As I mentioned earlier, some denier comments were submitted to the post about Extreme Denial. This blog isn’t about spreading denier claims, it’s about exposing them, so their comments will get exactly the focus they deserve.

First up was “Owen Suppes,” who said:

What is a climate denier. Most deniers I encounter agree the world is warming as well carbons radiative forcing contributes to a warming trend. But where we deniers differ from the CAGW crowd; context. The writer offers us a picture displaying a modern warming, when the pictures takes in a longer view we discover two similar warming events within the same century. The dramatic picture once contextualized looses it’s flare. CAGW is tenuous hypothesis at best, losing ground to empirical evidence.

First things first: Mr. Suppes is changing the subject. The post was about how deniers so often pick an extreme as their starting point and leave out the context of what came before so they can misrepresent the underlying trend.

It’s worth emphasizing one of the key methods for spotting denier bullshit: that when it’s exposed, what they most want to do is change the subject.

He also implies that I left out the early 20th century to conceal a “similar warming event.” The reason I started with 1950 is that in the model for exogenous factors I quantified the el Niño effect using the Multivariate el Niño Index (MEI), and those data start at 1950. The MEI has been extended further back, but the “standard” MEI doesn’t predate 1950, so that’s when I started.

Mr. Suppes tried to pull the wool over your eyes with his talk of a “similar warming event.” Let’s take a look (some of the “context” he claims deniers are famous for when their specialty is being out of context). Here’s NASA temperature data since 1880, which certainly includes the century he flaunts:


We can reduce the noise, and we don’t even have to model exogenous factors (like el Niño, volcanic eruptions, and solar variations) to do so, all we have to do is smooth the data — reducing the noise influence is what that does. I’ll use two methods: a lowess smooth, and a piecewise-linear model based on changepoint analysis. Together they’ll show what we can actually know with confidence about what the trend has been doing, and they look like this:


Let’s focus on the trend, by plotting just the smooths:


Notice that I’ve labelled the two warming “events” since 1900, which Mr. Suppes claims are “similar.” How similar are they?

The first, using the piece-wise linear fit, goes from a low of -0.348°C up to +0.012°C, for a net rise of 0.36°C, while according to the lowess smooth ranges from a low of -0.344°C up to +0.011°C for a net rise of 0.355°C. The second, according to the piecewise-linear fit goes from -0.046°C to +0.806°C for a net increase of 0.852°C, according to the lowess smooth from -0.049°C to 0.826°C for a net increase of 0.875°C.

Not only has the second episode shown a net increase 236% or 246% bigger than the first, it has also lasted longer, at least 45 years, some 60% longer. No, sir, they are not “similar” in the sense you imply, despite both being warming episodes.

Perhaps Mr. Suppes thinks he’s surprising us with his claim. He’s not; we’ve heard it before many, many times (that’s the way zombie arguments are). The only “surprise” is that he and so many of his fellow deniers expect us to believe that a previous warming event, one which is less that half as big as the ongoing one (the one that’s not done yet), somehow makes climate science wrong.

True irony about the whole thing is that Mr. Suppes responds to a post which is, among other things, about deniers leaving out context (when they claim “no global warming for XX years), by claiming that his fellow deniers are paragons of context.

Before we go, a special note to commenters “ETW” and “co2isnotevil”: don’t worry guys — your turn is coming.

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41 responses to “Zombies

  1. Do we know why the “first event” sopped (temporarily)?

    [Response: The likely cause is the dramatic increase in sulfate emissions from industrial activity following world war II.]

    • In the (not-yet-peer-reviewed) paper by Hansen et al, they suggest in Appendix A2 that the ~1940s temperature spike may have been exaggerated by artefacts from measurements in the oceans of the S Hemisphere during the war.


    • Timothy (likes zebras)

      As well as sulphate emissions other factors that may have contributed are:

      1. The early 20th century warming was partly due to natural factors – an increase in solar radiation and a rebound from the cooling caused by the large eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. Once these had worked there way out the earning tend would stabilise.

      2. There are data discontinuities due to the effect of WWII on shipping, and consequently sea surface temperature observations. Thus there may be artifacts in the data that do not reflect real trend changes.

