time. These and other effects need to be corrected for. I suppose you didn’t know that.

      Still, let’s assume that the satellite record – and in particular the UAH record – is 100% reliable, and that 2014 was “only the 3rd warmest year since 1979”. Firstly, it’s baffling that you would use the word “only” to try to play down one of the warmest years recorded. Secondly, there is a very clear upward trend in global temperatures, whichever ground based or satellite based temperature record you want to look at. The 2014 data has made this trend steeper, whether it was the warmest year on record or not. But with your talk of “possible global warming”, I suppose you didn’t know that either.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Apologise for the insults and I’ll reply to all of your points.

      • If you felt insulted by my comments I’m afraid you’ll have to just deal with that. I don’t have any respect for pseudoscientific arguments such as denial of human-caused global warming, or HIV-caused AIDS, or vaccine-caused autism, to give another couple of examples. If that offends you, there’s not much I can do about it.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I repeat: Apologise for the insults and I’ll reply to all of your points. I’m not thin-skinned but you need a lesson in manners.

  2. Adrian Burd Says:

    How does a satellite collect information for the entire globe? Have the same instruments been used since the 1970s? How does tropospheric temperature correlate with surface temperature? What assumptions go into getting temperature estimates from the satellites?

    Also, I didn’t claim that satellite measurements are “less reliable than terrestrial data”, only that your claim that they are “more reliable when discussing possible global warming” was questionable.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Your questions, and also how the data inversion is done, are addressed in this summary:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_temperature_measurements

      As for terrestrial, have the same instruments been used for the last 100 years? Have corrections been applied for changes of environment due to human activity such as urbanisation?

      I’m sure we can agree that experimental physics and data interpretation often aren’t easy.

      • “Have corrections been applied for changes of environment due to human activity such as urbanisation?”

        Of course they have. And a large number of studies have shown that urban effects introduce a negligible uncertainty into the global temperature record. One way that you can see this is obviously true is that the greatest warming is found in the Arctic. If urban effects were significant, this could not possibly be true.

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        Hi Anton,
        Yes, I’m familiar with the webpage — in fact I work with satellite remote sensing data in some of my projects, so I am more than well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of using satellite data.

        I never claimed that the same terrestrial instruments have been used for the last 100 years.

        And, as RW points out, of course corrections are made. Surprising as it may seem, climate scientists are not stupid, they are not ignorant, nor do they have an agenda beyond doing good science.

        My questions were merely meant to make you think a little about your original claim that satellite data, and in particular the UAH data since those were the links you provided, are MORE reliable than terrestrial data when discussing global warming; a claim that so far remains undefended and unproven.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Adrian – will reply. It’s been a hectic few days and might be so into the weekend – Anton

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Calibration of satellite data with terrestrial data is tricky, but there is a monotonic relation between temperature and what is actually measured by satellites so the comparison between differing years in the satellite record is likely to be correct.

        Why does it differ from terrestrial? Nonuniform coverage of land relative to ocean is a concern. And I have been shocked by the corrections that are commonly applied to terrestrial temperature readings yet not stated to have been applied. There is nothing wrong with applying a correction and stating how large and why. There is plenty wrong with not saying that the data aren’t the actual readings. Anthony Watts, a meteorologist, has uncovered a great deal of this sort of thing. I am not going to speculate about motives but the consequence appears to be systematic rather than random in that it consistently bigs up the extent of warming trends. Here is a summary with a link to Watts’ fully referenced work:

        http://joannenova.com.au/2012/07/blockbuster-anthony-watts-squewers-muller-best-and-the-surface-record-all-in-one-paper/

        The great majority of terrestrial thermometers in the USA used for these data do not meet the NOAA’s own standards (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). And even the HadCRUT4 terrestrial dataset to 2012 showed no statistically significant global warming between 1997 and that date. (I have not checked it since.)

