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The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!

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"The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!"


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Existential question of the day:  How can Paul Hudson’s byline be “Climate correspondent, BBC News” when his ‘reporting‘ doesn’t correspond to the climate, which continues to warm?

It is tiresome debunking yet another poor researched article by a media outlet that has historically had a great deal of credibility [see "NYT's Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation"].  The BBC headline inanely asks “What happened to global warming?”  Answer — it keeps on keepin’ on:

And those posts were just projections from December 2008, before factoring in the record warming we’re seeing this year (see “NASA reports hottest June to September on record“).  The figure above is from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  The solid red line is the five-year mean, which is obviously a better view of the climate picture, as opposed to the highly variable annual data.  NASA used the “January-September (9 months) mean” for the 2009 data point.  The hottest year on record is 2005, and 2009 is likely to be close to the second hottest years of 2007 and 1998.

But Hudson is a Brit, so he (sort of) uses the data from the Met Office aka Hadley Center in his lede:

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.  But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

Yes, the headline was a surprise since you’re supposed to be the climate correspondent, but the headline fails to correspond to the climate, which continues to warm — as even your own friggin’ Met Office explained a few weeks ago in this online analysis:

trends over the past 10 years show only a 0.07 °C increase in global average temperature. Although this is only a small increase, it indicates that there has been no global cooling over this period. In fact, over the past decade, most years have remained much closer to the record global average temperature reached in 1998 than to temperatures before the 1970s. All the years from 2000 to 2008 have been in the top 14 warmest years on record.

So the BBC doesn’t even know what it’s own lead climate data and analysis center has concluded, even though it (selectively) makes use of that center’s data.

And I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time, the NASA GISS data is almost certainly superior to the data from the Met Office (see “What exactly is polar amplification and why does it matter?“).  Remember, “there are no permanent weather stations in the Arctic Ocean, the place on Earth that has been warming fastest,” as New Scientist explained (see here and here). “The UK’s Hadley Centre record simply excludes this area, whereas the NASA version assumes its surface temperature is the same as that of the nearest land-based stations.” Thus it is almost certainly the case that the planet has warmed up more this decade than NASA says, and especially more than the UK’s Hadley Center says.

Mean temperature difference between the periods  2004-2008 and 1999-2003I’d add that RealClimate has an excellent recent post on this very subject — “the ‘hole in the Arctic’ in the Hadley data, just where recent warming has been greatest” — with this great figure (and caption):

Figure. The animated graph shows the temperature difference between the two 5-year periods 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. The largest warming has occurred over the Arctic in the past decade and is missing in the Hadley data.

And then we have this utterly backwards piece of nonsense from Hudson:

What is really interesting at the moment is what is happening to our oceans. They are the Earth’s great heat stores.

According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.

The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.

But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.

These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.

So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles.

Professor Easterbrook says: “The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”

The only problem is that everything Easterbrook and Hudson just said is bunk.  First, the PDO is a “long-term fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean that waxes and wanes between cool and warm phases approximately every 5 to 20 years” — it has no net impact on the long-term warming trend.  Moreover, contrary to Easterbrook’s and Hudson’s un-fact-checked assertion, the oceans have continued to warm, as the peer-reviewed literature makes clear (see “Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It’s the oceans, stupid!“).

A September JGR article, “Global hydrographic variability patterns during 2003-2008” (subs. req’d, draft here) details an analysis of “monthly gridded global temperature and salinity fields from the near-surface layer down to 2000 m depth based on Argo measurements.”  Background on Argo here.   Their findings are summed up in this figure:

Figure [2]: Time series of global mean heat storage (0-2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

Still warming, after all these years!  And just where you’d expect it — the oceans, which is where more than 90% of the warming was projected to end up.

I would also add that Hudson and Easterbrook also seem painfully unaware of the recent sea surface temperature data (see “Second warmest August on record and warmest June-July-August for the oceans“).

And what error-riddled article on nonexistent global cooling would be complete without some confusion about the work of the admittedly confusing Mojib Latif:

To confuse the issue even further, last month Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years.

