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A rare sighting of endangered scientific graph in newsprint

We skeptics get excited about unusual things. The Australian published Michael Asten today in the Op-Ed pages, and took the extremely rare step of publishing a scientific graph (!) with a few error bars and everything. Newspapers publish economic graphs all the time, so it’s nice to see the scientific debate getting a bit more sophisticated than just the usual “deniers are evil, government climate scientists speak the word of God” type of stuff. (In the Enlightenment, data was a greater source of authority than any human; how we pine for those days.) The only thing the story should have added was a note that reminds us that the not only was the “hottest” record not beyond the error bars but that it did not occur in satellite measurements. I’m sure a lot of people mistakenly think that NASA might use satellites, but they prefer highly adjusted ground thermometers next to airport tarmac instead.

The headline on that graph could have been “Climate scientists don’t know what caused most of the big moves on this graph”. Some mystery effect caused the warming from 1910-1940. In ClimateScienceTM it is OK to call that “natural variability” and pretend to be 95% sure whatever it was has now stopped.

  The Australian

‘Angry summer’ alarmists all choked up without reading fine print

Blame me for the red scribble and arrows (which didn’t appear in the paper).


Red words and arrows added by me. Click to see the original.


Michael Asten juxtaposes a quote or two. The silliness speaks for itself when placed next to this graph:

John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, greeted the 2014 result with the comment “This data shows not only a series of alarming years but decades of warming to make an undisputable trend”

What does “indisputable” mean anymore? We’re not allowed to dispute it?

Asten reminds us that back in 2007 when Bob Carter mentioned the earliest warnings that the warming trends were not matching the predictions, he was scolded:

Andrew Ash (then acting director of the CSIRO Climate Adaption Flagship), stated “Professor Bob Carter claims that ‘no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998’. This is an unethical misrepresentation of the facts”. I suggest this is an incredible accusation to make against a scientist who has read (correctly, as history shows) a trend in a global temperature data set. When comparing Carter’s observation with pronouncements prompted by the single 2014 warm temperature point, we see a disturbing double standard in how scientific commentary is received.

The basic theme of the article:

LAST week delivered for the global warming debate, the most anticipated data point of the decade. The year 2014 was declared the hottest of the past century, by a margin of 0.04 degC. The news has been greeted with enthusiasm by those who attribute all warming to man-made influences, (notably in the Fairfax press in Australia), but few commentators have qualified their comment with the observation that NASA put an error margin of +-0.05 C on their result.

The figure below shows global surface temperature as compiled by NASA for the past 134 years. Single data points (years) are unimportant. The 5-year moving average in red is a more useful indicator of temperature trends, and its slope shows clearly the steady rising trend from 1980 to 2000, and the temperature pause from 2000 to present. Anyone with a high-school science education can look at such a graph and form their own conclusions, but four of the most important are that

• The slope of the rise from 1980 to 2000 is about 0.19 degC per decade (the rate consistent with current warming models for “business as usual” CO2 emissions)

• A closely similar rate of rise in global temperature occurred from 1910 to 1940, pre-dating current high CO2 emissions

• Pauses in the rate of rise occurred from 1880 to 1910, from 1940 to 1970, and from 2000 to present.

• The model trend as computed by the IPCC continues upwards from 2000, but the pause is a clear break of observed earth behaviour away from the models.

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