Global Warming – 102

Global Warming 102 – Global Temperatures – Past, Present and Future

Background — After a sustained period of cooler global temperatures from 1944 to 1980, the earth began to steadily warm again in accordance with the current long term warming trend (since 1650 and a matter of NASA record since 1880). As we moved into the late 1980’s the earth’s temperature was getting increasingly warm, reaching temperature levels nearing the high temperature peaks indicated in the earth’s previous cooling/warming cycles (see figure 1).   People were beginning to get concerned.   It was known that manmade emissions of CO2 had been increasing greatly (since about 1945) and it was known that the CO2 in the atmosphere is a contributor (albeit a minor one) to keeping heat from escaping the earth.  Thus, it was reasonable to hypothesize that the large increase in CO2 emissions by human activities was increasing the rate of global warming.  This was a hypothesis and like any hypothesis it needed to be examined, tested, and verified before it is accepted as fact. The hypothesis was challenged in Global Warming 101 based on empirical records showing extended periods of global temperature cooling concurrent with steadily rising emissions of CO2.   

In Global Warming 101 using a graph showing the avg. annual global temperatures since 1880 and a second showing the rates of increase in human source carbon dioxide emissions, three basic conclusions were reached: (1) the earth is in a period of global warming and has been warming for a very long time, (2) though there is overall warming there are long periods (tens of years) of cooling or of  relative stability in global temperatures, and (3) the existence and rate of global warming is not being significantly influenced by human source CO2.

In Global Warming 102 you will be provided with four basics relative to the global warming and “climate change” discussions.  These factual data will give you a foundation to help you read, understand, interpret and evaluate the truth or lack of it in the rhetoric heard and in the articles written on this subject.  Most of such communication commonly seen is to persuade for political or advocacy purposes. However, there have been, since the late 1980’s, a plethora of technical articles on the subject written supporting the theory that CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming.  The articles of this bent that I have reviewed tend to be narrowly focused and very analytical, or they have been written to specifically counter some aspect of the technical opposition to this prevailing theory.  Similarly, the articles opposed to the human caused argument for global warming present their viewpoint and are biased toward that point of view.  Thus, it becomes difficult to assess the situation.  My objective is to provide you with easily understood factual data that helps in this regard.

Long Term Cyclic Temperature Record –  The first essential is to understand the context of the current discussion with respect to the very long term and the extremely long term temperature record of the planet.  We all know about glaciers and how they advanced and retreated.  The last glacial period started about 110,000 years ago and ended about 15,000 years ago.   During that time period there were about 8 advances and retreats of the glaciers as the earth alternately cooled and heated within the last glacial period.   Now, looking at the very long term there are extended periods or cycles of warming followed by extended periods of cooling.  Figure 1 shows how those cycles look based on ice core data from Antarctica.  Note how the cooling trends last for a very long time and how the warming trends tend to shoot up rapidly (speaking in terms of geologic time).  Also note how the past 3 peaks were much sharper and higher than the current peak. The reason for this is not known.

Temp cycles

Figure 1 – Temperature changes over a period of 400,000 as derived from Antarctica ice core ( Note: similar data has been derived from ocean sediments)

Many people with knowledge of glaciation and of this long term cyclic record of the earth’s temperatures, which goes back 800,000 years, did and still do question the man caused global warming assertion promulgated by the United Nations Climate Committee in the late 1980’s.

Terminology –The second piece of basic information to understand is the relationship of the term Global Warming to the now popular but imprecise term “Climate Change” and the “non-obvious” implication of this term and, as an important detail, the ways the average global temperature is determined.

Global Warming means the year to year increase in the “average” global temperature. This “average” temperature is now measured in two ways.  (1) The first, and oldest, means of establishing this average is via a land – ocean array of sites. It is the one used in the NASA Global Temperature Index for Land & Ocean shown in Global Warming 101. (2) The second, is the average temperature of the lower troposphere (near surface layer) obtained from satellites passing over the array of measuring locations around the globe twice a day.  The satellite array (established in 1978) has the intended advantage of removing the effects of the “urban heat sinks” present in the land-ocean array.  The satellite data, are interpreted and published by two different groups that are referred to as RSS and UAH.  The UAH plot is by the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the RSS data is from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), a scientific research company located in Northern California, specializing in satellite microwave remote sensing of the Earth.  Although the analysis techniques for interpretation of the data are different the results are quite similar.  Figure 2 shows the history of the average global temperature record since 1979 from the UAH source.  As in the land-ocean record there was a peak in 1998, however in the satellite data the peak was very sharp and since that time the satellite data show that that the 1998 average global temperature peak has not been exceeded.  That is why you will hear it reported that the “earth has been cooling for the last 18 years” and at the same time hear reports, (like President Obama’s statement in the 2014 State of the Union address), that 2014 was hottest year on record. Both statements were true, they are using different data sets.  According to the satellite data, 1998 is the hottest year on record, 2010 is next and then 2015.  According to the land-ocean data the 1998 temperature represented a local peak and since then the trend is slowly creeping upward, however there was a big increase in 2015 and that might be seen in 2016 as well as it is another El Nino year.

