Congenital Climate Abnormalities
By Willis Eschenbach | Watts Up With That? | February 13, 2010
Science is what we use to explain anomalies, to elucidate mysteries, to shed light on unexplained occurrences. For example, there is no great need for a scientific explanation of the sun rising in the morning. If one day the sun were to rise in the afternoon, however, that is an anomaly which would definitely require a scientific explanation. But there is no need to explain the normal everyday occurrences. We don’t need a new understanding if there is nothing new to understand.
Hundreds of thousands of hours of work, and billions of dollars, have been expended trying to explain the recent variations in the climate, particularly the global temperature. But in the rush to find an explanation, a very important question has been left unasked:
Just exactly what unusual, unexpected temperature anomaly are we trying to explain?
The claim is made over and over that humans are having an effect on the climate. But where is the evidence that there is anything that even needs explanation? Where is the abnormal phenomenon? What is it that we are trying to make sense of, what is the unusual occurrence that requires a novel scientific explanation?
There are not a lot of long-term temperature records that can help us in this regard. The longest one is the Central England Temperature record (CET). Although there are problems with the CET (see Sources below), including recent changes in the stations used to calculate it that have slightly inflated the modern temperatures, it is a good starting point for an investigation of whether there is anything happening that is abnormal. Here is that record:
Figure 1. The Central England Temperature Record. Blue line is the monthly temperature in Celsius. Red line is the average temperature. Jagged black line is the 25-year trailing trend, in degrees per century.
Now, where in that record is there anything which is even slightly abnormal? Where is the anomaly that the entire huge edifice of the AGW hypothesis is designed to elucidate? The longest sustained rise is from about 1680 to 1740. That time period also has the steepest rise. The modern period, on the other hand, is barely above the long-term trend despite urban warming. There is nothing unusual about the modern period in any way.
OK, so there’s nothing to explain in the CET. How about another long record?
One of the world’s best single station long-term records is that of the Armagh Observatory in Ireland. It has been maintained with only a couple minor location changes for over 200 years. Figure 2 shows the Armagh record.
Figure 2. Temperature record for Armagh University. Various colored lines as in Figure 1.
We find the same thing in this record as in the CET. The fastest rise was a long, long time ago. The modern rise is once again insignificant. Where in all of this is anything that requires billions of dollars to explain?
Finally, what about the global record? Here, you don’t have to take my word for it. A much chastened Phil Jones (the disgraced former Director of the CRU of email fame), in an interview with the BBC on Friday, February 12, 2010, answered a BBC question as follows:
Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?
An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I’ve assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.
Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).
I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.
So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.
So in fact, according to Phil Jones (who strongly believes in the AGW hypothesis) there is nothing unusual about the recent warming either. It is not statistically different from two earlier modern periods of warming. Since these warming periods were before the modern rise in CO2, greenhouse gases cannot have been responsible for those rises.
So my question remains unanswered … where is the anomaly? Where is the unusual occurrence that we are spending billions of dollars trying to explain?
The answer is, there is no unusual warming. There is no anomaly. There is nothing strange or out of the ordinary about the recent warming. It is in no way distinguishable from earlier periods of warming, periods that we know were not due to rising CO2. There is nothing in the record that is in any way different from the centuries-long natural fluctuations in the global climate.
In other words, we have spent billions of dollars and wasted years of work chasing a chimera, a will-of-the-wisp. This is why none of the CO2 explanations have held water … simply because there is nothing unusual to explain.
ADJUSTMENTS TO THE CET:
Jones also makes the interesting argument in the interview that the reason he believes that recent warming is anthropogenic (human-caused) is because climate models can’t replicate it … in other words, he has absolutely no evidence at all, he just has the undeniable fact that our current crop of climate models can’t model the climate. Seems to me like that’s a problem with the models rather than a problem with the climate, but hey, what do I know, I was born yesterday …