Professor Latif is based at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany and is one of the world’s top climate modellers.

But he makes it clear that he has not become a sceptic; he believes that this cooling will be temporary, before the overwhelming force of man-made global warming reasserts itself.

Ah, the unintentional irony — “To confuse the issue even further.”

Hudson obviously missed my October 1 memo to media (see “Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist“):

If your “global cooling” piece revolves around Dr. Latif, you probably have the entire story backwards….

In an interview today, Dr. Latif told me “we don’t trust our forecast beyond 2015″³ and “it is just as likely you’ll see accelerated warming” after then. Indeed, in his published research, rapid warming is all-but-inevitable over the next two decades. He told me, “you can’t miss the long-term warming trend” in the temperature record, which is “driven by the evolution of greenhouse gases.”  Finally, he pointed out “Our work does not allow one to make any inferences about global warming.”

With apologies to regular CP for the repetition, I mostly deciphered Latif’s work on this blog in 2008 (see “Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming“).   Latif’s Nature study is consistent with the following statements:

  • 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.

Here is his Nature “forecast” in green (“Each point represents a ten-year centred mean” “” more discussion at the end):


Now, with the caveat that Latif claims no “skill” in any forecast after 2015 “” a caveat the media and deniers never print “” as you can see, their model suggests we’ll see pretty damn rapid warming in the coming decade, just as the Hadley Center did in a 2007 Science piece and just as the US Naval Research Lab and NASA recently predicted (see “Another major study predicts rapid warming over next few years “” nearly 0.3°F by 2014“).

Hudson ends:

One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up.

The science was in years ago.  Hudson should try reading the literature or at least the summary of the literature in the 2007 IPCC report, “the largest and most detailed summary of the climate change situation ever undertaken, involving thousands of authors from dozens of countries,” which found

  • “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
  • “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

The “debate” over what is causing global warming has been ginned up by clever deniers and spun to the public by lazy or easily duped journalists.

Stop the madness, already, status quo media.  Either read the damn literature and talk to dozens of serious climate scientists or write about something else.


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25 Responses to The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!

  1. Richard Brenne says:

    What happened to the BBC? What do you want to bet global warming outlasts the BBC? And for that matter, London.

  2. Dana says:

    I was very disappointed when I read this article on the BBC website – normally one of the most accurate media sources with respect to climate science. It gave deniers the opportunity to say “see even the BBC says global warming has stopped and we’re headed towards cooling!”.

    Really poorly researched article. Good debunking as usual, Joe.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    JOe, sorry you have to have done this once more but you certainly did it well!

  4. MarkB says:

    What amazes me is how few of these journalists, even ones that seem like serious journalists, ever bother to make corrections when clearly shown to be wrong or presenting misleading information. I’ve seen Joe make corrections when a mistake is made.

    Joe, what is your experience with these journalists? When you show them to be in error, do they respond at all? Do they attempt to defend their articles? Do they acknowledge they are in error but make some excuse not to correct it?

    I think the media market for global warming denial is contributing to this sort of shoddy reporting. Media outlets seem to get more attention printing provocative stories as opposed to accurate ones.

  5. Anna Haynes says:

    Thank you for doing this, Joe. Someone’s got to take out the garbage, and it helps – a lot – for it to be someone who’s as familiar with the science as you and who’s seen all the crap arguments before.

    FYI, the Paul Hudson piece was echoed by Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle wurlitzer today; and her column snookered one of my fellow coffeehouse denizens. Trouble is, trusting readers assume that when a columnist uses terms like “Pacific decadal oscillation” she must know what she’s talking about and have wisdom to impart.

    It’s sad, when you come around to thinking that a newspaper deserves to die.

  6. MarkB says:

    One wonders why Hudson is bothering to quote Don Easterbrook. For starters, he hasn’t published any peer-reviewed studies in any journal on the topic. Here’s why:


    The errors found in Easterbrook’s opinion piece are comical – one being that his scribble graph, which doesn’t appear to follow from any data, mislabels the LIA and MWP periods by about a thousand years, as the first commenter notes.

    It seems that anyone with a skeptical view of global warming and a heartbeat is considered to be an expert on climate science.

  7. DavidCOG says:

    An atrocious piece of journalism. I’m sure Hudson has been getting his climate ‘science’ from the denialosphere.

    He’s now put up a rather plaintive and pathetic defence of his original piece which only provides confirmation that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2009/10/a-few-points-about-my-article.shtml

    Also, note that Hudson is ‘weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire’ – he is not ‘the’ BBC climate correspondent. He’s just some regional weather presenter who writes a blog and that one blog entry was inexplicably published as a news article.

    No surprise that the Deniers have been shrieking like banshees over this – it’s the vindication they’ve been hoping for – ‘official’ confirmation that there is still much debate over the science.

    Paul Hudson: idiot correspondent, BBC.

  8. This is neither the BBC nor a journalist speaking; it’s another blind, deaf, and dumb local TV “meteorologist”.

  9. Deep Climate says:

    Here’s a link to the first comment at the blog version of Hudson’s piece.


    “PeterHN” nails it by answering each of Hudson’s preposterous assertions, complete with links to RealClimate (and to yours truly on the spinning of Latif).

  10. Rick Covert says:


    Is a mail storm to the BBC for this attorcious piece of “journalism” in order? When can we begin?

  11. Michael hauber says:

    The last few months have been warmer than the 30 year trend. The PDO has been averaging negative since 1999, and deep solar minimum is getting towards 2 years old. I hope these natural cycles aren’t as strong as some of the deniers say or we’ll be in for some heavy duty warming when they inevitably turn back to warm again. Although AMO still seems pretty close to peak so if we discover that AMO is the one and only true natural cycle we can blame it for recent warming and count on it for future cooling.

  12. Heraclitus says:

    Thanks for this Joe, some sanity restored. The trouble is so much of the damage has already been done.

    In a response to my complaint to the BBC I was told that they receive far more criticism about their coverage from “sceptics” (there’s a surprise) than from those who accept the IPCC position, so I wonder if this is an attempt to ‘redress the balance’ in their reporting. Does telling people what they want to hear now have a higher priority in the BBC news editorial policy than evidence?

    The part of the article that frustrated me the most (other than the final “It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over” – I wonder why that is?!) was the equating of unpublished and unexamined ‘evidence’ from Piers Corbyn, “solar scientist”, with the published, peer-reviewed work of Forster and by extension the IPCC as a whole.

  13. mark h says:

    I would think something so obvious as catastrophic climate change could withstand one article.

  14. Anna Haynes says:

    > “In a response to my complaint to the BBC I was told that they receive far more criticism about their coverage from “sceptics” (there’s a surprise) than from those who accept the IPCC position, so I wonder if this is an attempt to ‘redress the balance’ in their reporting.”

    Can we dig behind this and find out what happened? Debug the BBC, as it were?
    I’ll ask, but it’d be nice to have some more people do likewise.

  15. Anna Haynes says:

    Here’s what I wrote the BBC, as a General Comment on their BBC News website feedback page:

    Some of us want to understand how Friday’s anti-climate-science piece (“What happened to global warming?”) by Paul Hudson (the weatherman for BBC Look North covering Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, though he’s identified here as “Climate correspondent, BBC News” instead ) came to appear in the BBC News “Science and Environment” section.

    (This isn’t an academic question; the disinformation, with its BBC provenance, got picked up by columnists at other papers and websites and spread worldwide.)

    Could you please let me know who decided to publish it as BBC science news, and whether publishing anti-science disinformation for “balance” is standard BBC News policy?

    (admittedly I’m using a crude heuristic as indicating “worldwide” – namely BBC, Drudge and San Francisco)

  16. Ed says:

    Simple, journalists have to be balanced about any issue regarding opinions. Al Gore spelled that out quite nicely in his 2005 movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. Now if I were to state gravity pulls upward from the centre of the earth and would believe in that opinion and find believers I would be asked to comment on that on a Horizon program made by “Old anty BBC”. Now the problem is that gravity (in the common sence of the word and in the common world) is rather active in demontrating the opposite of my opinion. Global Warming or better Climate Change has happend in the past and will happen in the future wether we are around or not. And theirin lies the crux of the denier issue. And in the fact that about 90% of the civilisation of this doomed planet does not know the difference between climate and weather.