UAH 1979-2014

(1)     Figure 2 – Global temperatures from satellite data since 1979 (UAH_LT_1979 Through Dec 2014) A global temperature high (as measured from satellite data in the lower troposphere) was reached in 1998 and since that time (17 years and counting) global temperatures have been at or below that peak level.

Climate Change — This term is now used as a euphemism for “anthropogenic global warming” – i.e. global warming  being caused by humans.  The term appears to have been intentionally adopted as a means to focus attention on and engender concern about the recognized adverse physical effects of global warming – glaciers retreating, polar ice diminishing, and the range of plants and animals being impacted, and at the same time shrewdly imply or infer that the cause of these physical effects is human source CO2, as though the question was settled.  It is an imprecise term technically, that has obscured the real question of whether the current warming is “anthropogenic”, or is due to natural forces.  Use of the term effectively discredits, in the public eye, the many climatologists scientists and technical people who challenge the CO2 – anthropogenic global warming assertion.  This public media discrediting is easy because it infers that the “skeptics” or “deniers”  are arguing that the  “climate change” physical effects are not occurring and it makes them look totally unrealistic and out of touch.

Climate Models – The United Nations established the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The IPCC was charged to obtain, scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.”  Notice that it appears that the IPCC was not charged with investigating the hypothesis of whether or not global warming was being influenced by human source CO2, but rather to start with that assumption and show the risks.   And as it turns out the IPCC is fulfilling their charge by conveying that there is considerable risk. The IPCC panel concluded in their first assessment report in 1990 that: anthropogenic climate change will persist for many centuries.   The IPCC funded an abundance of studies, resulting papers and climate models that supported their initial conclusion and a positive feedback loop developed that led to the IPCC’s subsequent assertion that human generated carbon dioxide emissions are the major cause of global warming.  The global warming models sponsored / paid for by the IPCC typically integrated or incorporated in their analytics a very adverse effect due to rising CO2 levels.  As can be seen in Figure 3, the models greatly overestimated the actual global warming that has occurred since 1998.   The results of these models were a primary rationale for the IPCC’s ominous warnings to the international community on the expected increases in global warming and associated adverse impacts (e.g. rising ocean levels).  These results were a prime driver of the global efforts to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions such as the Kyoto Protocol.  Now clearly seen as overestimates, IPCC models are still being used to justify warnings.   Note that although these models clearly appear to be inaccurate because of their emphasis on incorporating  assumptions about the dramatic effects of CO2, this is not to say that there will not be another sharp rise in global temperatures as there was post 1933 and post 1976.  The pattern of relative stable global temperatures since 1998 could well change in future years due to natural forces.

models vs actual temp

Figure 3- Climate models under IPCC auspices give projections of warming far exceeding the actual level of global warming as recorded post 1998 by the two official interpretations of the lower atmosphere temperatures based on satellite data (RSS – Remote Sensing Systems and UAH – University of Alabama at Huntsville).

World Wide CO2 EmissionsThe fourth essential to be aware of is the worldwide distribution of CO2 emissions. For a variety of reasons US and European human source CO2 emissions have increased only marginally since 1965 and since about 2007 are declining (see Figure 4).   Emissions from Asia-Pacific countries (primarily China) have been greatly increasing, keeping the overall global human source CO2 emissions advancing at the steady, high rate observed in the graph presented in global warming 101.  This illustrates the  irrational efforts to restrict United States CO2 emissions to effect “climate change” when such restrictions, (1) are based only on theory and have no verifiable evidence of a positive effect, (2) are offset many fold by the emissions being produced by Asian countries, and  (3) can adversely impact the U. S. economy and people’s livelihoods.  The first point, that there is no demonstrable empirical evidence that CO2 restrictions can have a meaningful effect on reducing average global temperature appears to me to be irrefutable.  This is because CO2 emissions are on the rise and have been on the rise for more than a hundred years.  Thus, there has never been a sustained time period with reduced CO2 emissions to allow such evidence to be obtained.  Of course the fact that there has not been the chance to really test a global reduction in CO2 does not prove that it would not have an effect, it simply illustrates that such evidence is lacking.  Further, it does not preclude cutting CO2 based on a confident belief or hope that it would have a positive effect. However, evidence does exist that while human source CO2 emissions were increasing 4 fold over a period of 24 years (1944-1978), global temperatures decreased. Such evidence casts serious doubts about the efficacy of cutting CO2 to reduce global temperatures.   Regulations that would cut CO2 emissions would  make only a small reduction in the US contribution and as can be seen from the rate of rise in Asia Pacific emissions the US cuts would pale in comparison to the increases by the developing countries on which restrictions are not being placed.

