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Not So Cool Predictions

Posted on 4 January 2011 by dana1981

Claims have recently surfaced in the blogosphere that an increasing number of scientists are warning of an imminent global cooling, some even going so far as to call it a "growing consensus".  There are two major flaws in these blog articles, (i) there is no scientific basis for claims that the planet will begin to cool in the near future, and (ii) many of the listed scientists are not predicting global cooling.

Global Cooling?  Seriously?

In the face of the immense amount of evidence that the anthropogenic warming signal is driving the long-term temperature trend, it's hard to believe that any scientists would be predicting that this trend will suddenly reverse despite ever-increasing human greenhouse gas emissions.  For example, according to NASA GISS, 2009 was tied for the second-hottest year on record, and 2010 will likely be the hottest in the past 130+ years.  The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest decade on record, the evidence is overwhelming that humans are the dominant cause of the warming trend, climate scientists have even quantified the anthropogenic warming, and heat continues to accumulate in the planetary system:

Figure 1: Build-up in total Earth Heat Content since 1950. The data comes from Figure 6b in Murphy 2009. The ocean data was taken from Domingues et al. 2008

With all of this evidence that humans are causing rapid global warming with no end in sight, one has to wonder how on Earth any scientists would suddenly predict imminent global cooling.

Who Are these Scientists Predicting Cooling?

Some of the names listed in the blog above have been predicting imminent cooling for years now, like Don Easterbrook, Syun Akasofu, Habibullo Abdussamatov, Joe D'Aleo, and Nicola Scafetta.  Many of these and other names on the list are not climate scientists, which is no doubt why the blogs claim that an increasing number of scientists as opposed to climate scientists are predicting imminent cooling. 

One also has to wonder how long the planet must continue to warm while these individuals predict imminent cooling before they lose credibility.  Don Easterbrook, for example, has predicted that we should see a global cooling of 2 to 5°F (1.1 to 2.8°C)  from 2000 to 2030 based on a shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  We're now one-third of the way into this supposed cooling period and the planet has warmed approximately 0.1°C.  The accuracy of this prediction is not looking good.

Several other listed scientists have predicted that we should expect global cooling due to solar effects, like Scafetta, Abdussamatov,  Landscheidt, Archibald, and D'Aleo.  However, consider the fact that the longest solar cycle minimum in a nearly century just ended, and as mentioned above, the past two years have been among the hottest in the instrumental temperature record.  Solar activity has been flat for the past 50 years, and yet the planet warmed approximately 0.6°C during that period.  And now we're expected to believe that solar activity is not only going to significantly dampen the anthropogenic warming signal, but cause substantial cooling?  These claims strain credulity.

Perhaps the worst part of these blog articles is that they attribute global cooling predictions to numerous scientists who have not made such claims.  Let's look at some of the names on the list.

Mojib Latif 

Dr. Latif predicted that between 2010 and 2020, the planet would warm approximately 0.4°C, and has said we risk "an unprecedented warming in the history of mankind if no measures are taken to cut global carbon dioxide emissions."

Noel Keenlyside 

Dr. Keenlyside is the lead author on the Latif study referenced above which predicted 0.4°C warming from 2010 to 2020.

Anastasios Tsonis and Kyle Swanson 

Regarding the supposed global cooling prediction in their study, Swanson has written "If this hypothesis is correct, the era of consistent record-breaking global mean temperatures will not resume until roughly 2020....What do our results have to do with Global Warming, i.e., the century-scale response to greenhouse gas emissions? VERY LITTLE, contrary to claims that others have made on our behalf....humanity is poking a complex, nonlinear system with GHG forcing – and that there are no guarantees to how the climate may respond."

Mike Lockwood

The Lockwood quote supposedly about global cooling simply discusses that decreased solar activity may impact winter weather in Europe, and has nothing to do with global temperatures whatsoever.  Lockwood has performed numerous studies concluding that the Sun is not responsible for a significant amount of the recent global warming, and has not predicted global cooling.

James Overland 

As with Mike Lockwood, the James Overland quote in question refers to winter weather, in Europe and the USA.  Dr. Overland has neither predicted global cooling, nor disputes anthropogenic global warming.  In fact, in the article linked above, Overland discusses how rapidly the Arctic is warming due to anthropogenic global warming, and that this will cause shifting weather patterns, leading to the snowy and cold winters in Europe and the USA.  Not only is Overland not predicting global cooling in this article, he is explicitly talking about global warming.

