Roy Spencer Hot Under the Collar about Down Under

Evidently, Roy Spencer was so mightily annoyed at Australians and their Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) that he has made his dissatisfaction clear.

He objects to their using the word “record” so often, when talking about the hot temperatures this January. He definitely objects to talk about how heat waves are related to man-made climate change, with distaste for the phrase “Australia’s Extreme Heat is a Sign of Things to Come” when used as part of the title of an article in the Guardian. And, he complains about “alarmists” not knowing the difference between climate and weather.

In my opinion, the most revealing part of Roy’s post is this sentence about records:

But how is one to know what records are due to the human-component of global warming versus Mother Nature?

Roy, I think the one confusing “climate” and “weather” is you. Let me paraphrase your sentence:

But how is one to know what home runs are due to the steroids versus Mother Nature?

What’s that, Roy? Were you about to say that steroids don’t cause baseball players to hit home runs? That the very question “What home runs are due to the steroids versus Mother Nature?” is really kinda stupid?

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Just how extreme was Australia’s January, anyway? And … did it have anything to do with man-made climate change? Let’s see what the data from BoM (the Bureau of Meteorology) has to say. Here’s the yearly average high temperature anomaly in Australia, from 1910 through 2018, averaged over the entire continent:

It certainly fluctuates from year to year. After all, as Roy Spencer would remind us, there’s still weather happening.

But Roy doesn’t mention the other part of the data: the trend. It’s not fluctuation, instead it’s an actual change, not just in what happens, but in what things are and are not likely to happen. As this trend continues, extreme heat is literally “a Sign of Things to Come.”

That trend is definitely upward, not downward. It definitely shows acceleration, it’s not linear. Since 1910, high temperatures in Australia have risen an average of 1.6°C.

But wait, weren’t we just talking about January? That’s the peak of summer for those southern-hemisphere folk. Problem is, that that level of fluctuation in a single-month average is bigger than the fluctuation level in a whole-year average, and the high noise level makes it harder to see whatever signal is there. Let’s look anyway — here are monthly averages for Januarys only, from 1910 through 2018:

Even with the higher noise level, we can still confirm that the trend is definitely upward. That’s climate change. As this trend continues, extreme heat is literally “a Sign of Things to Come.”

But wait, I only showed the data through 2018. Weren’t we talking about this year? I should add that value to the graph; here you go:

Was the extremity of that final value “due to the human-component of global warming versus Mother Nature?” That’s a stupid question.

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32 responses to “Roy Spencer Hot Under the Collar about Down Under

  1. While your steroid rewording is dead on, I am reminded of the old Tobacco Institute arguments that since no one could predict exactly which smoker would get exactly what diagnosis at a specific moment in the future tobacco did not cause cancer.

    Or, in simpler terms: How do we know if Nan’s 2 pack-a-day cigarette habit killed Nan on January X, Year Y? Stupid question.

    Of course, under the terms of the Cornwall Convention, God either already has, or will intervene as necessary in the future, to negate any dangerous degree of harm. Just like all the other human follies He stopped before any harm occurred to anyone.

    • I don’t know whether God already has intervened with climate, but Dr Spencer & Christy have surely had some divine interference with data (sensu “God’s hand” by Maradona in FIFA World Cup 1986).
      I refer to the downward bending of their satellite product at the MSU/AMSU transition, achieved by cherrypick and arbitrary adjustments, not supported by data -only belief, and not properly validated.

      An illustration:

      This boomerang shape can be reproduced by comparison to any tropospheric temperature dataset, not only Ratpac (except for the flawed RSS v3.3).

    • Sceptical Wombat

      At least the Cornwall Convention cannot complain about being deniers. Their website is full of lists of things that “We deny.”

  2. I should have added: Spencer–and I think Cristy too–has signed on to the Cornwall notions.

    • Spencer along with David Legates are listed as a member of the Cornwall Alliance Advisory Board as well as members of the Cornwall Alliance Scholars Senior Fellows.
      Cristy is a supporter and has wrtten ops eds published by them but does not seem to be as involved.
      When some one with a hard science PhD publishes such crap as Tamino highlights you have to question their state of mind. Spencer also denies the theory of evolution suggesting that his faith overrides his scientific integrity.

