As part of an ongoing comedy routine, David Whitehouse of GWPF (Global Warming Policy Forum) now claims that the “pause” in global warming — the one that never happened — actually never went away. The funniest part is how lame his arguments are.
His theme is that the extreme heat of 2016 was so influenced by the recent el Niño, that if you remove the el Niño influence then the “pause” (the one that never actually happened) is still ongoing.
How much did el Niño influence 2016’s temperature? David Whitehouse quotes varying opinions. NASA’s Gavin Schmidt estimates about 0.12°C, but Peter Stott of the U.K. Met Office/Hadley Centre estimates even more, saying “about 0.2°C.” My own calculations indicate that for the NASA data it’s 0.16°C, for the HadCRU data shown by David Whitehouse it’s 0.17°C.
Naturally David Whitehouse decides to use the higher figure, so he can subtract more heat from 2016. He then “adjusts” recent temperatures to compensate for el Niño by subtracting 0.2°C from both the 2016 and 2015 values. He then produces a graph and follows it with a comment in which it’s impressive how many false statements he’s able to fit into one paragraph. Here they are:
Fig 1 shows the HadCRUT4 data for the so-called “hiatus” period. The recent El Nino years of 2015-16 are prominent. Also on the graph is the 2016 temperature without the El Nino contribution, as calculated by the Met Office. 2015 — a year with an equally strong El Nino effect — is cautiously interpolated – although the 2016 El Nino estimate is the main datapoint, (NASA Giss says that the correction for 2016 is 0.12°C and 0.05°C for 2015. The Met Office has a figure almost twice as much for 2016 which represents a significant difference of opinion between the Met Office and NASA). However, even with just the 2016 El Nino compensation the data shows that the pause hasn’t gone away. It has simply been interrupted by two very strong El Nino years. Note that there were moderate El Ninos in 2002-3 and 2009-10. Compensating for those El Ninos as well as the one in 1998 would make very little difference to the graph, and certainly would not invalidate the pause in the data. In fact it would make the temperature flatter.
I’ll share with you all my opinion of David Whitehouse’s commentary.
Let’s begin by being clear why David Whitehouse didn’t compensate for those other el Niño years: because he doesn’t know how, and nobody else did it for him.
His claim that doing so would “make very little difference to the graph” and “In fact it would make the temperature flatter” absolutely must be based on complete ignorance, because if he said that but actually knows how el Niño affects those other years, then he’d be telling an outright lie.
Referring to 2015 as “a year with an equally strong El Nino effect” as 2016, is just plain bullshit.
It’s no surprise that when he does graph temperature for us, he uses two techniques climate deniers employ regularly. First, he shows a ridiculously limited span of time, only starting with 1997. Second, he expands the y-axis to squeeze the changes into a tiny region and make them look smaller. If you actually made use of the available space more efficiently, his graph would look like this:
If you want to know how el Niño affected all those years, not just the ones David Whitehouse cherry-picks so he can reduce them, you need to know how. I’ve published research on the subject (in the peer-reviewed literature no less), so let’s help out David Whitehouse and do it for him. We’ll use his apparent favorite, the HadCRUT data from the U.K. Met Office. After removing the estimated influence of el Niño, you have this:
Removing the el Niño influence eradicates any hint of a “pause.”
We do note, however, that after removing the el Niño influence, 2016 is no longer the hottest year in the HadCRU data set. But it is in the NASA data, which — after removing el Niño — looks like this:
The main reason for the difference is that HadCRU data omit the Arctic, which soared to astounding temperature in 2016. If you leave out the fastest-warming region on Earth, you’re liable to underestimate the global average.
I actually prefer to remove the estimated influence of other things also, like volcanic eruptions and solar variations. Since the last time I did that, I’ve acquired updated data from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Without further ado, here are annual averages for four major global temperature estimates, after compensating for those natural factors:
Question for David Whitehouse: where’s that “pause”?
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