    • There is also some suspicion that the means of measuring temperatures before “the cooling” affected reports of temperatures. This arose again later in reconciliations of the Argo float fleet. In short, ocean temperatures were often reported by measuring temperature of intake water on ships rather than CTDs and such overboard. This was convenient because otherwise there’d be a dearth of measurements in manu places. Unfortunately it also introduced a bias upwards because the intake tubes themselves, being near engine rooms, warmed the incoming water. I have never read of someone trying to recalibrate these measurements to correct for the effect now that we have Argo. I suspect it’s difficult because of varying ship geometries and practices but I don’t reallu know.

  2. Nice one. Also the end of the first warming episode didn’t see a drop back down to where that episode began. Instead, the second warming episode started at a higher level. Yet the deniers still talk about AGW being a belief. Sheesh.

  3. Pre-empting zombies….

    AGW does not mean that each year or even each decade will be warmer than the previous one. We expect a long-term rising trend with variability.

    Global warming doesn’t stop weather happening. There will still be hot and cold and wet and dry days.

    Yes, climate changed before the industrial revolution. You can read lots about that in the IPCC reports and in the cited papers that underpin the sections on, for example, paleoclimate.

    Yes, CO2 changes lag temperature changes over ice age transitions. James Hansen (et al) predicted that before it was confirmed.

    Yes, climate scientists have noticed the sun/water vapour/clouds/galactic cosmic rays/ocean-atmosphere oscillating systems, and yes, their relative influence is discussed in the IPCC reports.

    Like global temperature, Arctic sea ice fluctuates year to year, but the overall trend is in the direction of warming. It ‘recovers’ every Winter, thanks for your interest.

    Yes, climate models include oceans, clouds and convection.

    They didn’t change “global warming” to “climate change” because of the pause or any of the mocked-up reasons. Hint: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was inaugurated in 1988.

    ….. etc.

    • “They didn’t change “global warming” to “climate change” because of the pause or any of the mocked-up reasons. Hint: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was inaugurated in 1988.”

      that very same point came up in a comment thread at the guardian just the other day

      and I replied with that point re the IPCC too – plus included several 1970’s papers all relating to “Climate Change” in my response

      even the standard of denial seems to be getting worse – I mean just how easy is it too check these facts – ffs !!!!!!

      these people must need velcro to do up their shoes in the morning, and elasticated waist trousers – jeez

      • IIRC, there is a reference to “climate change” in a paper from the 1930’s, but I cannot find it at present. Peter Sinclair showed it in one of his Climate Crock videos some years ago.

        But extending your list of references back a bit further, we have the November 1965 “Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel President’s Science Advisory Committee”. They wrote of “climatic change”, discussed “possible effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate”, and noted that “atmospheric warming between 1885 and 1940 was a world-wide phenomenon”. I did not see them use the term “global warming”. The relevant pages are in this PDF:


        They conclude that “climatic ‘noise’ from other processes has at least partially masked any effect on climate due to past increases in atmospheric CO2 content” for the period between 1940 and 1960. It’s really interesting reading.

      • Well there’s also Broecker’s 1975 paper which certainly predates the current name change conspiracy dates.


  4. First, second, third episode . . . the physics doesn’t change because one episode more or less. Well, you could say “if you cannot explain this increase and decrease, may be your model is not as good as you say it is” – which has a point. AFAIK the increase / decrease / increase has been mirrored in the models. See e.g. http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models-intermediate.htm . And even if not, the basic understanding of the forcing by higher CO2-levels should give us a feeling for what are primary and more secondary effects, and all the wobbles around the general trend appear as of latter kind.
    OTOH, is it really so important to debunk each and every denier for the umpteenth time?

  5. Out of curiosity, when was the last time any of you encountered an argument against the AGW consensus that you hadn’t heard before?

    • It’s been a while. I think the last argument that was new to me was that paper a few years ago that offered the reason for warming was a rebound from the last ice age. The paper found that temp always rises after an ice age! That got published, amazingly, but at least it doesn’t seem to have become a common argument by deniers.

    • I’ve read some new detail going down the rabbit hole with sky-dragon slayers over the last few months, but that’s only detail. The general contention – there is no greenhouse effect – is years old to my knowledge. To his credit, Spencer has been trying to correct these people.