There are likely other examples of supposed global cooling predictions being misattributed to climate scientists, but the examples listed above alone represent 20% of the list.  Most of the other 'scientists' listed are not climate scientists, but rather meteorologists, engineers, astronomers, etc.  And many of the other quotes refer to local weather rather than global temperatures.

Summary

There appear to be very few examples of climate scientists predicting imminent global cooling on this list.  Perhaps that's because climate scientists understand that humans are and will continue to be causing rapid global warming for the foreseeable future.  The few scientists who are predicting cooling have generally been doing so for several years, and are going against a very large body of scientific evidence that the planet will continue to warm rapidly.

This post is the Intermediate rebuttal (written by Dana Nuccitelli [dana1981]) of the skeptic argument "We're headed into cooling".

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Comments 51 to 77 out of 77:

  1. Trans @49, Umm, it is "anthropogenic". "We've actually just had the coldest night recorded -27 degree's" This statement is completely meaningless without context. " i dare say cooling is the thing we should worry about, it poses a far greater danger" One, global temperatures are not cooling, 2010 is likely going to be the warmest on record. Two, heat is the number cause of weather-related deaths in the USA, cold ranks lowest on the list. Source here.
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  2. What I don't understand about the Latif work is that they seem to recognize that natural variability may have some impact on the rate of warming in the coming decade or two. We also seem to accept that natural variability has had an influence in the early part of the 20th century. Yet maybe the critical period (1950-now or 1970-now) have had little or no influence from natural variability. I don't understand if Latif and co-authors can see a role for natural variability slowing the rate of temperature increase for the next decade why can't we conclude that some of the heating in the past 2 decades was from natural variability?
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  3. Because they have empirical evidence and you have belief in contradiction of said evidence.
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  4. Original Post dana1981 Figure 1 keeps getting trotted out in these threads despite plenty of discussion in other OHC content threads to show that the OHC jumps and spikes of Fig 1 are impossible. With a steady purported CO2GHG forcing summing with other heating and cooling forcings to a positive forcing of 0.9W/sq.m (Trenberth 2009) rising continuously (if not steadily) for at least 100 years, the dramatic spikes, declines and jumps in the chart on a global scale are simply inconsistent with the forcing history. For those who wish to suggest that cycles such as ENSO, La Nina, AMO etc are responsible for these responses, then consider that these cycles are supposed to be re-distributing heat within the system and are not 'external' forcings - so should have little or no effect on 'global' ocean and land heat content. If ENSO, La Nina etc are responsible for these global OHC variations, then we have a new set of 'external' forcings - able to drive gains and losses of heat to space. In such case - that is contrary to current understanding of the external forcings at play, and would change the whole AGW story. The more likely explanation is that pre-Argo measurements of OHC are not worth a crumpet - in which case Fig 1 should come with disclaimer 'probably not reliable before 2003'.
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  5. @KL: "Figure 1 keeps getting trotted out in these threads despite plenty of discussion in other OHC content threads to show that the OHC jumps and spikes of Fig 1 are impossible." The fact that contrarians have claimed in other threads that the OHC increase is impossible doesn't make it so. Funny how "unskeptical" some people get when assessing claims that happen to agree with their opinion...
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  6. Bibliovermis What exactly is the empirical evidence for little-to-no natural variability affecting temperature trend over the past 3 decades or so? At best it's interpretive analysis.
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  7. @HR: where's your evidence that natural variability has been driving the current warming? Oh, right, you don't have any. I'll stick with the evidence we have rather than your imaginary science.
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  8. The same empirical evidence that shows that it's anthropogenic. Please refer to argument #33. Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming
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  9. Thanks for your response to comment #39 Daniel. I wasn't really referring to fairy tales in the press but rather to not having seen any peer-reviewed papers. Sorry for the confusion in my wording.
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  10. Last winter the continent of South America had a record cold winter. The East coast is currently expreriencing record breaking cold conditions, (and snowfall in some places exceeding expectations of climate scientists and many meteorologists)California had a uncharactistically cold summer and is now experiencing an unusually cold winter, Europe has been experiencing a cold wave, NY had some heat waves but nothing record breaking, Minnesota has been experiencing extreme cold characteristic of what would be expected for that region, and Russia had some record breking heat waves. If there is no global cooling there is certainly no global warming either.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Weather vs Climate. Look it up. I would also suggest going here and here to start the process of learning a bit more about the subject.