CO2 rise around world

Figure 4 – Emissions of CO2 since 1965 – in the United States, Europe and the Asia Pacific

Based on what is known and can be observed from the historic temperature records, the long term trend of global warming will continue for an unknown time period. The trigger or triggers that have caused the global temperature cycles to reverse direction (see figure 1) are not known. Based on actual empirical evidence there is no reasonable expectation that reducing CO2 emissions will have any significant effect on global warming, even if it could be accomplished, which appears very unlikely based on the emissions of developing nations.

The bottom line is that global warming is continuing at an irregular pace and does not appear to be significantly influenced, positively or negatively, by human produced CO2 emissions based on empirical evidence.  Thus, with respect to global warming our nation’s efforts should be directed toward assessing and addressing the potential adverse impacts of global warming. The burning of fossil fuels should not be discounted as a problem but rather be addressed relative to the actual pollutants released by that activity.    Alternative energy sources should continue to be developed because it makes sense to do so.

Human caused global warming and the reduction of CO2 emissions to slow or reverse global warming were and still are hypotheses.  These hypotheses can be countered and shown to be doubtful using empirical data.   An impending, human induced “climate change” calamity continues to be presented to the American people and the world as if it were absolute reality, and as if something meaningful could be done to abate it.  There are apparently many in the scientific and technical community who belief this to be true. In future episodes we will examine the rationale for that belief.  There are many who simply accept that what most in the technical community believe must be true.  And there are some who use their belief in the “climate change” scenario for socio-political and personal economic purposes.  For my part, I see the empirical evidence painting a different picture.   I am trying to provide what I believe to be the factual information related to this subject. So many in the public eye talk about this topic but have no idea what the basic facts are.  I invite you to join Global Warming 103, where with this foundation of factual data as a base we will begin to trace the history of the rise of the global warming concerns and learn about the Al Gore’s “convenient omission” that led so many astray on a very important point.    Thanks, Larry Von Thun

Global Warming 101

Global Warming 101 –Understanding the issue in two easy steps 

You hear claims that:

  • There is Global Warming!
  • That there has been no Global Warming for the last 17 years!
  • That Carbon Dioxide is largely responsible for the global warming now occurring!

What is true? – What are the facts?   

There are two key graphs that record what has occurred over more than a hundred years with respect to the rise in Global Temperatures and the increase in human source CO2.  These two graphs, shown and explained below, provide factual information that reveals what is really known and true about global warming and its empirical relationship to the increases in human source CO2.  

Introduction to the issue – After a sustained period of cooler global temperatures from 1944 to 1980 (see figure 1), the earth began to steadily warm again in accordance with the current long term warming trend (since 1650 and a matter of record since 1880, see Figure 2). As we moved into the late 1980’s the earth’s temperature was getting increasingly warm, reaching temperature levels nearing the high temperature peaks indicated in the earth’s previous cooling/warming cycles.   People were beginning to get concerned.   It was known that man made emissions of CO2 had been increasing rapidly (since about 1945) and it was known that CO2 in the atmosphere is a contributor (albeit a minor one) to keeping heat from escaping the earth.  Thus, it was reasonable to hypothesize that the large increase in CO2 emissions by human activities was increasing the rate of global warming.  This was a theory or hypothesis and like any hypothesis it needs to be examined, tested, and verified before it is accepted as fact.  So let us test the hypothesis!

Step 1 —The first, really important graph, is that of the average annual global temperature based on numerous land and ocean sites around the earth (Figure 1). This plot is the NASA Global Temperature Index for Land & Ocean and you can see it on their site – It shows the average global temperature value for each year (light red line) in degrees centigrade above or below the 0 reference line as well as a running 5 year mean (dark red line). The data extend back to 1880 and clearly show that there has been net global warming over the last hundred and thirty years. Therefore, that is a well-documented scientific fact! However, this graph also shows that that rate of warming has been irregular. If you look closely at the peaks and valleys of this record you will see something very interesting and very telling with regard to global warming and CO2.

