Climate science Q&A: warmest decade on record?

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

We are happy to answer this query from a reader about recent global temperature trends.

Dear Lord Monckton, – The UK Meteorological Office has just issued a statement that the past decade has been the warmest on the instrumental record. Is this true?

Dear Enquirer, – Yes, it is true – assuming that we can any longer believe the surface global temperature record, which we now know to have been so widely tampered with by the compilers of all of the major terrestrial-temperature datasets that, in particular, we do not really know whether the 1930s were warmer than the 2000s worldwide: they certainly were in the US.

It is also worth pointing out that for nine full years, since the turn of the millennium on 1 January 2001, there has been rapid and statistically-significant global cooling. This cooling follows a very sharp upward step-change in global temperatures between 1997 and 2000, which may have something to do with the Great El Nino of 1998, the first in the instrumental-temperature era. Of this cooling, one of the key players in the Climategate email scandal had this to say –


The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August 2009 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.”


So the conspirators are privately admitting we’ve been right all along about global cooling, and that it’s a travesty they can’t explain it, while publicly proclaiming that this decade’s temperatures are the warmest in 150 years and that this is because of “global warming”.


Finally, I recently sat at the feet of Professor Fred Singer, to whose attention I had drawn an interesting paper by Lindzen and Choi (2009), demonstrating that the radiation escaping from the Earth to space, as measured by the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) Satellite, is not being trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere to cause warming down here, to anything like the extent that the models predict.


The Professor looked very closely at the diagram showing the anomalies in short-wave and, separately, in long-wave radiation, and noticed that, though both had run level until 1997 (and, indeed, there had been no “global warming” from 1980 to 1997), they had been sharply dislocated until 2000, when short-wave radiation ran level at a new and lesser flux, while long-wave radiation ran level at a new and greater flux.


The significance of the Professor’s sharp-eyued observations is this. First, the sudden step-change upward in global temperature between 1997 and 2000 is the only warming since the satellite record began in 1980. Before it, there was no warming: after it, there was rapid cooling. It is important to understand that this non-uniform pattern of warming is entirely inconsistent with the steadily-increasing radiative-forcing effect of CO2 concentrations increasing at 2 ppmv/year over the past decade, and cannot, therefore, have been caused by it, for lack of correlation necessarily implies lack of causation.


Secondly, the diminished short-wave radiation after 2000 indicates a reduction in cloud cover, for the clouds reflect short-wave radiation harmlessly back to space. The reduction in cloud cover (whose cause is not clear, for we know exasperatingly little about cloud formation, and this on its own introduces an uncertainty into all climate calculations that renders the claim that “the science is settled” laughable) allows more of the visible and hence high-energy solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface, where it is displaced to the long-wave and can then interact with greenhouse gases on its way out. This sudden increase in long-wave radiation, attributable to the sudden loss of cloud cover indicated by the loss of short-wave radiation reaching the satellite, is quite enough to explain why temperatures have been higher since 2000 than before.


The bottom line: careful attention to the observational data provides explanations for the pattern of temperature change that are much less incomplete and more satisfying than CO2, CO2, CO2. The Professor and I differ on the extent to which phenomena such as changes in cloud cover are deterministic: he looks for a climate in which all influences are eventually explained and understood as causative sequences, while I go with Edward Lorenz (1963), who said that because the climate is mathematically chaotic the reliable long-term prediction of what will happen next in the climate is unobtainable by any method.


However, the Professor and I are at one that the warming of the past 300 years, during 280 of which we could not have been in any way responsible, is all or very nearly all natural. Both of us will be doing more work on why there was a step-change upward in temperature from 1997-2000; but, even on the UN’s exaggerated estimate of CO2’s warming effect, CO2 cannot – repeat cannot – have been to blame.

If the Climategate conspirators had been less politicized and less dishonest, they would have been having conversations of this kind, rather than working out ways of bending the data so as to blame more than half of the warming from 1975-1998 on CO2. ? Monckton of Brenchley