Joe Romm Predicts “…All But Certain Ruin for Modern Civilization…” from a NOAA Fisheries Press Release

You can’t make this stuff up.

The April 25, 2013 NOAA press release Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Years on Northeast Continental Shelf has been getting coverage by the mainstream media, including alarmist websites like Climate Progress. Sea surface temperatures may be the warmest in 150 years in specific regions of the Northeast Continental Shelf, but NOAA advised that they’re comparable to sea surface temperatures experienced in the late 1940s and early 1950s:

Sea surface temperature for the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem reached a record high of 14 degrees Celsius (57.2°F) in 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 12.4 C (54.3 F) over the past three decades.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Climate Progress was foolish enough to prolong a myth and include a reference to Hurricane Sandy in their alarmist twaddle, along with a graph of global ocean heat content from Nuccitelli et al (2012)—as if global ocean heat content represents the sea surface temperatures of the Northeast Continental Shelf and Sandy’s storm track. Joe Romm writes:

No doubt it was purely coincidental that six months ago, in the fall of 2012, the Northeast was hit by the “largest hurricane in Atlantic history measured by diameter of gale force winds (1,040mi).” Or not.

And Romm concludes with the absurd statement (my boldface):

But I guess we’ll need some storms even more destructive than frankenstorm Sandy before the nation wakes up to the reality that climate change is unfolding much as scientists had warned — and that means all but certain ruin for modern civilization if we don’t slash carbon pollution rapidly.

We’ve already addressed how, based on the linear trend, the sea surface temperature anomalies along Sandy’s storm track haven’t warmed in 70+ years, and we’ve also seen that there was actually a downward shift in sea surface temperatures of Sandy’s extratropical storm track in the 1960s, as illustrated and discussed in the post here.

And we’ve also discussed how ocean heat content data and satellite-era sea surface temperature data and indicate the oceans warmed naturally. If this subject is new to you, refer to my illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” [42MB]. For even more information, there’s more detail in my ebook Who Turned on the Heat? which was introduced in the blog post here. It’s available in pdf form here for US$8.00.

The recent NOAA press release is very similar to another one back in September 2012, Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Record Highs on Northeast Continental Shelf, which I commented on here. The regions identified are not exactly the same, so let’s see what the data shows.

The recent NOAA press release does not state what coordinates they used for sea surface temperatures, but they did include a map. See Figure 2. Figure 1, above, illustrates the sea surface temperature anomalies for the coordinates of 35N-45N, 76W-66W, which is the entire region shown in the map on the right. It includes the Northeast Continental Shelf and extends out beyond the regions NOAA has highlighted. (Note: I’m using NOAA’s ERSST.v3b dataset for sea surface temperature data.) The data for that region, when smoothed with the 12-month filter, shows that recent sea surface temperature anomalies were about the same as they were in the late 1940s. But monthly anomalies around 1950 clearly exceeded recent values.

Figure 2

Figure 2

So let’s look at the data for the two subsets. Figure 3 shows the sea surface temperature anomalies for the coordinates of 40N-45N, 74W-66W, which I’ve identified as New England portion. Those coordinates capture the regions in the NOAA map identified as Southern New England (SNE), Georges Bank (GB), and the Gulf of Maine (GOM). The 12-month running average shows that sea surface temperatures for a recent 12-month period were the warmest for this small region of the global oceans, but the monthly data show comparable temperature anomalies in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Figure 3

Figure 3

The Mid-Atlantic Bight region is captured by the coordinates of 35N-41N, 76W-74W. The sea surface temperature anomaly data for this very small portion of the Northeast Continental Shelf and Sandy’s storm track are shown in Figure 4. Clearly, the monthly and smoothed data both show sea surface temperatures were warmer in the 1940s and 1950s than they were recently.

Figure 4

Figure 4


I’m always amazed how chicken-little alarmists like Joe Romm can turn a simple press release into evidence of “certain ruin of civilization”. Romm must have missed the last sentence in the opening paragraph of NOAA’s press release (my boldface):

These high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) provides an excellent service for the fishing industry from North Carolina to Maine. With two press releases on the same topic over the past 8 months, one might suspect NOAA is trying to help NEFSC funding. I can’t see how the absurd, increasingly desperate alarmism from Joe Romm would help that. It simply makes reasonable persons ever more skeptical.


The ERSST.v3b data are available through the KNMI Climate Explorer.


About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
This entry was posted in CAGW Proponent Arguments, Weather Event Hype. Bookmark the permalink.

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