      • Quoting Anthony Watts on climate change is like quoting Anthony Brink on AIDS or Andrew Wakefield on autism. You can regurgitate long debunked and absurdly false claims, but how many of the papers describing the compilation of surface temperature records have you actually read?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        RW,

        Apologise for your insults above and I’ll answer. Do not make suppose that I am unable to. You said above that if I felt insulted by your comments then I’d have to deal with it, and imposing this requirement is how. People resort to insults when they have no arguments and you badly need a lesson in the etiquette of scientific dialogue.

      • I feel no great urge to encourage you to post more anti-scientific nonsense, and I don’t care whether you are unable or unwilling to post it.

  3. Adrian Burd Says:

    Hi Anton,

    So, I wrote several replies to your comment before deciding to post this one. The tones of the others varied from the witheringly sarcastic, to completely exasperated. Whilst I am all for educating the uninformed (there is no shame in being uninformed, I’m ignorant on a great many subjects), and for reasoned scientific debate concerning genuine issues or misunderstandings (by both parties), given our past exchanges on this topic, I feel that neither of these describes the situation. If you feel strongly about this topic, then I would urge you to actually study reputable materials (I can provide links and references if you wish). By all means, do this from both sides. I gave up reading JoNova and Anthony Watts (apart from for amusement) quite some time ago when I came to realize the ratio of dross to nuggets was so low as to make it not worth my while. I do commend Watts for the painstaking work he has done on cataloguing temperature sensor data. However, his analysis of the problems that such arise in such a massive undertaking is, well, naive (to put it politely, as you could have readily found out if your internet search dug a fraction deeper). Learning the judgement to distinguish dross from nuggets is something we all need. It’s why, I learned to only skim tomes that claimed to find Einstein’s flaw in his theories, it’s why I don’t argue with creationists, or flat-earthers, or those who contend that Earth was visited by aliens in the past (I must admit that we do own the first season of The History Channel’s “Ancient Alien Astronauts”, but only to watch in awe of the sartorial taste of the host, wonder how much hair product he gets through in a week, and it has given us one our favorite phrases ….”Conventional scientists say …… But ancient alien astronaut theorists believe……).

    Anyway, to your post:

    “…so the comparison between differing years in the satellite record is likely to be correct.”

    And the trend is satellite data is……..? (oh, and add 95% confidence limits on the answers)

    “Nonuniform coverage of land relative to ocean is a concern.”

    Are you talking about satellite, terrestrial, or both?

    “And I have been shocked by the corrections that are commonly applied to terrestrial temperature readings yet not stated to have been applied. ”

    I’m shocked and apppauled (with 3 ps) to learn of the corrections that are commonly applied to [enter scientific measurement such as
    Higgs boson mass, expansion rate of the universe, population densities etc. etc.]

    Can you please give cases where “corrections” have been applied and not documented? (Hint: if you read Watts’ article, you may think you’ve found a lot of these, but be careful, be very very careful). Can you also state why it is possibly that the corrections tend, on the whole, to be in one direction (Hint: look for terms such as “Time of observation bias” and “data homogenization”).

    “I am not going to speculate about motives but the consequence appears to be systematic rather than random in that it consistently bigs up the extent of warming trends. ”

    This is a rhetorical trick that is very much below you, and quite honestly I’m surprised, I thought you were far better than that. Why mention “the motives” if you think there is nothing nefarious going on. I should warn you that I am a climate scientist, and as such I take great offense at statements that impugn my reputation (either directly or by the use of not-so-subtle rhetorical games), particularly when those statements come with zero evidence.

    “And even the HadCRUT4 terrestrial dataset to 2012 showed no statistically significant global warming between 1997 and that date. (I have not checked it since.)”

    Seriously? Seriously? Pull your head out of the sand Anton and look at some actual science concerning recent temperature records (Hint: look for papers in peer-reviewed journals (second hint, The Heartland Institute does NOT publish peer-reviewed scientific literature) related to the ocean heat sink).

