Breaking news: Unprecedented global warming in past year

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From January 2008 to January 2009, the planet warmed a remarkable 0.37°C (see data here). This is 20 times (!) the annual rate of warming in recent decades and 20 times what most climate models have projected we should be experiencing.

The N.Y. Times and WSJ have made this stunning news of accelerated human-caused global warming a lead story, and even some previously skeptical “deniers” who had been pushing the myth of global cooling have publicly wondered how they could have been so wrong…. Okay, maybe that last sentence is wishful thinking.

But I’m sure you remember how the deniers and the media spun up the global cooling meme a year ago [see “Media enable denier spin 1: A (sort of) cold January doesn’t mean climate stopped warming“]. That meme began with a misleading post by retired TV weatherman Anthony Watts, which was based in large part on the coincidence of a (relatively) cool January 2008 following on the heels of the warmest January on record (according to NASA’s dataset).

So now we have a quite warm January 2009, which ties with 1998 as the 5th warmest January in NASA’s temperature record, following on the heels of that moderately cool [OK, technically 31st warmest on record] January 2008. And that gives us the huge year-over-year warming, which should be making headlines around the online and traditional media, if they were consistent, which, of course, they are not.

I should note that the National Climatic Data Center has this as the 7th warmest January (see here), with year-over-year warming of ‘only’ 0.35°C.

Note also that we are still experiencing La Ni±a conditions, which tend to slightly cool global temperatures.

Now what could really make this a genuinely serious emerging storyline is that in the summer of 2007, the Hadley Center made some interesting near-term predictions in Science (see “Climate Forecast: Hot — and then Very Hot“). They pointed out that in addition to the steady increase in anthropogenic warming from greenhouse gases you have to add a smaller variation from climate oscillations linked to the oceans. Those oscillations have been tamping down temperatures a tad, and may keep doing so for the next year or so, but the decade of the 2010s is going to bring a return to record-smashing temperatures:

Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.


UPDATE: Figure Caption. Globally averaged annual mean surface temperature anomaly (relative to 1979–2001) forecast by DePreSys starting from June 2005. The CI (red shading) is diagnosed from the standard deviation of the DePreSys ensemble, assuming a t distribution centered on the ensemble mean (white curve). Also shown are DePreSys and ensemble mean NoAssim (blue curves) hindcasts starting from June 1985 and June 1995, together with observations from HadCRUT2vOA (black curve). Rolling annual mean values are plotted seasonally from March, June, September, and December. The mean bias as a function of lead time was computed from those DePreSys hindcasts that were unaffected by Mount Pinatubo (SOM text) and removed from the DePreSys forecast (but not the hindcasts)

They further predict the year 2014 will “be 0.30° ± 0.2°C warmer than the observed value for 2004,” which means there is a 50% chance that the warming from 2004 to 2014 will be 3/8 that of the warming of the previous century!

And this prediction matches a more recent, albeit more misunderstood, analysis in Nature (see Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming), which suggests:

  • The “coming decade” (2010 to 2020) is poised to be the warmest on record, globally.
  • The coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade since the authors’ calculations began in 1960.
  • The fast warming would likely begin early in the next decade.

And of course we have NASA’s recent prediction: “Likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years.”

Okay, so this post started out only semi-serious and ended up fully serious. The point is there never was “global cooling,” and it remains absurd that the media or anyone else, including the conservative blogosphere, ever pushed that storyline — especially if they aren’t prepared to write about the “re-accelerated” warming that inevitably follows such “cooling” (see “The best climate blog you aren’t reading“).

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43 Responses to Breaking news: Unprecedented global warming in past year

  1. Lewis says:

    And yet we get this linked from the front page of MSN.

  2. paulm says:

    Will Obama be an honorable man?

    A word of caution to Obama
    Desmond Tutu, the first black South African archbishop of the Anglican church
    It would be wonderful if, on behalf of the nation, Obama apologises to the world, and especially the Iraqis, for an invasion that I believe has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.

  3. paulm says:

    @Lewis we all hope he is right that there wont be catastrophic climate change, but what gives with these weather guys?
    (hey, have we heard what the weather ladies say anywhere? Maybe its a gender thing.)

