climate change science

2010 – another year of weather records

At the end of last year, meteorologists were predicting a warm 2010, with the Met Office suggesting it could beat 1998 to be the warmest year on record. Those claims began to look a little dubious as the snow fell and many parts of the world had a very cold summer. But how are we doing six months later?

Extreme heat has been in the news around the world. Iraq has seen a new high with a scorching 52°C (125°F) on the 14th of June, but Pakistan beat that with 53.5°C (128°F) in May – the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia. So far nine countries have set new heat records in 2010, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Niger and Sudan. And that’s a record in itself – for most temperature records set in one year, beating six in 2003’s European heat wave.

Russia spent July on a heatwave alert, triggering a state of emergency across much of the country. Temperatures have peaked at 44°C (111°F) near the Kazakhstan border, and the country has seen hundreds of drowning incidents as people cool off in fountains and ponds.

In the US, Delaware, New Jersey, and North Carolina had record temperatures for June, coming in as the 8th hottest June in the US overall. The UK hasn’t been too hot, but has had the driest six months in 100 years.

What does all this mean? Well, individual weather events mean very little. Warm weather now doesn’t confirm climate change, any more than cold weather in January dis-proved it, although I don’t suppose those that printed climate change de-bunking snow stories will be retracting their headlines. Climate change is only measurable in long-term trends, and it isn’t uniform. Some places will be cooler even in a record-breaking year, and the advance of climate change is not linear, each year hotter than the next.

So far though, it looks like the predictions are on track. The first two quarters of 2o10 set new high points on NASA’s dataset, and it may well be the new hottest year. It may not prove climate change, but at least it will bury the idiotic claim that the world has been cooling since 1998.

9 comments

  1. Hmm … so the claim that the world has been cooling since 1998 is “idiotic”? Well, as I commented on your “Global warming: the evidence” post, according to the best and least biased means (satellites and the Argo buoy network) global temperatures have been flat to slightly down over the last decade. Moreover, as Dr. Phil Jones, Director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said recently on the BBC: “from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming”. Fifteen years is far too short a period to draw any conclusion, but the cooling claim may not be quite so idiotic as you suggest.

    1. The fundamental problem with comparing anything to 1998 is that it was a freak year. You could apply the same logic to the coldest year ever, and say that the earth hasn’t cooled since 1878. I’ve seen plenty of sceptic’s graphs that begin in 1998 and then show a triumphant downward slope. I make no apologies for calling that idiotic. It’s always about the long term trends, and if you compare the 00s to the 90s you can see that the earth has warmed.

  2. Jeremy:

    In a sense you’re right about 1998 – but see below. But I’m unaware of your “plenty of sceptics’ graphs” – that sounds suspiciously like a strawman argument to me. No, what I’m saying, in line with Phil Jones, is that “from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically significant global warming”. However 15 years is too short a period to draw any conclusion about temperature trends – as you say “it’s always about long term trends” . But that means that, if it’s “idiotic” to say it’s cooling, it’s equally “idiotic” to say it’s warming. Better, in my view, not to use such emotive words at all. And your 90s/00s comparison doesn’t help: if I’m climbing a hill and, after a 100 metre climb, the path is level for 100 metres, the fact that the average height of the current stretch is higher than the average height of the previous stretch doesn’t mean that “really” the path is still ascending.

    Incidentally, you seem to think we should ignore the 1998 El Nino spike – but, if so, we should also ignore the 2010 El Nino spike. Do that and you get a pronounced cooling trend. But, once you start ignoring things, where do you stop?

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