  11. Oh and yes I know about the claim of a statistical averaging in terms of climate versus weather along a 30 year or so timescale, but this is not really useful at all. For one even with all of the weather stations and satellites, floats in the ocean, and thermal imaging, we still are not able to evaluate and assess all sources and sinks in the real system. GCM's are getting better but are not very good at long term projections and are not predictive at all. One may make an argument of NOA being affected by global warming or the late Steven Schnider's prediction on cloud formations, but to date no empirical data exists to support such assertions.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] If you knew the difference between weather and climate you would not have just posted the previous comment. As for the other items you mention (satellite and ocean heat measurements, clouds, GCM's, "NOA [do you mean NAO?]), use the search function in the upper left corner to find a more appropriate thread to posit your questions on. Thanks!
  12. @61 "Last winter the continent of South America had a record cold winter." http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/images/map-blended-mntp-201006-201008.gif This graphic shows a couple of cooler areas in parts of the continent. The report it's taken from mentions cold conditions in a couple of places, but *not* South America. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100915_globalstats.html Do you have a reference for the record cold winter?
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  13. Chemist1, it is obvious that you do not know the difference between climate and weather, and that you think that records are records because you probably read about them somewhere. Also, that you think that certain areas or regions of the world represent the world as a whole. I agree with the response you got on another thread : start learning by going here, here, and here. Once you have some facts and figures to back up any of your assertions, come back and try again.
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  14. The planet is about even between warming and cooling so there is no net temp change, or one that is neglible at best. It can be either very minor cooling or very minor warming.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Incorrect. We are now a bit over 2 degrees C removed from a glacial period (we are in an interglacial right now), with an expected further temperature rise of about 2-3 degrees (or more) C expected by 2100. Not a minor matter at all.
  15. JMurphy climate is the averaging of weather over a minimal timescale. Some are comfortable with 30 years, others 100 and others try and look at paleoclimate extending 400,000 or more years ago. 30 years is just a drop in the bucket in terms of climate. (-edit-)
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] 30 years or more is the typical standard used. Depending on the datasets and methodology used determines the length of time needed for a time series to be robust. JMurphy was trying to help you gain understanding in this matter and has ably demonstrated a robust understanding of climate science here over the years. Future inflammatory remarks will be deleted.
  16. Chemist1 wrote : "...climate is the averaging of weather over a minimal timescale. Some are comfortable with 30 years, others 100 and others try and look at paleoclimate extending 400,000 or more years ago. 30 years is just a drop in the bucket in terms of climate." Hey, this sounds like a good game - 'make up your own climate definition (depending on what you want, or don't want, to see'. I would like 'climate' to mean an average of approximately 42.13 years, to two decimal places. Why ? Why not ? An even better idea, though, is to ask for definitions from the organisations that actually know what they are talking about : like the World Meteorological Organisation. Shall we ask them ? What do they say ? The classical period is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). I wonder why ? Let's see what the UK Met Office have to say : Thirty years was chosen as a period long enough to eliminate year-to-year variations. Oh well, scrub my 42.13 years - I'll go along with the experts.
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  17. 51 Albatross, I am not sure of the accuracy of the NOAA chart you inserted in your post. Really unsure what data source they are using to develop this chart but it is certainly not correct and off by a tremendous margin of error. Here is a quote from an article I will link to: "The National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that over 2.5 million older Americans are especially vulnerable to hypothermia, and Dr. Richard Besdine of the Harvard Medical School estimates that 25,000 older adults may die from hypothermia each year in the United States." 25,000 a year may die but only 18 a year do? Seems really lowball to me. Here is a link to the actual article: This claims cold is a much bigger killer than NOAA thinks.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Seriously? You prop up a link to a site trying to pump up Amazon.com booksales vs the linked source Albatross gave you - straight from official US Government (NOAA) statistics of actual CRM (cold related mortality) - and give it equivalence? You really need to up your game, Norman. Because those critical thinking skills are failing you. Actual data trumps hypothetical data every day that ends in "y".
  18. Daniel Baily, How about this one then, this one has graphs and comes straight from the CDC. You please tell me how from the graph in figure 1 (shows generally over 600 deaths a year caused by hypothermia) you can go down to just 18 deaths a year? If one is too high, then the NOAA one is certainly far too low to be of use. Just shows how different sources can really generate vastly different results. Thanks for the response to my post. Yearly Hypothermia deaths in US.