Figure 1

Figure 1- NASA global temperature data plot – (NASA Headquarters release No. 12-020)

The year 1880 is when this record started and it happens to be around the time human source CO2 was beginning to increase. This can be seen on the second important graph (Figure 2). The Fig. 2 plot also indicates that the current warming cycle or trend extended back to 1659. (It happens that the estimated coldest year of the “Little Ice Age” was around 1650). Now, as promised, there is something very interesting when you look closely at the Figure 1 plot. You will see that the average global temperature for 1900 was not exceeded till the mid 1930’s. In fact, there was a net drop (global cooling) between 1900 and 1933 of 0.19 degrees C. Then temperatures began to rise rapidly and by 1944 the average global temperature had risen 0.53 deg. C in 11 years. Now look closely at Figure 1 again and you will see that after 1944, 25 years passed before the 1944 average global temperature was exceeded (global cooling again for 25 years). In fact, by the mid 1970’s there were scientists issuing “alarms” of an impending “ice age” and that forecast was being carried to the public in the newspapers. And why not, the global average temperature in 1976 was 0.37 Deg. C below that of 1944. Brrr was the word of the day. But just as in the 1900 to 1933 period, warming picked up again and between 1976 and 1998 (a peak el Nino year) the average global temperature rose by 0.74 deg. C. This yielded a net temp rise of 0.71 degrees C from 1900 to 1998.   So that that is roughly 0.7 degrees per century.

Step 2 – These average global temperature ups and downs are interesting but when they are juxtaposed in time with the record of CO2 increase they reveal much, much more!! So, look now at the graph of the rise of the global CO2 emissions on Fig.2. Note that the rate of increase in CO2 was fairly steady between 1880 and the mid 1940’s and then the rate increased greatly and has continued at that high rate to the present. This step involves examining what happened to average global temperatures for each of two periods (1880 -1944) and (1944 to 1998) and is critically important to showing whether CO2 influenced the temperature based solely on empirical evidence.

Figure 2

Figure 2 –  Warming trend in central England since 1659 vs. annual CO2 human source emissions – source Hadley Centre England

So if we look at the human source CO2 emission rate and absolute quantity of emissions at the beginning and end of each of the definable (warming and cooling) periods on the global temperature record one can note whether or not there is a correlation of CO2 increases to global warming increases. This turns out to be very easy. By inspection it can be seen that there was both a global temperature “cooling” period and “warming” period in each of the two time spans that had a relatively rate of increase in human source CO2 emissions. Thus, it is immediately clear, based on these data that there is not a direct correlation of human source CO2 rise and global temperature rise. To reinforce this point let’s examine in detail the period 1944 to 1976.

By 1944 global human source CO2 emissions had increased to 5,000 MMT (Million Metric Tons) from about 2,000 MMT in 1880. Figure 2 shows that between 1944 and 1976 CO2 emissions increased to 20,000 MMT. So the earth started in 1944 with CO2 emissions at 5000 MMT and over the next 22 years CO2 emissions increased to 20,000 MMT. The global temperature at the end of that period (1976) was 0.37 deg. C lower than at the start of the period in 1944. So despite a quadrupling of annual human source CO2 emissions during the period 1944-1976 global temperatures cooled by 0.37 degrees from the 1944 global temperature value to the 1976 global temperature value. Figure 3 provides a corroborating reference on the rise in CO2 since 1800, and it provides an estimate of the contributors.  The original data for the total shown is likely taken from the source shown in Figure 2.

In terms of absolute quantity of CO2 emissions, note that the average level of CO2 emissions over that 22 year period was 2.5 times the level of CO2 at the beginning of the period but there was no increase in global temperature during the period, in fact there was a net decrease. Juxtaposition of the rise of CO2 emissions and the global temperature change with time clearly shows that there is not a direct correlation in time between the two. This clearly contradicts the assertion of a direct correlation between CO2 emissions and global temperature rise, advanced and put forth by United Nations, promoted by the media and now pronounced by the President, and even the Pope. The confidence with which these latter, eminent proponents of cutting CO2 emissions is based on is the endorsement of the role of CO2 in global warming by the vast majority of scientists (as  shown by polls). However, the above factual, unaltered and simple portrayal of easy to obtain empirical data clearly shows that (1) global warming is continuing but does so at an irregular pace and (2) that global warming is not significantly influenced by increases in human source CO2 emissions. The corollaries to this conclusion are that cutting CO2 emissions will likewise not have effect on reducing global warming and that other factors control global temperatures, just as they have for millennia. Thus, efforts and expenditures should be directed toward addressing the potential adverse effects of global warming and not on efforts and expenditures on trying to reduce CO2 emissions. Further, reduction in fossil fuel use should be based on cutting the true pollution they produce and the need and value of the development of alternative energy sources.

Those are the bare facts that are essential to understanding the truth about global warming. That brings us to the end of 101, but there is much more to learn. Tune in to Global Warming 102 to learn a few more key facts to help you discern the validity of the abundance of comments and opinions expressed about global warming and the role of CO2.

 Figure 3

Figure 3 — global emissions Image from Wikipedia