    • That is an odd interesting question. Let me first start by asking the alternate question, have you ever heard an argument against the position of the AGW consensus. If so what was it? Where “argument” requires some level of lets say sanity or better yet evidence that actually rather than is merely purported to support it.Trumps recent “its a Chinese conspiracy/hoax/plot” was new, to me, but I will be dammed if I am going to agree it was an argument. Questions about whats the actual feedback were only valid when we quite some time ago had such short time span of modern instrumental data that the error margins were large. Suggestions that something else could somehow maybe stop water vapor feedback, (The iris thing) were interesting but never crossed the hurdle of also explaining away independent lines of evidence from say the paleo data.
      Thus if we don’t exclude “brain farts” the last novel one of those I heard was china did/hoaxed it.

    • Mal Adapted,
      By coincidence, it was just today @SKS @comment 338 here..
      Apparently, “ALL the big volcano’s since the 1600’s have occured during solar maximums or solar minimums, with the ones that erupted during solar minimums bigger that the ones during maximums. pinatabo, mtst helens, krakatoa, 1991,1980, 1883 during maximums. Tambora 1815, Laki 1783 dalton and maunder mins. Tambora and Laki were so powerful that they created freezing summers.

      So the warming probably isn’t ‘that’ abnormal, it isn’t ‘that’ much-considering the weather and seasons are currently stable, crop production the past few decades has been stellar and food is cheap. There hasn’t been a big volcano for a while- a few years from now they probably start going off due to solar minimums.. and the warming is erased. There’s no reason to think the greenhouse gas effect is so powerful that it can make warming continue despite such powerful forces.”
      (It appears the “minimums” refer to the likes of the Maunder & Dalton mins, and the “maximums” refer to the high solar output of, for instance, the late 20th century, so not the max/mins of the 11-year cycle.)
      Mind this twaddle was wholly at odds with the rest of this denier’s arguments he had previously been presenting. I suppose there may be some merit in bash off on any misguided nonsense that comes to mind, however crazy – if you do it enough, you might just eventually strike lucky and overturn that curséd science underpinning AGW. Why not, if you know you are right!!!

      • There’s no reason to think the greenhouse gas effect is so powerful that it can make warming continue despite such powerful forces.

        Wave those hands fast enough and you can create a powerful cooling breeze…

      • “mtst helens” wasn’t a “big volcano” by any stretch of the definition. Twaddle is a perfect description for that pink nonsense.

      • Fair enough. But which is funnier–the idea that solar minima cause more powerful volcanic eruptions, the idea that food prices form a good proxy for multi-decadal warming, or just the spelling “pinatabo”, which, unaccountably, I find quite delightful?

      • Jim Eager,
        You actually can stretch the definition “big volcano” quite easily to include Mt St Helens but size is not the whole story.
        If you rate volcanoes purely on size (see Wikithing) Mt St Helens (1980) wasn’t one of the biggest volcanoes like Pinatubo (with a VEI of 6 or more) but it was big (VEI=5) as was El Chi’chon (1982) or Mt Agung (1963).
        But while these last two feature in the climate record, Mt St Helens did not because it isn’t close

      • “but size is not the whole story”

        Indeed, Al, but the difference between VEI 5 and 6 is a factor of 10. And then there’s location, location, location. Mt St Helens sits at 46° north, more than half way to the pole, while Mt Pinatubo is at 15° north, El Chi’chon at 17° north, Mt Agung at 8° south. Mt St Helens simply wasn’t in the same league. It isn’t even detectable in the global climate record.

      • Jim Eager,
        Thank you. You did manage to reconstruct/second-guess much of what disappeared from my truncated comment above.
        I would add that some do say the eruptions closer to the poles have more effect on climate because of the tropopause being lower with increasing latitude. Myself, I don’t see any evidence pointing to that but rather that it is tropical volcanoes appearing more influential.
        As you indicate, the VEI index is logarithmic. While it is SO2 specifically that does the business, I don’t see any reason for not considering VEI as a useful indicator of SO2. Also El Chi’chon appears to have been a big VEI-5 while St Helens appears a small VEI-5.
        As for size being less than the whole story, I see reports of the SO2 emissions showing Pinatubo 3x bigger than El Chi’chon which was itself 3x bigger than St Helens. This 3-to-1 Pinatubo/El Chi’chon ratiois however not particularly reflected in the climate wobbles which suggests to me that the relative size of St Helens would likely not be the sole reason for there being no St Helens climate wobble in 1980.
        And just to put this all in context, I am in full agreement that “Twaddle is a perfect description for that pink nonsense.”