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Hi Adrian,

      Jo Nova is a populariser on one side of this debate and the appropriate comparison is not with scientists but with popularisers on the other side. From her I cited specifically a summary of a piece of Anthony Watts’ work. Watts does have expertise in the relevant field, and I’m presuming that if I raise specific claims of his then you won’t mind pointing out where and why you disagree.

      I said that I was not going to speculate about motive despite believing that there were systematic errors. Clearly you think I am hinting at dishonesty without having the guts to say so explicitly. Not so: I can see mechanisms in the sociology of science by which systematic errors could come about without any data-fiddling engineered to give a desired result. I am not willing to assign probabilities to any explanation and that is why I said I was not going to speculate. I also believe that we should restrict our offence-taking to allegations against ourselves as individuals (as I did with RW). Of course I am not making any allegation against you.

      I was going to engage with the science but I found a popular newspaper report that Gavin Schmidt of NASA stated (on the basis of terrestrial data) that they were, after all, only 38% sure that 2014 was the hottest year.:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2915061/Nasa-climate-scientists-said-2014-warmest-year-record-38-sure-right.html

      Not the best source but he either said it or he didn’t, and if he did then NASA reckon it is considerably (x 1.6) more likely that 2014 wasn’t the hottest year on record than that it was – which is the subject of this blog post.

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        Hi Anton,

        “From her I cited specifically a summary of a piece of Anthony Watts’ work. Watts does have expertise in the relevant field, and I’m presuming that if I raise specific claims of his then you won’t mind pointing out where and why you disagree.”

        OK, I was hoping to prompt you to do a little more searching beyond the Watts/JoNova/Pielke sphere of writers yourself. But, OK here we go, (BTW Philip’s reference to Tamino’s blog is a great place to start, it’s an excellent blog, written by someone who knows what he is doing). Here are some other places you might want to look:

        1) another good place to read (at a popular/layman’s level) about these things is Skeptical Science (www. skepticalscience.com), and in particular the following link is a good place to start
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/watts-pbs-newshour.html

        It’s also worth perusing their “Most Used Climate Myths” section, and some of the other resources on there…I particularly like “The Escalator”

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

        2) http://variable-variability.blogspot.com/2012/07/blog-review-of-watts-et-al-2012.html

        3) Another technical website, often with posted R code of the analysis done by the author, is moyhu.blogspot.com and you you can a search for Watts on that site.

        4) Even The Blackboard didn’t like Anthony’s report
        http://rankexploits.com/musings/2012/initial-thoughts-on-the-watts-et-al-draft/#_jmp0_

        There is also the standard literature (though sadly, a lot of that is behind a paywall), but there are links in the aforementioned posts.

        So, anyway, I gave you a list of keywords to search for that would have led you to discover that there is a great deal that is iffy, and even plain wrong, in Watts’ analysis. The above links (and links within those pages) will show you some of the details. Oh, and BTW, Watts’ analysis was published by The Heartland Institute, (if memory serves me) and not in a peer reviewed science journal of any repute.

        As I said before, I commend Watts for the hard work he has put in to assembling the data on terrestrial stations. However, placement effects, heat islands, etc etc have been known about for something close on 100 years. Climatologists know how to account for them when forming a spatial average with minimal (if any) bias. This result has been shown over and over again in the standard literature, but it’s something that Watts and crew ignore over and over again. What is more, Watts ignored things (e.g. time of observation effects) that have to be taken into account.

        One might initially be impressed with Watts, Goddard, et al., because on the face of it, and without thinking much about it, what they say seems to make sense. And if one’s predilection is towards global warming is a sham, then it’s easy to get enwrapped in what they say. However, a little more digging, and a little analysis on one’s own part, reveals basic flaws in their arguments and analysis. After this has happened a dozen or so times (and so far, just about every serious suggestion by Watts, Goddard, Mckittrick etc has been shown to be false) one comes to realize that maybe these guys are not the ones to be listening to.

