Video and charts make clear the planet is still warming — and there’s only one way to stop it

January 11, 2013

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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The planet just keeps warming, as NASA data makes clear (via Tamino).

Perhaps you thought that the whole “planet isn’t warming” meme was killed by record-smashing Arctic ice loss and off-the-charts heat waves and extreme weather. Maybe you thought the deniers would move on to another strategy after last summer’s bombshell Koch-funded study. After all, it found ”global warming is real,” “on the high end” and “essentially all” due to carbon pollution.

Sadly, the disinformers have a strategic single-mindedness that would make a hedgehog jealous. What has set them rolling up into a spiny ball this time is the UK Met Office, which recently revised its near-term temperature prediction (through 2017) down slightly. If that new projection comes true (which I doubt), then the planet’s apparent warming compared to the super El-Nino year of 1998 will be modest.

I say apparent warming because the overwhelming majority of manmade warming goes into the oceans, which just keep warming (see charts below) — and because even the land-based temperature clearly show the warming trend continued unabated. Skeptical Science has an excellent new video on this last point:

[O]nce the short-term warming and cooling influences of volcanic eruptions, solar activity, and El Niño and La Niña events are statistically removed from the temperature record, there is no evidence of a change in the rate of greenhouse warming. This replicates the result of a study by Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) under slightly different assumptions.

The human contribution to global warming over the last 16 years is essentially the same as during the prior 16 years. Human-caused greenhouse warming, while partially hidden by natural variations, has continued in line with model projections. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control, we will see faster warming in the future.

I’ll repeat the analogy (from my previous debunking of this myth) to the notion it hasn’t warmed from the El-Nino-fueled summer of 1997 through the La-Nina-cooled summer of 2012. Imagine your kid got 11 B’s and 1 A+ in 9th grade science class. Then, in 10th grade science, she gets 9 A’s and 2 A+’s — but her last grade was “just” an A. Would you say she is doing better in science class or worse in science class? (Dan Braganca did a nice charticle on that analogy.)

You can’t slow global warming with either cherry-picking or hand-waving (see “The Radiative Forcing of the CO2 Humans Have Put in the Air Equals 1 Million Hiroshima Bombs a Day“). You need to rapidly deploy carbon-free energy to do that (see Study: We’re Headed To 11°F Warming And Even 7°F Requires “Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate Of Decarbonisation“).


What follows is an extended and updated excerpt from my October debunking “Ten Charts That Make Clear The Planet Just Keeps Warming.”

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NOAA has a great chart that notes “Every year of 2000s [was] warmer than 1990s average”:

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The recent La Nina, far from providing evidence that the planet isn’t warming, demonstrates the exact reverse, since it was the hottest La Nina on record — as seen in this chart from NOAA:

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See also this discussion of the World Meteorological Organization from December 2011: 2011 Is Warmest La Niña Year on Record and Science “Proves Unequivocally” It’s “Due to Human Activities.”

If you want to refute the disinformers with perhaps the biggest dataset, analyzed independently, and backed by Koch money, well, you have to go to the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Study — and really, what else is it good for? Their key paper from 2011 found it’s warming fast:

… our analysis suggests a degree of global land-surface warming during the anthropogenic era that is consistent with prior work (e.g. NOAA) but on the high end of the existing range of reconstructions.

They compare their findings with all the other datasets, and it looks like this:

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The decadal land-surface average temperature using a 10-year moving average of surface temperatures over land. Anomalies are relative to the Jan 1950 – December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates 95% statistical and spatial uncertainty interval.A Koch-funded reanalysis of 1.6 billion temperature reports finds that “essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.” Via BEST.

Still warming, though that’s just a chart of land-surface temperatures.

In fact, the land has received only a tiny fraction of the manmade warming in recent years as the scientific literature — captured in this great Skeptical Science infographic — makes clear:

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Components of global warming for the period 1993 to 2003 calculated from IPCC AR4

Now, if you actually read the scientific literature, you find the oceans have been rapidly warming in recent decades (see “Hottest Decade on Record Would Have Been Even Hotter But for Deep Oceans“):

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“Total Earth Heat Content [anomaly] from 1950 (Murphy et al. 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al 2008.”

And no, the ocean didn’t stop warming in the middle the last decade, as a chart from yet another scientific study makes clear (see “Search for ‘Missing Heat’ Ends Myth Global Warming Has Ended“):

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Revised estimate of global ocean heat content (10-1500 mtrs deep) for 2005-2010 derived from Argo measurements. The 6-yr trend accounts for 0.55±0.10Wm−2. Error bars and trend uncertainties exclude errors induced by remaining systematic errors in the global observing system. See Von Schuckmann & Le Traon (2011). Via Skeptical Science.

Still warming.

You may have noticed in the infographic that Arctic sea ice has seen 0.8% of global warming — nearly two-fifths of the warming the continents have received. I wonder what has been happening in the Arctic:

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Arctic sea ice is melting much, much faster than even the best climate models had projected (actual observations in red). The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. The image (from Climate Crocks via Arctic Sea Ice Blog) comes from a 2007 GRL research paper by Stroeve et al.

Oh, right, it’s in a death spiral — and that’s just the two-dimensional sea ice extent. Let’s remember that “Experts Warn Of ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue.”

Finally we have the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which each have been getting a mere 0.2% of the warming. Let’s check in on those:

Warming and melting faster than ever.

That’s nine charts and one video, enough for now, but there are many other physical indicators of continued warming (see “How Can It Be Warming When It’s (Almost) Always Cooling?“)

Joe Romm

Dr. Joe Romm is Founding Editor of Climate Progress, “the indispensable blog,” as NY Times columnist Tom Friedman describes it.

Tags: El Niño, global warming, La Niña