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  19. "others try and look at paleoclimate extending 400,000 or more years ago." These would be looking at *changes* in climate, and would never argue that you need to look at 400,000 year intervals to detect such *changes*. Chemist1 would define climate as being the average conditions in the area of earth over the last 12 billion years, in which case the billions of years before earth was fully formed would dominate the climate record.
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  20. Chemist1:
    The East coast is currently expreriencing record breaking cold conditions, (and snowfall in some places exceeding expectations of climate scientists and many meteorologists)
    Yet another person who doesn't understand that deep cold leads to little snowfall ... And of course he's leaving out the fact that many parts of the northern hemisphere are experiencing intense warmth, because, well, umm ... Why, chemist1? Is there any reason you fail to mention the anomalous warmth up north, where sea ice extent is once again *receeding* rather then increasing, in winter? Because it's effing warm in parts of the arctic?
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  21. How about this one then, this one has graphs and comes straight from the CDC. You please tell me how from the graph in figure 1 (shows generally over 600 deaths a year caused by hypothermia) you can go down to just 18 deaths a year?
    Because roughly 600 people die per year due to hypothermia, and extra special cold weather only adds about 18 deaths to that average. Climate vs. weather, the basic principle denialists can never, never grasp.
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  22. I mean, the graph is actually *labelled* "weather-related" (not *climate related*) deaths.
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  23. Also ...
    Last winter the continent of South America had a record cold winter
    Cite? Parts of SA had unusually cold weather, but I've seen no *credible* source suggesting that the entire winter over the entire continent set a record. You can claim it. You claim to be a scientist. Therefore you can cite it ...
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  24. Re: Norman (69) Your source uses data from 1979-2002 from the CDC. Albatross' source uses NOAA data from 1997-2006. I've broken down the data (183 deaths due to hypothermia, average 18.3 per year) for you here: Why the disconnect? Good question. NOAA's data tracks from 1988 while the CDC goes back to at least 1979. Probably a wider definition of hypothermia deaths being used by the CDC (multiple ICD-9 codes). An example of apples-n-oranges in action. Good comeback. Much better. The Yooper
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  25. Daniel, Thanks for this. Yes, the numbers between the different data sets differ, and significantly so. Perplexing. It seems to me that part of the problem that is complicating matters is that there is not, to my knowledge, a universal standard to define deaths arising from extreme heat or cold. In England they seem to use a residual-type method and that gives really high numbers-- I do not like their method at all. Anyways, according to NOAA, between 1996 and 2009 there were 1957 heat related deaths in the USA (avg. 140), compared to only 357 for cold. So heat is still a bigger killer than is cold in the USA, at least for these data and for this time period. I excluded 1996, b/c it is an outlier, that year alone heat killed 1021 people. As George Monbiot pointed out recently, how the population deals with the cold depends on where you are on the planet and the local infrastructure. Temperatures near zero C in northern India and a hundred die. Near zero C in Thunder Bay in winter and some people are actually wearing T-shirts. The fact remains though that heat waves kill people in droves, especially in areas not accustomed to extreme heat. Witness the 2003 European heat wave (tens of thousands died), the Russian heat wave (again thousands died, although numbers are not easy to get from the Russians except that Moscow's mortality rate doubled during the heat wave). I find the argument "well cold kills too" to dismiss the increase in deaths (and misery) from heat stress as the frequency of heat waves ramps up in the future (as the planet continues to warm) a very weak one. On the up side, we can hope that there will likely be a decrease in cold weather -related mortality as the planet warms.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] It was like, over on the Twice As Much Canada thread, when skeptics introduced the Christidis et al study as if it proved their point about extreme cold being more dangerous than extreme heat. Of couse, the Christidis et al study said no such thing (other than that human adaptation to extreme cold was better than human adaptation to extreme heat). Skeptics fail to take into account the dark side of extreme heat, wet-bulb temperature tolerability.
  26. It would appear that some so-called skeptics need to learn how to read temperatures and trends, and to this end I would recommend a BBC programme that was on a couple of days ago, presented by a comedian who is an ex-physicist : What Is One Degree Generally, though, it is a very watchable and easy to understand look into what it means to measure temperature and how just a small increase can have large effects. Hope it helps those who somehow believe that the world is cooling.
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  27. By the way, the programme above is only viewable until Sunday 16 Jan 11 on the BBC iPlayer. After that, I don't know.
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