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18Nov 2013

Guardian, Independent: Think global warming has paused? New report says look way, way north & think again.

Charlie Petit
Heavier red line is new report's trend using more data

   Lately the big rage among climate change shruggers is that global warming might have been real, but it died about ten years ago. Therefore full, fossil-fueled steam ahead and take that you pinko treehugging would-be assassins of capitalism as we know it!

   A few outlets however, chiefly in the UK, have perked up over the last week to a new report, in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological society, by researchers at the University of York over there and the University of Ottawa in Canada. After using satellite data and other records to fill in gaps  in the record of surface air temperatures due to scant weather station coverage - chiefly in polar regions (and mostly the Arctic part) plus some in Africa - they replotted the temperature record for recent decades. Bam,  the recent trend put itself back in close alignment to the previous and unmistakeable long term rise in temperatures, a tilted baseline that had been well in accord with what computer models say ought to happen due to acceleration of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, the study looked at temperature plots released by the UK's Met Office based in turn on what the climatological in-crowd calls the HadCRUT4 database.

   Seems like a big deal. The paper was published Thursday last week. You'd think a lot of reporters would have jumped on it. But, not so much.

   Stories thus far:

  Very interesting. I didn't notice this news till this morning. The Daily Climate aggregator-   to which I subscribe by email - included a link to Connor's story in the Independent. Hmmm, I thought, where are US media? That was before I noticed Mooney's Mother Jones story. Nonetheless, there really has not been much response. I was late to that game, however. Another  journalism watchdog outfit was already on it. It is the first story listed below, with the best hed seen so far on this:

Grist for the Mill: University of Ottawa Press Release, Univ. of York Press Release ; Journal abstract ;

  If the report gains general acclaim from experts one expects it will have reverberations that go far and last a long time. Reporters who decide to jump in have plenty to do. Here's just one hypothesis I'd like to see bounced off the likes of Kevin Trenberth at NCAR or the always-available Michael Mann. Which is to assess this new report's conclusions in light of another hypothesis making the rounds - the one positing that the shrinking Arctic sea ice pack is behind recent, occasional bouts of harsh, cold weather in North America and Eurasia. Some say the ice has led the Northern Hemisphere's polar jets stream to jump its rails. It seems to some to be wobbling all over the place in big north and south excursions away from its more usual, strongly west to east course around the Earth's axis. So it acts like a big atmospheric blender, shooting frigid air south while hauling warm air toward the poles on its return path. The temperature gradient would get shallower. Warming in the high Arctic would shoot ahead while mid-latitudes stall or even cool a bit. And if one only measures southern temperatures one would swear the whole thing cooled off.

    That's what I'd ask about.

    Not that a round of new facts would change the timbre of climate policy discussion among people who do not have the chops to be appointed by national academies of science to summarize climate science. For example, and also to give your brain a chance to blow the carbon off its sparkplugs, one supposes this fellow is sure he is dead right no matter what anybody says otherwise:

  • Heartland Institute/Policy and Commentary Blog - Alan Caruba: It's Not Just Winter, It's a New Ice Age ; While reading this, be sure to notice that while it cites a story by Robert Lee Hotz at the WS Journal, it does so only to try to knock it down. Hotz did a good job reporting about the sun's recent, wimpy cycle.





Charlie -- I covered the Arctic temperature study over at ClimateWire. It may not have gotten much coverage in the U.S. because it was published in an unfamiliar journal, perhaps -- the Quarterly Journal of the British Meteorological Society.  

I also did a piece in September on the issue of whether the Arctic warming is affecting mid-latitude weather. Despite a lot of media coverage of that hypothesis, the scientific consensus seems to be that, even if the rapid melting of the Arctic has an effect, it may only be a small effect. And also that the topic needs a whole lot more research.

James Screen, a UK climate scientist who is investigating the link between the Arctic and mid-latitude extreme weather, recently published a study linking Arctic warming to heavy rainfall in the UK summers from 2007-2012. I wrote about it, but the piece is behind our paywall. Screen did this by running a model with low sea ice and a model with high sea ice and comparing the summer precip output of the two. The low sea ice model (today's conditions) predicted a summer rainfall increase of 4 percent. The actual increase was 11 percent. So in that case, the model showed the low sea ice to be responsible for about a third of the increase in summer rainfall.  That's significant, but also not gigantic. 

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