      Cornwall Alliance For the steward ship of creation………..

      Richard Flanagan The guardian.
      Tasmania is burning. The climate disaster future has arrived while those in power laugh at us
      Is a powerfully disconcerting epitaph to the unique Tasmanian ecology disappearing before our eyes.

      • Griff, I was originally going to post at the bottom, but your Flanagan reference is a good prelude to a few points I wanted to make…

        1) I missed the chance to reply to Doc Snow and Snarkrates at the time that they posted, when they chastised me on a previous thread for my apparent nihilism:

        I don’t resile from my original comment that we are “fucked,” but perhaps I should expand on my underlying intent in the use of that statement, which breaks down into two aspects.

        Firstly, we do have locked-in consequences coming, and they are going to be serious, and they are gathering further serious impetus every day that we dither and delay in executing serious countering action. This is the point that moves me to claim that we are “fucked.” By this I don’t mean that we are backed into a corner with no hope at all of any future whatsoever, but rather that we have manufactured for ourselves a lot of pain that we cannot escape. This nuance was implicit at the end my previous post when I spoke of moving to mitigate, but perhaps I under-emphasised this. I note that Griff and Martin (paraphrasing Michael Mann) essentially repeated my point, but I think that it is worth clarifying.

        So yes, we are going to be smacked, and smacked hard. We can still do something about it, but the choice is no longer one that includes a happy, rosy future filled with butterflies and bunnies. Instead, the options are hardship and suffering on the one hand, compared to the other where the civilisation and ecology to which we have become comfortably accustomed will be ripped from us, and mere hardship and suffering seem like that meadow of butterflies and bunnies…

        Which leads me to my second and poorly elucidated thought in my previous post. As long as we continue to avoid facing this reality, on fora such as this and in the mainstream media and in government, we will not as a society properly move to do something about it. We need to be honest, unvarnished, and non sugar coated about this reality. We are going to be smacked. We’ve already wasted too much time to avoid this. The longer we continue to avoid admitting this to ourselves the harder the smacking will be, and the less option we have for avoiding a complete FUBAR. Yes, absolutely we should fight against the dying of the light until our last breaths, but if we don’t admit the pain that’s already coming we’re simply making the end result worse, and allowing ourselves as a society to slumber until there’s nothing left for which to fight.

        2) Changing tack slightly, I’ve commented previously about the Tasmanian fires that Griff mentioned above. I will reiterate that these fires weren’t largely the result of the previous sort of unusual weather events that led to fires like ’67, and (partly*) Dunalley in 2013, and (to a limited extent**) the alpine wilderness in 2016, but were stoked significantly (and perhaps almost entirely) by a climate shift. The drying summers and the lower overall rainfall in many areas has resulted in an ongoing drier ground, and a tinder bush. If there had been the blistering nor’westerly (weather) winds off the mainland that had fueled the ’67 fires, or the particularly pernicious (weather + climate) heat movement from the mainland that helped stoke the 2013 conflagration, then the current fires may well have taken out an order of magnitude more forest than the ~ 200k hectares (~ half a million acres) that was lost. As it was, it was hot but not overly so (~ 30-35 C in most areas on the hottest days, and less than 30 C on most days) and for most of the time the wind didn’t much pick up over 15-30 km/hr. And yet there was burning, and burning, and burning…

        It was the landscape itself that pushed the fires, more than the weather. And the landscape was prepped by the changing climate over the last few years.

        Through the combination of relatively benign weather (temperature and wind) and the sterling action of firefighters and planners, most of the burned area was eucalypt and button-grass, which has resilience to burning. Some rainforest was lost, but the fires were kept out of most of the sensitive areas. There are some peatlands though were fire has entered and continues to spot, and given that Tasmanian peat is usually moist and rarely dried to burning (if it did, it would no longer exist…), this current flaring adds weight to the posit that unusal climatic conditions are in force. Flanagan echoes this in his piece, in reference to other peatlands already lost.

