We are all familiar with the usual metrics used to highlight that the climate is changing: surface air temperatures, sea level, sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content all rising, glaciers retreating, Arctic sea ice declining etc. But, there are also many other less well known sources of information about how our climate is changing, and many involve ‘citizen scientists’, who often didn’t realise the potential long-term benefits of the data they were collecting. Continue reading Observing long-term climatic changes with unusual sources
It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming ‘slowdown’ or ‘hiatus’, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented in a new commentary in Nature Climate Change by Fyfe et al. contradicts these claims. Continue reading Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown
The Paris COP21 continues. The atmosphere today was far more relaxed after the excitement of the speeches from world leaders yesterday. Negotiations have started more seriously with discussions over decarbonisation – perhaps this should be called carbon austerity! Continue reading Reflections from Paris COP – day 2
In Weather this month, a paper by Colin Clark discusses temperature data from two rural stations in Somerset (UK). These two stations show a cooling trend over the last two decades which Clark suggests is opposite to that expected. The associated editorial suggests that this is a controversial finding.
Much attention is rightly given to changes in global mean surface temperature – it is the key metric for assessing how our climate is changing and evaluating mitigation strategies. However, no-one directly experiences changes in global mean temperature – it is only through local variations that changes in climate are felt.
So, what have global temperatures ever done for us? Continue reading What have global temperatures ever done for us?
Uncertainty in climate projections arises from several different sources. For example, the future emissions scenario is not known, so the usual approach is to run several to compare plausible futures. In addition, each climate model produces a different change in climate. However, on regional spatial scales and for the next couple of decades, it is the internal variability of climate which dominates. These natural climate fluctuations provide an irreducible limit on the precision with which we can make predictions on such spatial and temporal scales – but how large is this limit? Continue reading Irreducible uncertainty in near-term climate projections
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?
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