        In my graduate level classes I use the following as an example of how easily one can screw up, but without analyzing the code to see what had been done, it’s hard to determine (and this argument goes for both sides of the argument). Ross McKitrick and colleagues published a paper in 2004 claiming that a large portion of the temperature signal was actually due to economics, not CO2. Unfortunately, in their analysis, they didn’t realize that the programming language they used calculated sines and cosines using radians, and their input data was in degrees. When this is accounted for, their effect disappears. You can read more about this at

        http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2004/08/26/mckitrick6/
        where you’ll see links to more of McKitrick’s blunders.

        Even when these people claim that climate scientists have made mistakes, they are usually incorrect. So after a while, one treats their comments as noise (it’s something there, you take a look at it once in a while, but generally, you disregard it).

        Are there valid discrepancies and mistakes made by climate scientists? Sure there are. These are usually found quite quickly and corrected. One that took a long tom to track down and that I find particularly beautiful is described here

        http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0807/full/453601a.html

        A nice explanation is given here

        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/06/of-buckets-and-blogs/comment-page-1/

        Now, you can also find (I won’t bother to provide links) the histrionics about the same subject on Watts’ blog and other such places.

        My original comment to your post solely concerned your statement about the reliability of satellite-based over terrestrial temperature observations. You have still not defended your original statement. Instead, you’ve brought up all sorts of other arguments that have nothing at all to do with the original. This again is a standard debating trick which can be quite effective (it’s a standard of creationists for example); you just throw as many “problems” at your opponent as you can. This is particularly effective if the “problems” are, on the face of it, quite alarming, but a proper appreciation of them requires some background information, and some careful science. Done well, this trick places the opponent at the disadvantage because they have to spend their time giving detailed backgrounds (as I have partly done here) to address the perceived problems. To the uninformed audience, it then appears that there are myriad problems which are quite obvious, but the scientist has had to go to great lengths to dismiss only one or two of them. So, not only by sheer number does the creationist etc. “win” the argument, but also through the fact that the problems seem simple but the explanations of why these are not problems are lengthy. In addition, the uninformed can come away with the impression that the scientist has something to hide.

        So, play fair, Anton.

        p.s. Phillip’s post is very good too.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Adrian,

        You say that I did not give a point-by-point response to yours. That is true. I am not, however, “deliberately changing the subject when I start to lose the argument” (to summarise the rhetorical trick in question). Each point is then liable to generate several more, and so on, and the resulting discussion has a huge number of branches and loses sight of the original point – which is whether 2014 was hottest. I am pruning the branching tree of the discussion. I cite a comment by Gavin Schmidt of NASA that (based on terrestrial data) 2014 was 1.6 times more likely not to have been the hottest year than to have been. That is very different from NASA’s original comments, from the comments that Peter reblogged, and incidentally from the BBC (which remains most Brits’ first source). As for the satellite data, calibration of it against terrestrial data is tricky but it can still be used to compare year against year because the inversion technique is consistent.

        Thank you for the URLs, which I’ll read.

  4. The elephant in the room behind all the debate about what this post is about, who said what, what axes people have to grind etc is the question whether there is a scientific consensus about the claims a) that global warming has been occurring since the industrial revolution, and in particular in the last 50 years, b) that it is caused primarily by carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels and c) that the rise in temperature is much more rapid than climate change at other times in Earth’s history. The answer is “yes” to all three, by a very wide margin. That is a fact. Whether or not this means that “yes” is the correct answer to all three is, of course, a different question.

    Since I used to work in climate science (see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02369006 for an example), I can certainly say that the claims I have often heard from “sceptics” a) that the models and/or input data are fudged in order to get the “desired” result, b) that this was done to support a left-wing political agenda or c) that this was done in order to get the answer the funding agencies wanted to hear are complete rubbish with regard to a) our paper, b) with regard to all papers written by my co-authors and c) regarding all the people working in the field I met during my stint there and then. Again, this doesn’t prove it didn’t happen elsewhere, but I have no reason to believe that my sampling wasn’t fair.

