The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is claiming that 2010 is the hottest year on record.
USA Today trumpeted: “World sizzles to record for the year” — a headline picked up by many major media outlets. Jay Lawrimore, climate analysis chief at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, said:
It’s part of an overall trend. Global temperatures have been rising for the last 100-plus years. Much of the increase is due to increases in greenhouse gases.
There are many things wrong with this statement. First, the most obvious, eh, problem: the year was only half over at the time.
If your horse leads halfway through the race, do you get to collect your winnings? If the price of a barrel of oil is $100.00, will that be the price at the end of December? If the day starts sunny and dry, does that mean it won’t rain in the afternoon?
He strongly implies that this year’s warmth is consistent with the theory that greenhouse gases from humans burning fossil fuels makes the earth warmer: it’s our fault.
Consistent. The sun moving from east to west across the sky is consistent with the theory that the Sun orbits the Earth. Something being consistent with something else is proof of nothing, and not worth stating.
It’s true, 2010 got off to a warm start. Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says the first six months of this year were the second warmest since the satellite-measured temperature era began in 1979, and satellite-measured temperature is more accurate than temperature measured at weather stations on Earth. Weather stations on the Earth’s surface are subject to modifying influences, such as cities growing around thermometers that were once rural 50 to 100 years ago. As the cities grow around the thermometers, the long-term temperature trend slowly rises. The buildings, roads, and other paved surfaces add heat to the local climate, corrupting any long-term trend.
Also — changes in the types of thermometers used and changes in their location can corrupt long-term accuracy. Satellite-measured temperatures do not suffer these significant problems and are therefore more reliable.
The warmth of the first half of this year is from being the leftover heat generated by this past winter’s El Nino. The warm Pacific waters of El Nino heat the entire planet. The warmest year in the last 30 was in 1998, a year that featured a record large and record warm El Nino.
But what about the remainder of 2010? Will it continue to be the “hottest ever”? More than likely, no. A La Nina is developing in the Pacific — the cooler sister of El Nino. La Nina will refrigerate the planet during the second half of the year. By the end of the year it is likely that 2010 will be nowhere near the “hottest ever,” because of La Nina’s chilly personality.
Other troubling statements have been coming from NOAA, which makes me wonder if this agency might be following the same path as NASA.