Alarmism Cranked Up to Absurd Level

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With the El Niño-related uptick in the February 2016 GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index, Figure 1, alarmism has reached beyond the Spinal Tap 11 volume setting, up to 20. (For those in need of a chuckle, the YouTube video of related portion of This is Spinal Tap is here.  Thanks to Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest for that very funny scene.)

Figure 1 GISS LOTI 1880-Feb 2016

Figure 1


Here are a few examples.

The Reuters article Record surge in 2016 temperatures adds urgency to climate deal, say scientists features some notable quotes and a photo of a dead cow in South Africa—yes, a dead cow, a solitary dead cow, without explanation—as if to say, Oh look, a dead cow. It must be due to global warming.  Also, I believe on-the-dole activists in the title and text would be more appropriate than scientists.

The always-entertaining Dr. Michael Mann claims on Twitter here:

NH ave temp reached ~2.5C relative to pre-industrial last month (background: …) (h/t #Tamino)

Curiously, the graph Michael Mann linked from Tamino (Figure 2) doesn’t illustrate Northern Hemisphere temperature anomalies referenced to pre-industrial times.  Is Mann guessing the February value was approximately 2.5 deg C when referenced to pre-industrial times? Additionally, the UN’s 2-deg C assumed-bad-things-will-happen threshold is for global temperature anomalies above pre-industrial values, not Northern Hemisphere temperatures.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Chris Colose on twitter with the illustration supplied with his tweet here contradicts Michael Mann.  That graph does have the anomalies for the Northern Hemisphere referenced to “pre-industrial” times or as close to pre-industrial that we can come with the data at hand.  See Figure 3. The February 2016 value falls short of 2.5 deg C, so we might conclude that Michael Mann had, in fact, guessed.  And again, the UN’s assumed 2-deg threshold of bad things to happen relates to global temperatures, not those of the Northern Hemisphere.  Yet the alarmists seem to be fixated on the North Hemisphere temperature anomalies this month.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Not surprisingly, in his blog post Surprise, but not shock, statistician Grant Foster (a.k.a. Tamino) used an undocumented “model” to attempt to remove the effects of El Niño and La Niña events, variations in solar radiation, and volcanic aerosols from the GISS global temperature record.  Apparently his model needs some work, because after supposedly removing the effects of El Niños it still shows an uptick caused by the 2015/16 El Niño.  See Figure 4.  Maybe Tamino forgot to apply his “more complex model of the el Niño effect, one which matches the 1998 outburst” to the comparably sized 2015/16 El Niño, because as well see in a few moment the changes in global temperatures are also comparable.

Figure 4 Tamino GISS LOTI Adjusted by Model

Figure 4

We’ve also discussed and illustrated for many years that the long-term effects of strong El Niño events cannot be removed from the instrument temperature record with statistical models like Tamino’s.  That is, strong El Niño events contribute to long-term global warming by releasing vast amounts of sunlight-created warm water from beneath the surface of the western tropical Pacific and relocating it to the surface. That’s the simplest explanation of how a strong El Niño contributes to long-term global warming.  Some of that warm water released by the El Niño in turn releases heat to the atmosphere, primarily through evaporation. But the remaining warm waters (the leftovers) don’t magically disappear after the El Niño, as Tamino and some from the climate science community would like you to believe.  See the discussions of “big jumps” in the Open Letter to the Royal Meteorological Society Regarding Dr. Trenberth’s Article “Has Global Warming Stalled?”


The headline of the Reuters article reads Record surge in 2016 temperatures adds urgency to climate deal, say scientists.  The phrase “record surge” suggests a never-before-seen upward change in global surface temperatures.   But there’s nothing unusual about the January to February 2016 change in monthly global surface temperatures represented by the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index.  See Figure 5.

Figure 5 GISS 1-Month Change

Figure 5

Nor is there anything unusual in the most recent 13-month change in global surface temperatures, according to the GISS data. See Figure 6.  In fact, the “annual” changes in response to the weak 1994/95 El Niño and the strong 1997/98 El Niño surpassed the change so far to this El Niño. With the uncertainties of the data, the changes in 1997/98 and in 2015/16 are at best comparable. Forgetting the uncertainties for a moment, the recent 13-month change has been surpassed many times previously.

Figure 6 GISS Annual Change in Monthly

Figure 6

That obviously contradicts the statement in the Reuters article that was attributed to Phil Jones:

Phil Jones, of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said El Nino seemed less to blame for the current surge than the last big El Nino in 1998.

Sounds like more guesswork from the climate science community to me.

That “last big El Niño” actually took place in 1997 and 1998, not solely 1998. It evolved in 1997 and decayed in 1998.

Another way we can illustrate the similar global temperatures responses to the 1997/98 and 2015/16 El Niños is by comparing the related global temperature data from January 1997 to December 1998 and from January 2015 to present.  See Figure 7.  Note, for comparison purposes, that the data have been normalized to the first 3 months of their respective periods.