        Why expend so much effort in a detailed description of the Tasmanian fires? Well, basically because it reflects that the bush has become unnaturally dry and that it was only hard work and pure dumb meteorological luck (to paraphrase McGonnagal) that Tasmania didn’t become a global ecological horror story, courtesy of human-caused climate change. The trouble is that the climate shifts are locked in, and the Russian roulette of weather off the mainland will not always be fortuitous. At some point that luck will inevitably run out, and when that trigger is pulled the result will well and truly be a fucking of the Tasmanian landscape. It’s simply too large an area of fuel defended by too few people and too limited resources for it to be protected indefinitely into the future. That disaster is locked in, and many are still not facing it or talking about it, and consequently the underlying action is not happening, that needs to happen to achieve whatever mitigation is left.

        Richard Flanagan echoes these observations. But there has been deathly silence from the media and government by way of response. Six or seven years ago, when the Tasmanian government first released its Climate Futures reports, I spoke to one of the ABC reporters in Tasmania about my concerns that the modelled climatic changes would lead to drying and burning of large parts of the Southwest Wilderness World Heritage Area. I estimated that we’d see the beginnings of this in one to two decades. He gave me little credence, and refused to follow up with my colleagues who work on various aspects of the ecology of forests and burning. In hindsight what I thought was my over-wrought pessimism was in fact optimism, because what happend over the last month or so, to the degree that it did, I didn’t expect until the 2030s.

        We need to stop sitting in our safe little circles, even as we are doing here (and as important as such fora as Open Mind are…) and start fully and bluntly facing the world – our neighbours, our communities, our media, our businesses, and our governments. We have to stop convincing each other of what we already know, and start telling everyone who has the capacity to think and to understand that they no longer have the luxury of carrying on with blithe disregard for the inexorable demon of cliamte change that is decending on us. We need to do this no matter how many times they laugh in our faces, and wave their disparaging hands, and click with derision and impatience, because this will only change when humanity as a whole decide that it has to change.

        We need – as a civilisation, as a species – to admit what we’ve already done to the planet, admit that we’ve sat on our hands tn order to avoid doing anything about it, and admit that we have one last chance now, today, to salvage some remnant for the future. If we’re still having these sorts of conversations in another decade, if the media is still reporting the same types of tabloid stories with only tangential focus on emissions action, and if governments continue to kick the can down the road, then there will at that point be no time left for the reserve ‘chute to unfurl.

        We need to wake up about our futility to date, walk outside and into the streets, and do something now. Now.


        *Climate, in addition to weather, had a foot on the Dunalley fire.

        **Climate had a jackboot on the 2016 fire…

      • “We are going to be smacked… hard.”

        Yes. Yes, we are.

        Actually, we already have been–if hundreds of thousands (or more) of premature deaths and hundreds of billions (USD) of economic loss count as ‘hard’ on the scale of the global economy.

        But it will get a lot worse.

        Still, there is a lot of room between ‘smacked silly’ and ‘gone.’

  3. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

    But how is one to know what records are due to the human-component of global warming versus Mother Nature?

    Holy False Dichotomy, Batman!

    Apparently, Dr Roy Spencer doesn’t quite understand addition.

  4. We will begin to make serious progress on global warming when the conservative parties that currently oppose the need to reduce emissions embrace that need. Until that time, it’s just more back and forth with the sixth great extinction event marching in the background. Aussie voters need to respond to their direct experience of global warming and vote down/out any candidate who refuses to accept the obvious. It’s the same in the US. It is tragic and ironic that the conservative parties will greatly increase the cost and impact of dealing with global warming through their steadfast denial of a very serious scientific catastrophe that is being driven by emissions.

    Yes, no need to worry if you think there is all powerful deity with an interest in our long term survival. Hard to know what to say about that. Try swimming to the horizon to demonstrate your faith and confidence. Church of lemmings.