    Saying that there are two sides to the debate doesn’t take into account the relative credibility of the corresponding sides. Fox News might say it is “fair and balanced” by interviewing Democrats and Republicans on some issue, but a) there are more opinions than just these two (perhaps difficult to grasp for Fox-News reporters who think that a two-party system is democracy) and b) it is the job of news to check whether claims are well founded scientifically, if there are other reasons to suspect that someone has an axe to grind etc. (Note that just because someone profits from something doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy; anti-vaccination mystics claim that the fact that pharmaceutical concerns make money from vaccines is one proof that they are bogus, which is of course not logical reasoning (and ignores the fact that they would make much more from drugs used to treat people who become sick due to lack of vaccinations).)

    As a Bayesian, one should not fail to take into account the fact that a minority scientific opinion is more likely to be wrong if it is touted mainly by evangelical Christians (or deeply religious people of any faith), be it global-warming “scepticism” or creationism. No, that doesn’t prove it is wrong, but it is information which should not be ignored.

    I don’t see any essential difference between AGW “sceptics” and “the big bang never happened”, “free energy”, “ancient astronauts” etc.

    • Note that there is an interesting blog where essentially every claim by Anthony Watts is shot down. It’s not enough to say “yes it is” or “no it isn’t” to further the debate; one has to show where, on this blog, Tamino has gone wrong.

    • Adrian Burd Says:

      “I don’t see any essential difference between AGW “sceptics” and “the big bang never happened”, “free energy”, “ancient astronauts” etc.”

      Ancient Astronaut Theorists tend to be more sartorially flamboyant and use an astounding amount of hair product!! I think this significantly distinguishes them from the other “sceptics”.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        You’ve met enough of them to assert that with some reliability? Interesting! I let a perpetual motion man ie free energy into my office once; his proposal was a variant on the overbalancing wheel concept, but each time I showed him where it was wrong he made it a bit more complicated until neither of us could see what was going on. I then told him that the force analyses I had described intuitively while knocking down the simpler proposals all implied something called a First Integral which meant that energy was conserved, and that the same was true in his complicated proposal. He said he didn’t understand that. I said that if he was serious then he should take a course, and also build a working prototype and be educated in the process. He said that he doubted that he could reduce friction enough. I told him cordially that I could do no more for him and I think he preferred to preserve the delusion that he was a lone genius than educate himself.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Phillip, where some Christians consider that the Bible has something to say about a particular scientific theory, there is a risk of a clash. But you would do well to remember that modern science was born in the one culture out of many in which just about everybody believed that the Bible was factually true. To adapt your comment, that doesn’t prove it is not coincidence, but it is information which should not be ignored. I can argue for some causal links.

      Where science and the Bible are irreconcilable – we can both agree about this – is miracles.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Phillip, if you want elephants in this room then some are political, such as the statement by Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, that “We distribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy… one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy; this has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore” (interview in Neue Zuercher Zeitung (2010/11/14). And the IPCC’s chair Rajendra Pachauri, an expert on railway economics, saying in Nature that “I am not going to rest easy until I have articulated… theneed to bring about major structural changes in economic growth and development. That’s the real issue. climate change is just a part of it.”

      I don’t believe that climate scientists are more dishonest than other scientists, but the IPCC is a dishonest organisation.

      • Threatening to articulate the need for major structural changes in economic growth and development? How scandalously evil of him!

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        He wants to take money from the poor in rich countries and give it to the rich in poor countries.

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        It’s worth making the distinction between those who present the information upon which climate policy is made and those who make the climate policy. Individuals can argue for specific policies, but they are not always the same people whose job it is to make the policy.

        If you regard the IPCC as a “dishonest organization” then that’s up to you and rather something of a generalization that would be hard to defend I think. Dare one say that some might have similar views about other organizations.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        By all means. Honesty is, unhappily, the exception in this world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: