All posts by Ed Hawkins

Ed Hawkins (twitter: @ed_hawkins) is a climate scientist in NCAS-Climate at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. His research interests are in decadal variability and predictability of climate, especially in the Atlantic region, and in quantifying the different sources of uncertainty in climate predictions and impacts. Ed is a Contributing Author to IPCC AR5 and a member of the CLIVAR Scientific Steering Group.

Extremes of 2014 in review

Was last year really the warmest on record? As soon as NOAA published its official announcement in January, this question invaded the web feeding blogs, online newspapers and forums with passionate discussions. Relevant or pointless? The question is not so much knowing whether or not a new record was broken. Should 2014 rank second or third, this wouldn’t change the big picture: last year, temperatures on our planet continued the existing long-term positive trend. On top of that, the story is a bit thicker than the one single number obtained when averaging near-surface air temperatures in time and space. So, 2014: year of extremes or warm year in a changing climate?

Guest post by François Massonnet, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium / Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences, Spain Continue reading Extremes of 2014 in review

A spectrum of global temperature trends

Trends in global mean temperature are not static through time. Changes due to radiative forcings are influenced by internal climate variability. A recent paper by Karl et al. concluded that:

the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

Are these conclusions, based on comparing a few periods, correct? Continue reading A spectrum of global temperature trends

How not to use daily CMIP5 data for impact studies

A new paper out this week in PLOS Biology uses some CMIP5 simulations of daily mean surface air temperature as part of a larger analysis on the change to future plant growing days. The description of the analysis suggests they have not used the simulations appropriately to arrive at their conclusions. Here I highlight a couple of possible pitfalls in using such data in impact studies. Continue reading How not to use daily CMIP5 data for impact studies

Hiatus delays unprecedented warming rates

Current global temperatures are often discussed in terms of their unprecedented nature when compared to the last few thousand years. An interesting paper in Nature Climate Change by Steven J Smith and colleagues examines the rate of warming projected by the CMIP5 ensemble and suggests that the rate of warming is unprecedented also. However, we note here that their projections are not constrained by the current observations which do not show such strong warming rates at present, and are unlikely to do so in the next few years. Continue reading Hiatus delays unprecedented warming rates

Reinventing the colour wheel

Between 5-10% of men and around 0.5% of women are affected by various forms of colour blindness. The most common form is deuteranopia, for which distinguishing between red and green is particularly challenging. This has been pointed out many times before, but it may be worth remembering next time you make a figure or visualisation: ‘red and green should never be seen’.

[Part of the #endrainbow campaign.]

Colour wheel for normal and simulated deuteranopic vision. Click for larger version.
Colour wheel for normal and simulated deuteranopic vision. Click for larger version.

Arctic sea-ice decline erratic as expected

Imagine a ball bouncing down a bumpy hill. Gravity will ensure that the ball will head downwards. But, if the ball hits a bump at a certain angle it might move horizontally or even upwards for a time, before resuming its inevitable downward trajectory. This bouncing ball is an analogy for the behaviour of Arctic sea-ice.

Post based on Swart et al., Nature Climate Change, or see a less technical summary. Continue reading Arctic sea-ice decline erratic as expected

Is there a pause in the temperature of the lower troposphere?

In my recent post whether there is a ‘hiatus’ in global warming I left out the satellite observations of the lower troposphere. The reason for that was that the analysis of these is different from that of the near-surface series, and I considered the latter were more relevant. First, most of us live at ground level most of the time, and secondly this has traditionally been the main measure by which to gauge global warming. My conclusions were that there has been a positive trend since 1998, but no trend over the last 10 years. However, the natural variability of 10-year trends is so large that this is compatible with the positive long-term trend. The indicator of global warming with the best signal-to-noise ratio, ocean heat content, shows no sign of stopping over the last 10 years.

Guest post by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, KNMI Continue reading Is there a pause in the temperature of the lower troposphere?

Hiatuses in the rise of temperature

“In the last few years the warming trend of the earth has stopped” is a common type of remark these days. Is that indeed the case, and can we conclude that the projections for the rest of the century are being overestimated? And if so, how come that large parts of Europe are expected to have the warmest year recorded in 2014? There is a chance that the global mean temperature will also be the highest in the series.

Guest post by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, KNMI Continue reading Hiatuses in the rise of temperature

Projected changes of precipitation and temperature extremes

Model projections of heavy precipitation and temperature extremes include large uncertainties. However, disagreement between individual simulations primarily arises from internal variability, whereas models agree remarkably well on the forced signal.

Post based on Fischer et al., 2014, Geophys. Res. Lett.
Continue reading Projected changes of precipitation and temperature extremes

The slowdown zoo

Investigations into the recent observed slower rate of global warming have largely been focussed on variability in the Pacific basin. Climate models also show similar slowdowns focussed in the Pacific (e.g. Meehl et al. 2011).

But, is this the only type of simulated slowdown? How different can regional patterns of temperature change be for the same global change? Continue reading The slowdown zoo

Earth’s energy imbalance

Global surface air temperatures have risen less rapidly over the past 15 years than the previous few decades. The causes of this ‘hiatus’ have been much debated. However, just considering surface temperatures does not tell the whole story – a new analysis using satellite & ocean observations confirms that the Earth is still gaining energy overall. Continue reading Earth’s energy imbalance

Wet get drier (eventually)?

A prevailing paradigm of how rainfall patterns will change on a warming Earth is that the hydrological cycle strengthens causing wet regions to get wetter and dry regions to get drier.

However, this is not always the case: Hawkins, Joshi & Frame (2014) highlight one particular effect – the movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) – as a key long-term driver of rainfall changes that do not follow this ‘wet get wetter’ paradigm. Continue reading Wet get drier (eventually)?

Top-of-atmosphere contribution to unforced variability in global temperature

As the attention received by the ‘global warming hiatus’ demonstrates, global mean surface temperature (T) variability on decadal timescales is of great interest to both the general public and to scientists. Here, I will discuss a recently published paper (Brown et al., 2014) that attempts to contribute to this scientific discussion by investigating the impact of unforced (internal) changes in the earth’s top-of-atmosphere (TOA) energy budget on decadal T variability.

Guest post by Patrick Brown (Duke University) Continue reading Top-of-atmosphere contribution to unforced variability in global temperature

Getting a Comment published in Nature

After our recent Brief Communication Arising (BCA) was published in Nature on Mora et al., several people have asked about the process involved in getting such a comment published.

Nature apparently only publish a small fraction of BCAs received and allow a reply from the original authors. Roughly one BCA is published online each month and they never appear in the print edition. This post describes what happened in our particular example. Continue reading Getting a Comment published in Nature

On Mora et al.’s Reply

Yesterday saw the publication of our Comment on Mora et al., along with Mora et al.’s Reply and an associated ‘News & Views’ piece. Although the Editors deserve credit for commissioning a News & Views piece on this exchange – a first for a Comment in Nature – there are still errors in Mora et al.’s Reply. A previous post summarised the issues with the original paper, and Doug McNeall also discusses the main issues. Continue reading On Mora et al.’s Reply

Uncertainties in the timing of unprecedented climates

Back in October 2013, Nature published an analysis by Camilo Mora et al. which discussed when ‘unprecedented climates’ would emerge, with a focus on regions of high biodiversity.

The paper was highlighted by Nature with an associated News & Views article and received widespread media attention (e.g. Climate Central, National Geographic, Guardian, Grist, amongst many). The paper was also in the top 100 most discussed papers from 2013 according to Altmetric.

Unfortunately, it has since emerged that the analysis has some serious flaws. A ‘Brief Communication Arising’ (or Comment) has now been published by Hawkins et al. in Nature (freely available for one month), written by a large group which includes several IPCC Lead Authors, from both WG1 and WG2. There is also a ‘Reply’ from Mora et al., and a new News & Views (N&V) piece by Scott Power discussing the continuing disagreement between the author teams. This is the first ever N&V on a Comment in Nature.

This post provides a slightly less technical description of the issues with Mora et al.’s analysis. The errors in Mora et al.’s Reply are summarised in a separate post. The Carbon Brief blog has also produced some videos on the topic. Continue reading Uncertainties in the timing of unprecedented climates

The signal, the noise & the time of emergence

Temperatures have increased over most parts of the planet, but this signal is somewhat obscured by the random noisy fluctuations of natural climate variability. The year in which we can we detect the ‘signal’ of temperature change in the presence of the ‘noise’ is often called the ‘time of emergence’. This is the first of a series of posts on this topic this week. Continue reading The signal, the noise & the time of emergence

Improving the weather from 96 years ago

Ideally, we would have observations of past weather everywhere for several centuries to reconstruct the state of the atmosphere and learn about its variability. But, we don’t.

Instead, all the observations ever taken would, ideally, be available digitally for everyone to use. But, they aren’t. Many past observations are buried in hand-written journals and logbooks, gathering dust in libraries and archives all over the world. Rescuing this data would be of great benefit to reconstructing past weather, as this example will show. Continue reading Improving the weather from 96 years ago