    • I actually developed my own a few years (when my knowledge of the science was a big fat zero)

      it was based on the potential amount of methane produced by the now extinct north American bison herd – that apparently was a thousand times larger than it is today

      it was a simple case of the DK effect

      as soon as I actually engaged with the science I realised I was talking cr$p

      “talking” is a figure of speech btw – I just thought it

    • The new ones I’ve heard this year are:
      1. It’s a hoax from China trying to gain competitive advantage.
      2. The sun will engulf the Earth a few billion years from now, so why worry.

      I’ve noticed an increase in the number of statements made that are clearly, obviously wrong even to the completely oblivious — such as claiming that it hasn’t warmed in 15 years.

  6. The two temperature rise events are not comparable.
    The second rise starts from a 0.3 C higher temperature, and has to begin with a 1.1 W/m2 larger radiation loss to fight against, according to Stefan-Boltzmanns law. And then it goes much higher..
    I don’t know if it is a good analog, but it is much easier to climb the first 3000 vertical meters of Mount Everest than the last 5848 m.

  7. Good work.

    PS I think you mean “of” rather than “bigger than” in the part comparing the changes in temperature during the events.

  8. I feel there is a certain need to address the “two similar warming events within the same century” as attribution for the first of these isn’t straightforward.
    The need is driven by the space that is provided to denialist nutters if it isn’t addressed. It gives license to the likes of, say, Wu et al (2011) (graphic of the findings here) or more grubbily Tung & Zhou (2013) (graphic of their findings here) the latter certainly overstepping the mark. The argument in both these cases is that there is an AMO signal underlying the global temperature data and thus reducing the size of AGW temperature signal.
    Tung & Zhou are guilty of fiddling the ends of their wobbles and (along with Wu et al) ignore the impossible climate that would have to underlie the theoretical wobbles they argue for. What MLR does show is that there has been no sign of a wobble since 1960, a period of 56 years now. If MLR could be used for periods before 1950, it would allow the size and duration of the early 20th century attribution-problem to be demonstrated. This would likely narrow it enough to prevent dodgy analyses like Tung & Zhou from getting a denialist foot in the door of the climate literature.

  9. Well anyway, temperature increase should be viewed properly in comparison with ln(ppm CO2) and not as a function of time. Compared with ln(CO2) or even ppm CO2, it becomes a “noisy” but single process or “event”, more or less a straight (if fat) line from 1850 to present.

  10. I think climate science denial is rarely about climate science, it’s about the economic consequences that come from accepting responsiblity for this climate change. The simplest, most all encompassing means to avoid the near term costs of remaking our energy systems in response to climate change responsibility is to deny the validity of the science that it’s based on. Next ‘best’ is economic alarmism – persuading people that we’ll all be economically rooned by attempts to do such remaking – except I think the economic alarmism is the foundation that mainstream, high level support for climate science denial is built on – mostly via the influence of commerce and industry; upward influence on politicians and political decision making and downward via heightening employment uncertainty.

    Economic fears have greater immediate impact on our decisionmakers than Environmental ones – only the climate problem is as much a serious long term economic and security one as it is Environmental; but the immediate economic consequences are in mitigation, and pre-emptive action is too widely seen as something optional, that the well honed tools of political influence can be used to prevent.

  11. I know that many above, including Tamino, have effectively said the same thing, but it’s worth reiterating… even if one accepts the initial premise of non-‘greenhouse’ gas warming events being completely (or mostly) responsible for the contemporary trajectory, the Denialati have not produced any evidence for countering cooling events of similar duration and temperature magnitude.

    Without consistently-occurring and countering “cooling events”, the existence of “warming events” becomes not an issue of mere noise in a centuries- and indeed a millennia-long temperature record, but one of support for the physical theories of ‘greenhouse’ gases, theories that underpin the existent of human-caused global warming. The “warming events” collectively become an entirely more overarching warming event

    Owen Suppes’ own stance destroys his argument before it even starts.