    John Coleman, put up or shut up
    February 9, 2009 by greenfyre

  4. Jamie Scott says:

    I’m afraid you aren’t looking at the right numbers in the context of global warming. You are comparing Jan 2009 to Jan 2008, which is too narrow of a window when you are discussing global warming. In such a short timescale you are mixing in other inter-annual climate processes such as El Nino/ La Nina. This oceanic oscillation has a profound impact on global temperatures on an inter-annual time scale. The reports of “global cooling” in 2008 were accurate in the sense that the annual mean temperature for 2008 was cooler than 2007 — you can see that in the data you posted. This “global cooling”, however was just a reflection of the strong La Nina phase that occurred in early 2008. You need to look at longer than annual mean temperatures when you are discussing global warming — at least 5 year means — to smooth out the El Nino/ La Nina cycles. They can deceive global warming deniers and proponents alike — every 2-3 years! Please look at the graph with 5 year means super-imposed on annual means from the same NASA site you referenced:
    The red line is the 5 year running mean– this is the line you should talk about in the context of global warming. You can see the black line (annual mean) oscillates about the red line with a periodicity of about 2-3 years. This is El Nino/La Nina. You were pointing out changes from Jan2008 to Jan2009, which emphasizes inter-annual variability even more. So you are making the same mistake the people reporting “global cooling” were last year. It is remarkable and more significant that Jan 2009 was the 5th warmest Jan on record.

  5. paulm says:

    Hansens has predicted record warming over the next 2yrs and it looks like hes going to be right, again.

    Global Temperature Analysis
    Jan. 13 2009: 2008
    Given our expectation of the next El Nino beginning in 2009 or
    2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2
    years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance.

  6. paulm says:

    Get your marching boots on – its time for direct action…

    Dr. James Hansen calls for Civil Disobedience at the Capitol March 2nd

  7. Lewis says:

    The thing to me is that if people will listen to a weatherman about climate they won’t even begin to understand what an actual climate scientist will tell them. Not understanding the most fundamental aspect — weather is not climate it seems slim that anything else is going to get through to them.

  8. Jamie Scott says:

    @Lewis That’s very true. People not only look at too short a time scale in the context of global warming, but sometimes they focus on a region instead of the global mean. For example the cold winter in western Europe has been an example for global warming deniers recently.

  9. John Hollenberg says:


    I think you misunderstood Joe’s post. There is a reason it is posted under the “Humor” section. He is making fun of the deniers, using their own technique of short-term fluctuations in temperature.

  10. Jamie Scott says:

    @John Thanks. I didn’t see the humor tag, but it still seems at least half serious.
    @Joe Sorry if I didn’t get the joke, I guess it was too subtle for me

  11. ken levenson says:

    side note – with each news update in the last 2 days – i hear “CLIMATE CHANGE” mentioned many times….
    Clinton in Asia, it’s item number one.
    Obama in Canada it’s item number two….
    admittedly it’s NPR i’m listening too but the mention of climate change has seemingly gone up 1000 fold in the last several weeks…..
    now, that is change we can believe in…. ;)

  12. John Hollenberg says:


    Yes, Joe started out with a joke on the deniers, then slid into more serious stuff. Took me a bit of time to separate the two categories out, so not surprised you missed it.

  13. beefeater says:

    Proving once again not to joke around with the “True Believers”. That’s like calling Obama (or Gore) on his B.S., it just isn’t humorous.

  14. Aaron d says:

    I think I’m a little slow as well. I kept thinking, this doesn’t seem like a post Joe would normally make, comparing 2 years. LOL, great post

  15. John Hollenberg says:

    > Proving once again not to joke around with the “True Believers”.

    Yes, the true believers (=rational, scientifically literate people) believe in science and catch the non-scientific stuff right away. If the deniers didn’t have Anti-Science Syndrome, they would see what we are up against with the gloabl warming problem.

  16. Jamie Scott says:

    @Beefeater Your use of “true believers” sounds like you think it is based on faith. There really isn’t any debate that the planet is warming and that is entirely fact based. That evidence is irrefutable. There is some room for debate about how much of the warming is due to humans and CO2 emissions vs other natural cycles. Your “true believers” quip indicates you have no interest in scientific debate, so go have another Gin and Tonic.

  17. Mark says:

    NASA might be right about 2005’s record being broken within 1-2 years. This is also in line with the Hadley forecast. The ENSO mean forecast from NCEP is currently predicting that el Nino will develop mid-year, with the Nino3.4 anomaly at more than +1 and rising by year’s end. None of their models predict la Nina conditions by that time. They correctly forecasted the current rapid re-establishment of la Nina that has emerged this winter. See page 28.

    With all the talk from the contrarian crowd about alleged cooling factors, they need to ask themselves why global temperatures are still near record levels.

  18. Susan says:

    Paulm, in response to your “Hey, have we heard what the weather ladies say anywhere?” check out yesterday’s blog by Mish Michaels, one of Boston’s CBS Meterologists:
    Scroll down 4 more recent entrees to “Curious About Global Warming.” Her responses to the comments are particularly upsetting!

  19. Tom Laws says:

    Can you imagine the sheer panic of this debate had it started 10,000 years ago?

    “I’m telling you, the glaciers covering Europe and North America are going to melt!!! Temperatures will rise 10’s of degrees! The fauna and flora of those areas will disappear! Beautiful whiteness will be replaced by stormy, muddy hell holes unfit for Eskimos”.

    [JR: Another victim of anti-science syndrome.]

  20. Bob Wright says:

    The deniers keep pulling out their version of the HadCRUT chart. The version that starts in 1998. I have mixed emotions. Maybe another series of record years would shut them up, but it would be nice if they were right.

    Unfortunately, I won’t get either wish. They deniers are wrong and they probably won’t shut up no matter how hot it gets.

    Any more news on the Wilkins shelf?

  21. cce says:

    10,000 years ago, the glaciers had already melted, a process that took about 7,000 years. The change in temperature was 4-6 degrees. Over the next century, we are looking at temperatures at least 2 degrees higher than pre-industrial under the very best circumstances, which is about the warmest the earth has been during the present era of ice ages and interglacials. Business as usual is the equivalent to an ice age in reverse compressed into a century, with temperatures far exceeding anything that recent lifeforms (e.g. humans) have ever experienced in their evolution.

  22. Dan Pangburn says:

    Notice that in the graph above, no observations are given after 2005. Results differ depending on which data source is used. For the last decade global temperatures have been going down. According to NOAA data (not their agenda-biased narrative reports), in 2008 the AVERAGE GLOBAL TEMPERATURE WAS LOWER than the average from 2000 thru 2007 by an amount equal to 7.9% of the total linearized increase during the 20th century. Since 2000, the CARBON DIOXIDE LEVEL HAS INCREASED by 14.8% of the total increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Similar analyses result in temperature declines of 34.3%, 17.5%, 34.0% and 14.2% for UAH, Hadley, RSS, and GISS respectively. UAH and RSS use the same raw satellite data but differ slightly in data reduction process. The others are weighted averages of monitors on land and ocean.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    Dan Pangburn — Not so. See

    and links therein.

  24. Jim Eager says:

    Dan Pangburn Says….

    Does it matter?

    Just another denier spinning outright lies and disinformation.

  25. Mark says:


    TLT satellite temps tend to see even greater swings during ENSO than the surface temps. See the period around 1998 if you want to see truly stunning differences. Hadley data has been trending a little lower, likely due to how they estimate Arctic data. To my knowledge. they assume the anomaly is the same as the global average, while GISS assumes it’s the same as the nearest stations.

    Good analysis, David. It’s also worth pointing out that during the last 30 years of significant warming, there have been several times a single-year global mean temperature has dipped below the mean of recent years. It tends to happen during la Nina years, particularly when the recent period is at least somewhat el Nino – influenced, or during major volcanic events.

    Another way of looking at 2008 is that it was the warmest year for global temperatures during a la Nina and the warmest year during a solar cycle minimum (an extended one at that) – perhaps more remarkable when you combine the two influences (ENSO being the stronger). Contrarians might want to ask themselves why temperatures aren’t decreasing, given all these apparent cooling factors.

  26. jorleh says:

    This is good humour for the criminal deniers, as a test first, and then a big laugh. Using their own methods.

  27. Dan Pangburn says:

    There is only one complete and exact computer of global climate and that is the planet itself. The results from the ‘planet computer’ are archived in the Vostok and EPICA Antarctic ice cores. Climate alarmists are apparently unaware of the science with which it is trivial to prove, using these ice core records, that there is no net positive feedback in earth’s climate. They incorporate features in their atmosphere/ocean global climate models (AOGCMs) that result in significant net positive feedback. This causes the AOGCMs to erroneously predict substantial global warming. Without significant net positive feedback AOGCMs do not predict significant global warming. (Zero feedback results in 1.2°C which is still high because of faulty cloud parameterization etc from doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide per p631 of ch8 of IPCC AR4.).

  28. Joe says:

    Yeah, Dan, we’re the ones were unaware of science — as opposed to the people you’ve been reading.

    Try reading the friggin’ peer-reviewed scientific literature — and not denier talking points. Start here: Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius”.

    After you read that study, you can spend some time on the other amplifying (positive) feedbacks that the climate models don’t even incorporate.

  29. Lewis says:

    Latest image from ESA on Wilkins per Bob Wright.

    [url=]Sat. photo for the 19th from ESA of Wilkins.[/url]

    No expert on sat. photos but the bridge to Charnot should be giving way very, very soon. Last few pics have shown less ‘black’ and more ‘gray/whicte’ at the thinnest point.

    [url=]Complete image archive. [/url]

  30. Lewis says:

    Ooops. No tags or is it?

    Image archive of Wilkins from ESA.

  31. Dano says:

    Shorter Pangburn:

    I need to come up with some drivel, and quickly, to distract away from the facts!



  32. paulm says:

    So you think we dont have an effect on the planet, think again…

    Regulating carbon? Either way, a ‘world of hurt’
    As they graphed the data, they found that CO2 stayed between 180 ppm and 280 ppm; Throughout the entire period of the last four ice ages (freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw), CO2 levels never once crossed the 300 ppm threshold. We are now at 390 ppm and still climbing.

  33. Mark says:

    Dan Pangburn: “Climate alarmists are apparently unaware of the science with which it is trivial to prove, using these ice core records, that there is no net positive feedback in earth’s climate.”

    Why would scientists, or “alarmists” as you call them, want to be aware of something that isn’t true? Ice core records tend to agree with a strong net positive feedback. The analysis isn’t quite that trivial. A simplistic analysis of the kind you imply might throw you off. You’ll also find that the lower bounds derived from ice core data come closer to proving there is no net negative feedback (although keep in mind that science isn’t about “proving” things).

    “Another way to estimate climate sensitivity is by looking at data from past
    variations of CO2 and climate. How strongly climate was affected by CO2 variations of the past can be estimated from data using correlation analysis. This has been done for the Vostok ice core data for variations over an ice age cycle. Of course, CO2 is not the primary cause of an ice age, but it provides a feedback in this case. One needs to be very careful to account for all factors, including the presence of large continental ice sheets, methane variations, and atmospheric dust variations.
    Those data can be obtained from the ice core. The French scientists
    of the Vostok team that drilled the core performed such a correlation analysis and arrived at 3–4°C for climate sensitivity. That is an estimate made solely on the basis of data.”

    Of course, there is a large amount of direct observational evidence. As Joe pointed out…

  34. Gail says:

    It seems like the models used by scientists (and I am not one so I am just guessing) do not include the feedback effects when they make predictions.

    For instance. As you probably all know by now, I’m the Cassandra being probably shrill, about trees dying.

    Let’s just suppose for a minute I’m reporting on something that is actually happening as I see it.

    Less snow, less reflection of sunlight, more warmth, more drying of soils, trees dying, more sun and heat on soils, less frequent but heavier rainfall washing away fertile soil, less shade on streams that fish are adapted to, etc etc etc and lets not even mention birds and butterflies and squirrels.

    Happening MUCH FASTER than anyone expected because the models the scientists use just don’t factor in the feedback effects.

    Frankly, I’m getting rather tired of deniers.

  35. Curt says:

    The arrogance of those who know more than than anyone else. Big planet=complex climate sytem. Is global warming bad..don’t know. Is it different than what happened 2,000..12,000…120,000 years ago. Don’t know.

    Unfortunately, political gains out weigh science, so any one who questions is “anti-science” or a “denier”.

