Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Data Reveals the Truth: Global Warming is Not Happening

With the cap-and-trade bill making its way through Congress, I think it's time to express my opinion on the subject of climate change and global warming. I am not an expert in the field, but I am a scientist and the points I make are scientifically valid and correct to the best of my knowledge.

The debate over global warming can be distilled to two basic questions:

(1) Is the earth undergoing an unusual period of warming? and,

(2) Is the warming caused by the man-caused increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration (and if so, what can we do about it)?

In this post I address the first question: is the planet warming? Even many “skeptics” say that it is. You can google “climate change” and find graphs showing a sharp warming trend in recent years, and easily convince yourself that global warming is real. A scientist, however, must consider not only these graphs, but how they were constructed – the raw data, the methodology – to determine their validity.

I have done so, and I've concluded that global warming is NOT happening. Or more accurately, there is no reliable evidence that it is happening. The figures and "facts" used to demonstrate global warming are unreliable and the analyses invalid, while the voluminous reliable data show that the warming trend claimed by global warming proponents does not exist.

The bogus "hockey stick" graph

First let's start with the famous “hockey stick” graph. There are several versions of this graph, produced by different climatology groups, and they show the same thing: from the year 1000 until about 1900 the “global temperature” has varied mildly up and down, but from 1900 onward it skyrockets (hence the term “hockey stick”).

This graph, constructed mostly by Michael E. Mann, has been so criticized and discredited for its bad methodology and mathematics that it is now considered totally bogus and bordering on scientific malpractice. In fact, Mann's statistical algorithm has been shown to produce that “hockey stick” shape even when fed random data. Any conclusions based on this or similar graphs should be discarded.

The impossible task of calculating "global temperature"

Now that the issue of the "hockey stick" graph is out of the way, let's address a real scientific problem. How does one calculate the average "global temperature"?

The reality is that it is so difficult to determine the average temperature of an entire planet that it's reasonable to say there is no such thing. Of course scientists try to calculate it anyway and this is done through several means, which can be divided into two categories: direct measurements, typically limited to modern times, and temperature reconstructions, for hundreds to thousands or millions of years ago. For this post I will limit the discussion to modern direct measurements.

Bogus "global temperature" calculations

Throughout modern history humans have recorded the temperature of the air where we live. Since the late 1800s this has been done in an organized fashion, with standardized equipment set up in meteorological monitoring stations around the world. This continues to today, and the recordings are now assembled in a centralized database.

The problem is that the meteorological stations cover only a tiny fraction of the global land surface. To extrapolate an average temperature for the entire planet from this sparse and sporadic data requires generous assumptions and mathematical calculations which, to my knowledge, have only been publicly described in a qualitative way. Nevertheless, some scientists have used this data, and found that their calculated "global temperature" has been rising rapidly in recent years:

The above “global temperature” graph was originally produced by Dr. James Hansen. Dr. Hansen runs NASA GISS, and is responsible for nearly every graph and study cited by global warming proponents. He is also a famous climate activist who argues that CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be put on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature". He is the same Dr. Hansen who, along with actress Daryl Hannah and 30 other climate activists, was arrested in June 2009 in a protest at a coal mining facility in West Virginia. His strange behavior and climate activism should not necessarily disqualify his research, but it is clear he is not following the impartiality and professionalism that should be expected of respectable scientists.

Look at the above figure in detail. It traces the “global temperature” from 1880 to today using a single line. The green “error bars” on the graph are not really error bars – they don't reflect uncertainty in the “global temperature” calculation, but “account only for incomplete spatial sampling of data”. I've already mentioned the impossibility of calculating an average “global temperature”, but even without that understanding any honest scientist could point out that this graph is absurd. The number of meteorological stations and the fraction of global area covered have changed dramatically from 1880 to today. Therefore any comparison of global averages necessarily draws from vastly different data sets from year to year. Despite the best efforts of the researchers, this will skew the averages over time. The construction of this graph is an interesting exercise for curiosity's sake, but it cannot be relied upon to draw conclusions about global climate.

To further demonstrate this point, take a look at this video, which shows how the temperature network has grown since the 1890s, and then dwindled in modern times:

Every scientist knows that when half the data points are thrown out it is bound to skew the results.

Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, the raw station data must be thoroughly processed and manipulated to yield an average "global temperature". NOAA has published the temperature difference between the raw data and the processed numbers used in their climate figures. The result is their "adjusted" data shows an additional 0.5 degree (F) temperature increase over the past 5 decades that is not present in the raw data:

Reliable temperature measurements show no warming

The only reliable and scientifically accurate way to determine temperature trends is to limit our analysis to consistent data sets. By this I mean temperature measurements made using a single reliable method, at a single location or over a consistently-well-covered region of the globe, for an extended period of time. It just so happens that many such data sets exist, and they offer no evidence of global warming.

The most reliable and consistent temperature record in existence uses a single measurement method over a very large contiguous area and length of time: the meteorological record of the United States of America. I have downloaded the data and plotted it with no modification:

As you can see, there is no warming trend in the United States. This fact is well-known, but global warming proponents claim it is an anomaly – that for reasons unknown the USA is not experiencing global warming. Is it a coincidence that the single most reliable temperature record in the world shows no warming and is discounted as an unexplainable anomaly, while the dubious and scientifically-invalid calculation of “global temperature” shows warming and is heralded as fact? (Also note that the USA graph includes the artificial 0.5-degree warming that, as shown above, NOAA added to the raw data.)

If the lack of warming in the USA temperature record is really an anomaly, then what about other consistent temperature records from around the world?

Graphs of individual temperature stations from around the world are available online. I have downloaded data from 18 stations at random. The areas sampled include eastern, western, and northern Canada, Alaska, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Australia, Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Egypt, northern and sub-Saharan Africa, and South America. I limited my sampling to mostly stations in rural areas (to avoid the urban "heat island" effect), and those with uninterrupted data extending back most of a century. An example is shown below: data from Anchorage, Alaska, and Reykjavik, Iceland. The complete set is available here.

Not one shows a dramatic warming trend. In not one location are today's temperatures unusually warm. This is a small sample of the total number of stations, but what is the probability that 18 stations selected at random would show no evidence of warming if a dramatic warming trend really exists? Or is it more likely that, as I have argued, the graphs of "global temperature" are bogus and global warming is not really happening?

The ice caps are not melting

Direct temperature measurements are not the only consistent means of determining global climate trends. Global warming proponents often claim that the melting of the polar ice caps is strong evidence for global warming. Amazingly, global sea ice data from NOAA proves just the opposite: the ice caps are not melting and global warming is not happening.

It is true that Arctic ice has been shrinking in recent years, but Antarctic ice is growing - at the same rate. The total sea ice coverage of the planet has remained unchanged ever since satellite measurements began in 1979, as depicted by the red "anomaly" line in the above graph hovering around zero. The fact that Arctic ice is melting while Antarctic is growing is a sign of shifting weather patterns, not of global warming.

Satellite temperature measurements show no warming

There is one more consistent data set: global satellite temperature measurements. Since 1979 a series of satellites in orbit have been monitoring global temperatures. The satellite data provide probably the best estimate of global atmospheric temperature trends. I have downloaded the satellite data directly from the source and plotted it below:

Where is the dramatic warming trend? The satellite data looks nothing at all like Hansen's "global temperature" graphs. It is clear from the above plot that any evidence of warming is inconclusive at best, and there is a slight cooling trend since the temperature peak in 1998. (Note: the two large spikes in the TLS data are the result of volcanic eruptions.)

Conclusion: Global warming is NOT happening
Several reliable, consistent data sets show no evidence of warming. The evidence in favor of global warming comes from heavily-processed and manipulated, scientifically-unreliable figures made by scientists-turned-climate-activists. As an objective scientist or observer, which data would you trust? The answer is clear: global warming does not exist.

In a following post I will address a different question: is the idea that man-made CO2 emissions can cause global warming a valid scientific theory?


  1. Great in depth post on the hoax of anthropogenic global warming. I occasionally post on the issue, but you are really on top of it. The whole farce started with the now infamous 'hockey stick' graph, but greens and liberals never mention it anymore. How many time do you have to prove something wrong before people get it? I gave you a follow on blogger. Keep up the good work.