  12. Monckton and Soon,writing in Breitbart, in a masterful display of statistical contortionism go back to 1860 and find three events, all in support of Donald Drumpf.
    WARNING: Not for weak stomachs. Comments section as well, particularly those from Gordon J. Fulks, world’s stupidest PhD (Physics).

    • Monckton and Soon,writing in Breitbart

      Wow. Crank magnetism is approaching the singularity.

    • If course, with Soon & Monckton repeating their claim made “some years ago, during testimony to the GOP caucus on a House global-warming committee before the full meeting” in which ;one of them’ (it doesn’t matter which apparently) “displayed this graph from the Fourth Assessment Report of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC,” a graph that had been marked up with some hand drawn lines allegedly showing “that from 1860-1880 as well as from 1910-1940 the rate of global warming was the same as from 1980-2005” and so disproving that AGW: the repeating of this claim allows a more grown-up analysis also to be repeated.

      If you happen to calculate the trends in temperature for the periods these perverts have cherry-picked (& here I use HadCRUT4, the current version of the data used by IPCC AR4), the trends for the period they cherry-pick (1860-80 +0.11ºC/decade, 1910-40 +0.13ºC) actually lie outside the statistical confidence interal for the trend within their chosen exemplar period of recent AGW (1980-2005) which is +0.193ºC/decade (+0.144ºC to +0.241ºC to 2sd).
      So these two perverts are in truth rather inept perverts.
      I’m not sure this should come as any surprise. Both Soon & Monckton have long since insisted on a perverse reality which wholly lies outside the confidence interval of any right-thinking person. And those who are minded to give such perverts encouragement by giving them the means to practise their perversion are presumably also complicit in the perverting of reality.

  13. An interesting sidelight on denialism, and how it becomes self-defeating:


    You can’t correct if you don’t believe the instruments.

  14. “You can’t correct if you don’t believe the instruments”

    worryingly this was the cause of the Air France Flight 447 crash into the Atlantic

    the pilots simply did not believe what the instalments were telling them

    • More complicated than that:

      1. An instrument failed.
      2. A co-pilot panicked, and pulled back.
      3. The other pilots were not aware of the control input.
      4. The instruments were tripping sanity checks and turning off.
      5. The pilots had only a few minutes to work this out.

      The captain learned the one pilot was pulling back near the end. At that point it was too late to recover from the stall. Had they worked it out, recovery would have been straightforward.

      There isn’t much analogy to the global warming problem. Our instruments are working properly, they’re well calibrated, they’re telling us a coherent story, and we’ve had decades to figure it out. Recovery requires a lot of pain.

    • The pilots assumed the instruments were faulty on Air Transat Flight 236 too. When they got a warning they could at least partly understand (fuel imbalance), they followed standard procedure (move fuel to the low tank) which was an abject mistake (they moved fuel toward the large leak). They didn’t realise their mistake until after the plane had completely run out of fuel.

      Luckily they set the record for the longest glide by a passenger jet in history.

      Strategic incompetence combined with tactical (flying) brilliance.

  15. As barry pointed out above, “AGW does not mean that each year or even each decade will be warmer than the previous one.” However, the record since the 1970’s is indeed each decade warmer than the previous. And as Tamino said, we haven’t seen the end of this yet. Although this is a site for people able to deal with at least a few technical bits, something close to Tamino’s point in this post can be conveyed with simply one surface temp data point per calendar decade, e.g. 2010 – 2019. Just about anybody can understand a period average. This also has the advantage of smoothing the much-mooted pause/slowdown. If it isn’t obvious decade by decade, then it doesn’t mean much for the century, does it? For quite a while, I used to offer bets on these decadal averages, with escalating amounts for comparisons over longer periods, but strangely enough I never got any takers, although the other side of the bet always *seemed* well represented in blog comments. I guess money doesn’t always follow mouths very closely. Regardless, I still think that that small collection of data points constitutes the best reference when talking to those who do not frequent sites like this one, with also a glance at sea level rise. As opposed to the Joe Romm style of squawking about each wiggle, which just invites squawks that sound roughly equal and opposite.

  16. I have long grown weary of fighting zombies.

    Thank you all for carrying on the good fight.

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