Figure 7 GISS LOTI Evolutions 97-98 and 15-16 El Ninos

Figure 7

Looking solely at the plots, in 2015, global surface temperature anomalies declined at first.  In other words, global surfaces during those El Niño development years initially warmed faster in 1997/98 than in 2015/16, but the values in 2015/16 recently caught up. The delayed upswing in 2015 makes the recent uptick look ominous.   Additionally, that graph doesn’t consider the uncertainties of the data.  As noted on Figure 7, GISS doesn’t publish uncertainties with their monthly global LOTI data.  If we assume they’re comparable to the data from NOAA, the recent monthly uncertainties are about +/- 0.17 Deg C. (See the NOAA webpage here.)  Realistically, contrary to the claims attributed to Phil Jones, the best we can say is that the global temperature responses to both El Niño events are comparable, given the uncertainties of the data.


I get similar results when I reference the GISS LOTI data to the “pre-industrial” period of 1880-1909 for anomalies.  See the top cell of Figure 8. But once again, the assumed 2-deg threshold of bad things to happen relates to global temperatures, not those of the Northern Hemisphere. So in the bottom graph, I’ve included the Southern Hemisphere GISS LOTI data.  It shows warming at a much slower rate and fails to show the major uptick from January to February 2016, which gives you an idea of why Mann and Colose are concentrating on the Northern Hemisphere with its uptick.

Figure 8

Figure 8

The global results are shown in Figure 9.  They are as one would expect from the two hemispheres.

Figure 9

Figure 9

Alarmists see that recent upswing and attribute it to manmade global warming, but it’s comparable to the rise in global temperatures in response to the 1997/98 El Niño.  With the current decay of the 2015/16 El Niño, the possible transition to a La Niña and the dissipation of The Blob, global surface temperatures are not going to stay at that new peak value.  They’re going to drop and future newcomers to the global temperature record are going to wonder what caused the odd-looking spike in 2015/16.

Notes:  We discussed and illustrated the natural causes of the claimed 2014 “record high” surface temperatures in General Discussion 2 of my free ebook On Global Warming and the Illusion of Control (25 MB).  And we discussed the naturally caused reasons for the record highs in 2015 in General Discussion 3.

We recently showed in the post here that global sea surface temperature anomalies and those in both hemispheres dropped from January to February 2016.  That means the January to February uptick in global land+ocean surface temperatures occurred primarily in the (boreal winter) land surface air temperature anomalies. We also showed that, even though the 2015-16 response globally is less than that in 1997/98 (graph here), the sea surface temperatures surged higher in the Northern Hemisphere in late 2015 than was ever achieved in 1997/98 (graph here).  It’s very possible the recent surge in Northern Hemisphere land surface air temperature is in part a delayed response to that surge in Northern Hemisphere sea surface temperatures.  [End notes.]


The climate science community when acting as scientists uses linear trends to describe global warming.  Activists, on the other hand, attempt to alarm the public with every upward wiggle in global surface temperatures.

Figure 10 includes the global GISS LOTI data.  For that graph, I’ve shifted the data so that the linear trend line intersects with zero at the start of the data, January 1880. Why? “Pre-industrial” refers to the time before the Industrial Revolution, which is typically said to have occurred from 1750-1850.  Unfortunately, the end of pre-industrial times, 1750, is well before the January 1880 start date of the GISS data, so, given what we’ve got, I’ve zeroed the trend line at 1880.

We’ve already shown that there can be large variations in monthly and annual surface temperature anomalies.  See Figures 5 and 6.   Also note that there are multidecadal changes in the global surfaces temperature anomalies. This is easy to see with the data being located above the trend line for some multidecadal periods and below the trend line for others. Those monthly, annual and multidecadal variations skew our perspective of the change in global surface temperatures.   A linear trend line accounts for those monthly, annual and multidecadal wiggles.

Figure 10 Global Trend vs 2-deg Threshold

Figure 10

Relying on the linear trend line as our global warming reference, global surface temperatures since 1880 have not yet reached the halfway point of the UN’s 2-deg C assumed-something-bad-will-happen threshold for global temperature anomalies.


It should come as no surprise: with all the nonsensical hubbub about the recent El Niño-related uptick in global surface temperatures, not once has anyone mentioned the continuing disparity between observed global warming rates and the global warming as simulated by the CMIP5-archived climate models, which were used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a political body, not a scientific one—for their 5th Assessment Report.  I’m happy to overcome that deficit and illustrate the continuing problems with the models.  For the models, we’re using the multi-model mean of the climate models stored in the CMIP5-archive, with historic and worst-case RCP8.5 forcing projections. The model mean basically represents the consensus (the groupthink) of the modeling groups for how global surface temperatures should vary if they varied solely in response to the anthropogenic forcings (manmade greenhouse gases, etc.) used to drive the models.  And for the data, we’re using the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index, which has been the subject of this post.  For more information on the use of the model mean, see the post here.