    • “…when the conservative parties that currently oppose the need to reduce emissions embrace that need…”

      Or when the decline of their base leads to their utter political irrelevance. They are on the margin now, IMHO. And the GOP here in the US, at least, know it. That’s the precise reason for their embrace of the “Redmap” gerrymandering-on-steroids scheme, and for their energetic measures to divert, scapegoat, and suppress opposition voters.

    • smallbluemike: “We will begin to make serious progress on global warming when the conservative parties that currently oppose the need to reduce emissions embrace that need.”
      That will happen about the same time as unicorns start shitting rainbow-colored frosting. The conservatives will continue raking in fossil fuel dollars (Aussie, US and Canadian!) and opposing even common-sense preparation or prevention, and then when the rainbow-colored frosting hits the fan, they’ll blame the scientists.

  5. The editor of NewsCorps “The Australian” didn’t like that there were old records of hotter conditions – from back when temperature records were unreliable – that were ignored by the Bureau of Meteorology in favour of more modern and reliable records. Unreliable records that show what a group-think infected media newsroom wants shown are preferred over reliable records that don’t.

  6. Dr. Spencer didn’t seem to click the link to the “Special Climate Statement 68—widespread heatwaves during December 2018 and January 2019” that was clearly linked in the BOM announcement he was so hot about. In section 9, after reading the word “record” an awful lot, he’d have seen a tip on climate’s influence on the Australian hot weather, and the length of the record keeping:

    “While all exceptional climate events have proximate causes in antecedent and concurrent weather conditions, long-term trends also play a role. Australia’s annual mean temperature has warmed by just over 1 °C since 1910, and summer has warmed by a similar amount. Australia’s annual warming trend is consistent with that observed for the globe.”

    He also commented about precipitation causing rising air that led to the sinking, hot, dry air that covered almost all of Australia (with broken temperature records). He provides a color map to go “a-HA” about the cooler ocean areas, but does’t appear to think the extremely warm ocean off between Australia and New Zealand could have been the source of all that heated, moistened, rising air.

    • I’m feeling very naive. Had followed Spencer’s blog for over two years and was a regular contributor to the comment section……but until now had never heard of the Cornwall Alliance.
      What a load of horseshit!

    • b fagan,
      The Special Climate Statement 68—widespread heatwaves during December 2018 and January 2019 you mention has some serious eye-openers, not the least Table 1 which lists the top-ten hottest days (area-averaged over the country) by daily max, daily min & mean. Of these, the last two months have contributed 7 max, 6 min and 8 mean of the top 10 hottest days. For a county already with a hot climate, record-breakers like this is the last thing anybody wants. And the statement reckons it isn’t over yet, with February on average the second hottest month of the year down there and not far short of January.

      • Hi, Al. Yes, and looking through all the tables of new records in section 10, the depressing thing is seeing how many of the records broken are relatively recent – fewer and fewer of them remaining from 50, 80 years ago.

  7. David B. Benson

    Tamino, you could use meteorological summer; December, January, February.

    By the way, the single hottest day in Adelaide last week resulted in electricity costs of about Aus $143 per capita.

  8. Tamino, if you actually believe that a time series trend equates to prediction, I have some junk stock to sell you. You are a complete idiot.

    • Boo…

      Since we appear to be at the labelling stage as opposed to the science stage…If you believe that Tamino has ever said a raw time series trend alone should be extrapolated beyond its limits you are either utterly ignorant of this blog or a complete moron. Quite “scientically” observable by any educated, knowledgeable reader too. And likely extrapolatable to other areas.

      Do you have any actual science or stats to offer? Or just more ignorant name calling?

    • He has written papers discussing the autocorrelative structure of temperature series data, they don’t match stocks. The physical processes driving temperature changes don’t match those driving stocks; it is the physics that let us do prediction in fact.

      You probably could make a good buck if he actually did believe what you suggested. But good thing for him, he does not.