  2. "The above “global temperature” graph was originally produced by Dr. James Hansen. Dr. Hansen runs NASA GISS, and is responsible for nearly every graph and study cited by global warming proponents. He is also a famous climate activist who argues that CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be put on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature". He is the same Dr. Hansen who, along with actress Daryl Hannah and 30 other climate activists, was arrested in June 2009 in a protest at a coal mining facility in West Virginia. His strange behavior and climate activism should not necessarily disqualify his research, but it is clear he is not following the impartiality and professionalism that should be expected of respectable scientists."

    Careful - you call Dr. Hansen impartial and out yourself as equally impartial in the same paragraph. If you're going to pretend to be reasonable, you've at least go to write it convincingly.

    You do bring up some good points, but I have to elect not to buy in to them entirely.

  3. "An Independent": I appreciate your comment. I'm curious how you find that I am "equally impartial"? I do not work for an organization that directly benefits from the idea that global warming is real, although like most scientists I stand to lose some research funding if the government decides global warming is no longer a concern. I am firm in arguing the case against global warming, as scientific integrity demands, but I am not making outrageous accusations and calling for the criminal trials of those who disagree with me, nor am I getting arrested for protesting along with a Hollywood actor who enjoys living in trees.

    Anyway, as I wrote in my post, Hansen's behavior does not disqualify his research; the lack of scientific validity of his methods and the dishonest way in which he presents his findings does. All I've done is point that out, and then present some of the voluminous reliable data that shows climate trends that look nothing at all like what Hansen's group puts out, and shows no evidence of global warming.

    It's the scientific process: when you propose a theory, you must present convincing evidence to back it up. In light of the evidence presented for global warming so far, I am not convinced in the slightest. Show me some reliable evidence to the contrary, and you can change my mind.

  4. The global ice area talks just about area, not about the depth of the ice. Antarctica is a more isolated system from the arctic, so it makes sense that the arctic sea ice would begin to disappear first (and there is data showing that the arctic ice caps are melting). Finally, scientists have talked in a quantitative way about the statistical errors that are inherent in trying to measure any system. They are in the methods sections of the research papers about temperature/climate.

    Also, Dr. James Hansen is not responsible for "nearly every graph and study". He's prominent, but there are plenty of other independent scientists who have produced similar results.

    Just sayin'

  5. Arctic ice thickness is trending upwards, not downwards. The "melting" of Arctic ice has been shown to result from changing wind patterns, which in recent years have started to flush sea ice out through the Fram Strait. Arctic ice is not melting. Ice around the edges is being blown out into the Atlantic, while ice in the center is thickening. Hence the area decline in the Arctic.

    The Antarctic is a more isolated system, and hence is less subjected to the frequent natural variability experienced by the Arctic. Based on that, the Antarctic would be more representative of the overall long-term climate trend. And it is not melting.

    The scientists responsible for the most frequently cited (and "strongest") evidence for global warming have not sufficiently described their methods. That's why there are numerous outstanding FOIA requests to see the raw data and source code. Thankfully, the ClimateGate leaked emails also included files of raw data and source code, which continue to be analyzed and actual fraud in the data has been found. For example, here:

    Dr. Hansen is a joke. I'm usually not one for ad-hominem attacks, but the guy's been arrested multiple times. Most scientists would get fired for such antics. As for other scientists being "independent", don't believe that for a second. The ClimateGate emails proved a large amount of collusion between the lead "global warming" scientists, including coordinated efforts to illegally delete data and emails to avoid embarrassment in light of the above-mentioned FOIA requests.

  6. Actually, one more point about the Arctic. You know how greenhouse has theory works, right? Greenhouse (a misnomer) gases trap reflected long-wave radiation and re-emit it as heat. So you'd think in a place like the Arctic, global warming would result in much warmer temperatures during the summer, when the sun is shining down 24 hours a day, and all that long-wave radiation is beaming back out into the atmosphere and getting trapped by greenhouse gases. But no, what we find is that Arctic summer temperatures are amazingly stable year-to-year. Arctic summers are not getting any warmer at all. What we do see is Arctic winters trending somewhat warmer, but there is a huge amount of variability in the week-to-week winter temperature anomaly --- and all that is happening in near total darkness.

  7. This was an awesome article. I'm using much of the material in a class debate. This gets really in depth and has the visual stuff, too. Wow!