    So ample ground for confusion of the miss- and ill informed. And John you can spout all the truth you want that will not change world opinion about global warning, and that will mean “the end of the world as we know it” ((C) REM) but ou and I don’t feel fine. It’s sad to see the words of Al Gore be vindicated when it’s to late. The “I told you so”‘s and the “I did not see that coming”‘s and the “wee did we go wrong”‘s will be as thick in the media that day as when Lehman folded about 12 month’s ago. But what stick’s to my mind in Al’s movie are these words “It is difficult to make a man understand a problem if his life and livelyhood depend on him not understanding it”.

    My conclusion is therefore straightforward. It nice and warm in oktober now and that is a good thing. Lets enjoy the benifits of global warming or climate change as long as the bad things are happening to other people. That seems to be the credo du jour in old Europe (except in Germany where matters are being taken into hands as you can see if you count the solar and wind power systems splattered about in the landscape and compare them to the Dutch and English situation).

    So lets stop worrying and lets start loving the climate change ((C) Stanley Kubrick) until it terminates our species in the not so near future, and be sure of one thing, when we are gone, we won’t be missed!

    greetings, Ed

  17. Neuroskeptic says:

    Hudson has a blog on which we learn he is “Weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.”

    So he’s a climate writer at a provincial branch of the BBC. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

    Yesterday he “responded” to criticism of his article, very inadequately, indeed I’m not sure he even understands the points of criticism. It looks to me like he’s genuinely confused and out of his depth.

  18. Neuroskeptic says:

    Oh whoops. DavidCOG already said all that. Great minds think alike…

  19. Tyler says:

    Joe, I was hoping you’d take that article on and you did, beyond my expectations. Good job.

  20. P. G. Dudda says:

    Am I reading those error bars correctly on the first chart? It appears that we’ve had a .35degC warming just since 1940! (And .7 degC since 1900!)

    [JR: Yes.]

  21. Anna Haynes says:

    The wurlitzer continues; the weatherman’s story is now featured in the Google News (news.google.com) “Spotlight” section.

    Screenshot here:

    Does anyone know if Google has officially abandoned “Don’t be evil”? Or is misinforming your readers on climate change not considered to fall into that category?

  22. paulm says:

    The BBC has been very irresponsible in the coverage of CC. They have repeatedly when ever possible posted ambiguous, vague misleading and slightly biased information on the topic.

    It is a shame as if they had reported on the issue accurately and scientifically then a lot more people around the world would have caughten on to the crisis unfolding earlier.

    I have written to bbc about this a number of times:


  23. Dave says:

    If you think the BBC’s article was bad, you should see the spin the conservative Daily Mail put on it. Apparently, in their bizzaro world, NASA lists 1934 as the hottest year on record for the globe.


  24. What role does the 11 year sunspot cycle have on climate warming trends?

    Today, the sun is entering its 13th consecutive day without sunspots. Just a few years ago, such a stretch of blank suns would have been unthinkable. Now it’s routine. So far this year, the sun has been spotless 79% of the time, topping the 73% mark recorded in 2008. Long after many forecasters thought solar minimum would be finished, the quiet is not only continuing, but actually deepening.

    Would a resurgence of solar activity drive up global warming??

  25. David B. Benson says:

    Jeff Schneider (24) — The last time there was such a protracted solar minimum was in 1913 CE. I think you’ll find that neither that year nor the next were unusually cooler than the other years around then. The variation of TSI over the solar cycle does cause changes in global temperatures. Tung & Cabin (2008) have the largest estimate, based on 50+ years of data.

    Assuming the current solar cycle starts picking up, there will be a TSI maximum in 2013 CE with the heating effect most noticable about 6–12 months thereafter. Then, of course, this most minor effect begins to lessen.

    Unfortuantely, the effects from CO2 and the other global warming (so-called greenhouse) gases will not.