    Scientific debate oftens runs for hundreds of years before fact is proved. The unwillingness of those to consider other causes (sun activity, natural cycles, etc) is scarry!
    I would hope all the believers are not typical hypocrits and actually do not use carbon based “anything” in their daily existence. Hopefully, the electricty that powers your computer is from wind or solar. The keyboard you pound on to assail the “deniers” should not be made of evil, carbon based, carbon footprint petroleum. Heck, the fact you release CO2 in your breath should cause concern that you are part of the problem and not the solution.
    So, where is the data that golbal warming is bad. Don’t use rising sea levels scare tactics. If people live too close too the ocean then maybe that is bad. Are you talking 5 miles away from the coast. Maybe there should be a buffer from the coast. These are issues that can be dealt with if the doom actually materializes. Don’t disguise this hoax with the ultimate political goal you seek to obtain..regulation of our behavior and taxation of our use. Be courageous and vocalize your true intent. You want people to live a certain way, act a certain way and utilize this planet a certain way. I’m cool if you would only be truthful.
    Frankly, I am getting rather tired of alarmists/extortionists.

  36. paulm says:

    Curt your missing the … point man. Of course you can have doubt, but this is here and now and things are definitely changing for the worst, whether natural or not.

    Don’t, you think that there is a possibility that the effects are cause from human emissions. After all, you have to admit there is a lot of evidence which indicates this might be the case (from a denier point of view). Now do a risk analysis, seriously take some time to think it through… its really scary.

    Its just not worth ignoring the outcomes.

  37. Mark says:


    You wrote “The arrogance of those who…”

    Let me finish that a little differently:

    …(or the ignorance of those who) have no expertise but strongly believe that the thousands of scientists who study climate are perpetuating a hoax for the purpose of controlling your behavior. The paranoid shouldn’t be calling others “alarmists”.

  38. Trend21 says:

    The current linear temperature trend for the century that begins (so far this means years 2001-2008), according to GISS data indicates a cooling of -0,1438 ºC/century. 2009 data may change the trend in one direction or another. The trend will become cooler if the 2009 average anomaly is lower than +0,52217ºC. The trend will become warmer if the 2009 average anomaly is higher than +0,52217ºC.

    So far the “quite warm” January 2009 anomaly has been +0,52ºC which, for the moment, indicates that the trend is more likely going to cool than to warm, even if by a very little margin.

  39. Trend21 says:

    Considering a longer period, say, the longest, since 1880: the 1880-2008 linear temperature trend is +0,56ºC/century and will likely become warmer when we include 2009, unless the 2009 average anomaly drops under +0,34ºC. On the other hand, I am sure that a rise of only +0,5ºC by the end of the century is something we could handle.

    Going to a more alarming trend, we can use the +1,67ºC/century we have had between 1970 and 2008. That is worrying. However that trend is going to become smaller when including 2009 data, unless the 2009 average anomaly goes higher than +0,59ºC, which is also quite unlikely.

    So you choose: we can trust a very long period trend as an indicator of a true trend, and then the trend is not really worrying, or we can look at shorter periods looking for acceleration, and see that the warming was accelerating a few years ago but it is currently decelerating, contrary to the predictions.

  40. Randy says:

    I am interested in the graphs of mean average surface temperature. What this usaully is recording is the average daytime high for the year. I have done some work looking at differences in trends for daytime high compared to trends in overnight low, andt he trend is quite different. Trend line in average overnight low temperatures is significantly steeper to the positive than average daytime high temperatures in this area. Would be interesting to see this type of comparison on a larger scale.

  41. Dan Pangburn says:

    Any action that is taken to reduce human produced carbon dioxide to reduce global warming or influence climate is a mistake that puts freedom and prosperity at risk.

    The Solar Grand Maximum that has been going on for about 70 years has ended. The 30 year or so PDO uptrend that combined with the Solar Grand Maximum to produce the late-20th-century temperature run up has started its 30 year downtrend. The PDO downtrend combined with the quiet sun is going to result in continued planet cooling. The sun has not been this quiet this long since 1913.

    Since 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 18.4% of the increase from 1800 to 2000. According to the average of the five reporting agencies, the trend of average global temperatures since 1998 shows no increase and since 2002 the trend shows a DECREASE of 0.8°C/century. This separation shows the lack of connection between atmospheric carbon dioxide increase and average global temperature.

    Many Climate Scientists are completely unaware of some relevant science and understand other relevant science poorly (it’s not in their curriculum). The missing science proves that added atmospheric carbon dioxide has no significant influence on average global temperature. See my pdf linked from for the proof. Or email at

    As the atmospheric carbon dioxide level continues to increase and the average global temperature doesn’t it is becoming more and more apparent that many climate scientists have made an egregious mistake and a whole lot of people have been mislead.