Interpreting the 0.7C fall in 2010 temperatures
Those familiar with the climate debate will naturally be aware that the rise in average official temperatures of 0.74C over the 20th century was an inherent component of IPCC’s conclusion of a future of dangerously high temperatures unless governments acted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But how to interpret the fall of 0.7C in the average Australian temperature for 2010? Clearly one year’s temperature doth not in itself maketh a new trend and believers in the IPCC’s conclusion are tending to portray it as either a one-off or even an unusual form of continued warming. But it is pertinent to give the development a perspective that differs from that conveyed by the believers.
For a start, the 2010 level was similar to average temperatures in 1914-15, 1928, 1938, 1959 and 1965, as well as in a number of subsequent years. It was also lower than in several years in the period since 1980. In short, it was not a one-off in terms of temperatures occurring over the past century.
The “explanations” by believers in the global warming theory are also seriously deficient.
Thus the annual statement published by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on 5 January concludes, without any qualification or explanation, that “the warming of Australia’s climate continues” (Overview). This is solely based on the (apparent) fact that the decade ending in 2010 is now the hottest decade since the Bureau’s official records started – which, it says, was in 1910. (The annual statement acknowledges, however, that the World Meteorological Organization has instrumental temperature records back to 1850, which indicates that some kind of “official” records for Australia exist back to that year). Even if one accepts this decadal analysis, the Bureau does not acknowledge that there has been no statistically significant increase in average temperatures during the period since 1998. This despite the continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which climatologists claim should result in temperatures increases and rainfall decreases.
What should have been explained is why in this period there hasn’t been any significant increase in temperatures when emissions have been increasing.
Nor does the BOM acknowledge either that the higher average temperatures since the late 1970s follow a major natural disturbance (the Great Pacific Climate Shift) that lifted temperatures by about 0.3C to a new level or that historical evidence indicates higher temperatures in periods before the last decade when there were virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.
By contrast with its temperature analysis, the BOM has acknowledged that mean rainfall in 2010 was “well above the long term average” and the third wettest year since 1900. Its accompanying graph showing annual rainfall back to 1900 indicates that, with the recent long drought, the recent period was drier than the period around 1940. However, the rainfall reduction was much less proportionately than the upward trend in official temperatures over the same period. In short, this confirms that there is not only no substantive co-relation between higher temperatures and lower rainfall but there is no reason to suppose a variation in Australia’s experience of prolonged dry and wet periods. Last March, however, the BOM and CSIRO jointly published a State of Climate Report which included a section headed “Much of Australia will be drier in coming decades”.
Two lead Australian authors of the IPCC have also expressed views about climate change since the Bureau’s annual statement.
In an article published in The Australian on 7 January, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Andy Pitman, made no comment on the 2010 temperature fall but re-affirmed the warmist view in the strongest possible terms viz; “we know with certainty that continued emissions of carbon dioxide will lead to warming, rising sea levels and ocean acidification at unprecedented rates, and that these changes will trigger expenses and outcomes that dwarf the costs of actually solving the problem”. Interestingly, Pitman also dismissed the views of fellow warmist, Tim Flannery, because he considered that Flannery’s support of Earth Mother Gaia reflects a scientist commenting outside their area of expertise (only “pure” climate scientists have that). Pitman also described as incorrect Flannery’s views that global warming has not continued over the past ten years and that “there hasn’t been a continuation of that warming trend”.
When (so-called) “experts” disagree, who is to deny the views of the now many sceptical climate scientists?
This is not the place to offer a critique of Pitman’s view about the certainty of the warming theory – except perhaps to say that it does not stand up to close examination. For present purposes it is sufficient to point out that, in his interview with the BBC environment reporter last year, the head of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University, Dr Phil Jones, acknowledged that there is uncertainty (The CRU was a major contributor to the last IPCC report). Jones agreed that there has been no statistically-significant global warming since 1995, that the vast majority of scientists did not believe the debate on climate change is over and that “there is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties”.
Another example of substantive disagreements between those experts who were actively involved in preparing IPCC reports.
There are more in similar vein. For example, widely known differences within the Royal Society led that source of wisdom to publish a report last September that included an acknowledgement that “some uncertainties are unlikely ever to be significantly reduced” and that “it is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future”.
Do these kind of “expert” comments provide a basis for our government to introduce a carbon price?
The views of another lead IPCC author and current President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Neville Nicholls, are also reflected in an article written in The Weekend Australian for 8-9 January by journalist Mike Steketee. In typical journalistic fashion Steketee seizes on the opportunity to dismiss geologist Bob Carter’s scathing critique of warmists simply by asserting “it is hard to find much comfort from the data” showing 2010 as the coolest year since 2001 – but, regrettably, Carter is given no opportunity to respond.
Steketee’s article, headed “Global weather disasters a sign the heat is on”, contains a one-sided view that includes his claim that “most scientists agree that doubling the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is likely to lead to warming of 2C-3C, an amount that risks significant economic and environmental damage”. Nobody can say what “most” might mean in this context but the basic point here is that over 20,000 scientists have signed the Oregon petition rejecting the warming theory.
Steketee clearly draws on the views of Nicholls and includes quotes by him. In summary, while Nicholls is less assertive than Pitman, he makes the following assertions relevant to the 2010 temperature and global warming generally:
The current La Nina is “the strongest or second strongest we have ever experienced” and that “one possible connection is that water temperatures in the oceans around Australia have never been so warm”.
However, there have in fact been high sea surface temperatures in previous La Ninas;
“The 12 years of drought was twice as long as the previous longest drought in the region” where the Vic bushfires occurred and the temperature on Black Saturday was “a large step up from the previous record” . “There is very strong evidence that global warming exacerbated the fire situation”.
However, a range of factors contributed to the bushfires and a similar temperature to that on Black Saturday did occur in a past bushfire;
“For the last couple of decades we have certainly been getting more hot records being set than cold records”.
However, none of the 5 recorded highest daily January temperatures occurred in the last decade.
Note also that, as with the BOM, Nicholls does not mention either the absence of any statistically significant increase in average temperatures since 1998 or the major naturally induced temperature increase in 1976-77.
It would not be surprising if there has been a certain “coordination” between the two lead authors about the need to present a form of “explanation” of the fall in temperatures in 2010. In the US warmists have similarly created a number of “explanations” for the very cold weather in Northern Europe and eastern USA that purport to show that the cold weather does not mean a cessation of warming tendencies. Whether or not such coordination occurred it is apparent that the 2010 climate outturn has added to the increasing problems facing the believers in the warming theory and has brought further into the open fundamental disagreements between “experts”.
This latest display of highly questionable opinions and supposedly factual statements by “experts” strengthens the case for a proper independent inquiry.
Des Moore acknowledges advice provided by William Kininmonth and Tom Quirk.
Des Moore is Director of the Institute for Private Enterprise.