      Your idiot comment is illuminating and a bit sad.

    • Boo seems to think that stock values, which are a result of human behavior, work in the same way that physical systems such as global temperature work.
      Idiot is not quite the right term to describe such thoughts.
      ‘Nuf said.

    • Quick, what are the odds I can get on the proposition that “boo” will prove to be a ‘drive-by’ unwilling to engage, and ten times more unwilling to actually learn anything?

      I ask based on an informal assessment of the PDF of the past history. ;-)

    • Boo Radley,
      Gee, I’ve scanned the entire post and I can’t see anywhere that Tamino actually equated a trend with a prediction. Can you maybe help me out here? Or do you just want to keep beating on that straw man.

    • snarkrates,

      I had the same thought as Boo, and this was what caught my eye.

      Even with the higher noise level, we can still confirm that the trend is definitely upward. That’s climate change.As this trend continues, extreme heat is literally “a Sign of Things to Come.”

    • I am new to this blog, but nowhere in this post does Tamino talk about “prediction”. Your use of a personal insult isn’t even worth commenting on.

  9. Since the matter of predictions has come up again in discussion, there’s this, which I just posted elsewhere:

    [Your comments] inspired me to look at ‘past data’–ie., the projections made by the IPCC in the Second Assessment Report of 1996. How do the warming rates they anticipated more than 20 years ago now, appear in the light of present observations? (I chose SAR because while it is still old enough to be an ‘historic document’, I perceive it to be a much better analysis than FAR, which was done on a shorter timeline and seems to me to be a bit preliminary.)

    You can access it here:

    Click to access 2nd-assessment-en.pdf

    “For the mid-range IPCC emission scenario, IS92a, assuming the “best estimate” value of climate sensitivity and including the effects of future increases in aerosol, models project an increase in global mean surface air temperature relative to 1990 of about 2°C by 2100…

    “Combining the lowest IPCC emission scenario (IS92c) with a “low” value of climate sensitivity and including the effects of future changes in aerosol concentrations leads to a projected increase of about 1°C by 2100.

    “The corresponding projection for the highest IPCC scenario (IS92e) combined with a “high” value of climate sensitivity gives a warming of about 3.5°C.”

    Doing the math, 1996-2100 is obviously 104 years. So:

    Low estimate: 1 C/104 years * 10 (for conversion to decadal rate) =

    ~0.096 C/decade

    Mid-range estimate: ~0.192 C/decade

    High estimate: ~0.337 C/decade

    Clearly, the mid-range estimate is quite close to the observed warming since 1979, as I discussed below. But that makes me curious about what has been observed since 1996, specifically. So, back to woodfortrees:

    The linear fit gives a value of ~0.194 C/decade.

    One may always quibble, of course. Has the forcing from 1996 compared well with the observed forcing? I’m not sure about that, honestly; on one hand, energy use growth has lagged in much of the developed world, but on the other, no-one in 1996 anticipated the enormous Chinese ‘growth spurt’ either.

    But at the very least, I think one has to admit that the SAR projections look pretty darn good in retrospect.

    I like this approach because it affords a simple way to sidestep baselining issues that necessarily arise with graphing the trend, and which have proven fertile ground for distortion. (Cf., the Christy ‘models vs. obs’ graph, which he presented to Congress.)

  10. Tamino, the first link in your post goes to a comment in the thread over there that has nothing to do with your point. Did you mean instead to link to the main article?

    [Response: Right you are. Fixed.]

  11. Somewhat off-topic, but this judgement is a bit of good news on the Australian front:

  12. Something that is missing from Spencer’s invective, and a point that others should make, is that temperature isn’t the only climate manifestation that is changing the face of Australia and the rest of the planet. Changes in rainfall patterns and amounts and timings, and changes in wind speed and direction and timing, and changes in humidity, are all synergising with temperature to alter the face of the country (and the globe).

    It’s the integral that matters, and the ecology of the Earth will in turn integrate that to give a formula that will choke us…