Climate is normally defined as average weather and the typical timeframe is 30-years.  Figure 11 includes a model-data comparison of the 360-month (30-year) trends in global surface temperature.  The 360-month trends are aligned with the last month of the respective period (thus the term “trailing” in the title block).  Notice that the scale of the y-axis (vertical axis) is deg C/decade, not simply deg C. Basically, the graph illustrates the simulated and observed 30-year warming and cooling rates; that is, it shows how fast global temperatures warmed or cooled over those 360-month periods.

Figure 11

Figure 11

First note that the uptick in global surface temperatures in February 2016 had no real impact on the most recent 30-year trends.  The tiny upswing at the tail is no greater than other variations.

Also note how, for the more recent warming, the data trend plateaus starting with the 30-year period ending in the early 1990s.  The models show the 30-year warming growing faster and faster (accelerating) over the past decade or more, while the data show no acceleration since before the early 1990s.  The fact that global warming over 30-year periods, according to the GISS data, has not accelerated for more than 2-decades is a problem for the modelers.  If in the near future, global warming based on 30-year trends continues not to accelerate, people may start to realize there may be a maximum rate at which global surface temperatures can rise, regardless of how much CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere.  That certainly would be a problem for all of the UN’s prognostications of gloom and doom.

The other big problem for the modelers is the disparity in 30-year warming rates ending about 1945.  The data indicate that from about 1916 to 1945 global surfaces warmed at a rate that was slightly more than 0.15 deg C per decade (which is comparable to the recent warming rate we’ve been stuck at for the past 2 decades). On the other hand, the models indicate that if global warming was limited to the forcings used to drive the models, global warming should only have occurred at a rate that was roughly 0.05 deg C per decade. In other words, the data shows that global surface temperatures can warm 3 times faster than predicted by the models.  Of course, if the models can’t simulate it, it must have occurred naturally.  And that suggests two things: (1) that two-thirds of the recent warming could also have occurred naturally and (2) that the climate models have been tuned so that they are way too sensitive to manmade greenhouse gases.


There have been and there will continue to be lots of nonsensical comments about the recent El Niño-related upticks in global surface temperatures. We’ve addressed many of them in this post.  GISS released their February data a few days ago.  NOAA’s are set for release on March 17th, with the UK Met Office’s data due later in the month.   I can’t foresee any other nonsensical comments from alarmists, but, then again, they’re always full of surprises.  We’ll take them as they come.

Though not discussed in this post, the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index uses the new ERSST.v4 “pause buster” from NOAA.  It has many curiosities over the term of the data, as discussed and illustrated in the posts here and here.  Referenced to their standard base years of 1951-1980, the February 2016 GISS LOTI anomaly with the NOAA “pause buster” data is 1.35 deg C, with the NOAA ERSST.v3b sea surface temperature data they used before that, the February 2016 value is 1.27 deg C, and with the original combination of HADISST and Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data, the February 2016 value was 1.26 deg C.  While there is a noticeable difference, the upticks from January to February 2016 (+0.21 with ERSST.v4, +0.19 for ERSST.v3b, and +0.19 deg C for the HADISST/Reynolds OI.v2) were comparable.

Note to Reuters:  Please continue to show dead cows in your future global warming articles.  They remind me of Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons. Larson seemed to enjoy including cows in those cartoons.


The GISS Global LOTI data are here. For the Northern Hemisphere, they’re here, and for the Southern Hemisphere, the GISS LOTI data are here.  Outputs from the CMIP5-archived climate models are available from the KNMI Climate Explorer.


I discussed in detail the naturally occurring and naturally fueled processes that cause El Niño events (and their long-term aftereffects) in Chapter 3.7 of my recently published free ebook On Global Warming and the Illusion of Control (25 MB).  For those wanting even more detail, see my earlier ebook Who Turned on the Heat? – The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit: El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Who Turned on the Heat? only costs $5.00 (US).

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 Alarmism, GISS, Global Warming Goofiness. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Alarmism Cranked Up to Absurd Level

  1. Those models will have to be reworked, emissions aren’t growing as predicted. And we haven’t even got to the forthcoming oil and gas high price spike.

  2. frivolousz21 says:

    Even so. Regardless. of the enso state going forward I’d bet the baseline will stay above the average giss temps for 2014-15 and the renoyldsv2 ssta will average around the same level as the 1998 peak nino ssts.

    The 0-100M upper ocean ohc is way above any time before and because of enso heat distribution and the small window of greatly enhanced water vapor feedback the global heat budget will be higher than pre nino.

    And since radiative forcing continues to grow cooling won’t happen.

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