Latif told me: “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.” NSIDC Director Serreze says it is “completely false.”
Latif … says we’re in for 30 years of cooler temperatures
Memo to media and anti-science disinformers (again): If your “global cooling” piece revolves around Dr. Latif, you probably have the entire story backwards. But, at least for the disinformers, that is the goal. And that goes double if the piece involves the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
In an interview back on October 1, 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.”
In an interview today, he confirmed that he accepts the IPCC’s finding that most of the warming in the past century was very likely due to human causes — “definitely,” he said.
UPDATE: Latif spoke to the UK’s Guardian, apparently after we chatted and I emailed him the piece, see “Leading climate scientist challenges Mail on Sunday’s use of his research: Mojib Latif denies his research supports theory that current cold weather undermines scientific consensus on global warming.”
Latif remains puzzled and dismayed by articles like those in the Daily Mail, “Could we be in for 30 years of global COOLING?” that purport to be based on his work, that supposedly quote him directly, but in fact just make stuff up. Of course, the Daily Mail made up a lot stuff for this article, like this whopper about the NSIDC’s work:
As NSIDC Director wrote me, “This is completely false. NSIDC has never made such a statement and we were never contacted by anyone from the Daily Mail. We hope that this is simply a case of very lazy journalism and nothing more.”
Now the DM has changed the story to read:
According to some scientists, the warming of the Earth since 1900 is due to natural oceanic cycles, and not man-made greenhouse gases.
It occurred because the world was in a ‘warm mode’, and would have happened regardless of mankind’s rising carbon dioxide production.
Except, of course, those unnamed “some scientists” don’t exist, certainly Latif isn’t one of them.
But that doesn’t stop the anti-science crowd, led by Anthony Watts, from turning those falsehoods into unadulterated disinformation such as this gem today, “IPCC scientist: Global cooling headed our way for the next 30 years?” Writing of the recent cold snap that was limited to a small portion of the global, Watts falsely assets:
According to IPCC scientist Mojab Latif in an article for the Daily Mail, it could be just the beginning of a decades-long deep freeze. Latif is known as one of the world’s leading climate modelers.
Not even close, as I and Latif have said many times (see “interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist, the man who moved George Will and math-challenged Morano to extreme disinformation“). That’s isn’t what Latif said and not what he believes.
And that leads to the FoxNews story quoted up top, “30 Years of Global Cooling Are Coming, Leading Scientist Says,” based solely on this game of telephone with Latif’s work. And of course The Swift Boat smearer and would-be Climate Killer excerpts this mangled and/or made up quote by the Daily Mail:
Shock Admission: UN IPCC’s Prof. Latif: ‘The warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles (ocean) – perhaps as much as 50%”
Not. Call Dr. Latif up and ask him if accepts the IPCC’s finding that, as he put it, most of the warming in the past century was very likely due to human causes. He had me reread the quotes attributed to him a number of times, asking twice, “those are direct quotes?” After I did, he said to me: “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.” I suggested asking reporters to read quotes back to him.
According to Latif, over a short time span, say, two decades, it’s hard to determine exactly what fraction of the temperature change is due to what cause, but Latif does not believe nor ever said what the Daily Mail suggests, which is that you can add those periods together and somehow negate the IPCC’s finding. His work simply “does not allow one to make any inferences about global warming.”
Latif has NOT predicted a cooling trend — or a “decades-long deep freeze” — but rather a short-time span where human-caused warming might be partly offset by ocean cycles, staying at current record levels, but then followed by “accelerated” warming where you catch up to the long-term human-caused trend. He does NOT forecast 2 or 3 decades of cooling.
Certainly Latif’s work can be baffling, but I mostly deciphered it 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.
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“).
How badly have the media and disinformers botched this reporting unintentionally [and intentionally]? Here’s the Daily Mail:
The world has entered a ‘cold mode’ which is likely to bring a global dip in temperatures which will last for 20 to 30 years, they say.
… it could be just the beginning of a decades-long deep freeze.
No and no. More like, it’s likely to be just the beginning of a decades-long accelerated warming. But, again, as Latif will happily tell anyone who asks, “my only forecast is to 2015.” He insists he told the Daily Mail that you can’t draw any inferences from the recent cold snap, and he told me “I can’t really predict two decades in the future.”
Their model has nothing whatsoever to do with anthropogenic global warming, and so it has no bearing whatsoever on the long-term temperature trend. They do model internal ocean-driven fluctuations around that trend, but if the temperature rise stalls for any length of time, the major impact is that subsequently, the temperature rise accelerates.
Second, there is another source of confusion. Let’s look in more detail at the paper’s key figure, the one that looks at past and (forecast) future global temperatures, “Hindcast/forecast decadal variations in global mean temperature, as compared with observations and standard climate model projections” (click to enlarge)
Since the media keeps screwing this up, let me once again try to explain this complicated figure — apologies to regular readers.
The first thing to know about the figure “” indeed, one major source of confusion “” is that “each point represents a ten-year centred mean.” That is, each point represents the average temperature of the decade starting 5 years before that point and ending 5 years after that point.
Second, the red line is the actual global temperature data from the UK’s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. Why does the red line stop in 1998 and not 2007? Again, it is a running 10-year mean, and the authors use data from a Hadley paper that ends around 2003 (I believe), so they can’t do a ten-year centered mean after 1998.
Third, the black line is one of the IPCC scenarios, A1B. It is a relatively high-CO2-growth model “” but actual carbon emissions since 2000 have wildly outpaced it (see here).
Fourth, the solid green line is the “hindcast” of the authors “” how well their model compares to actual data (and the A1B scenario). It is then extended (in dashes) through 2010 and finally to 2025, where it meets up with A1B, since their model only imposes decadal variability on the inexorable climb of human-caused global warming.
[Fifth, the short purple line is with radiative forcing (i.e greenhouse gas concentrations) frozen at 2000 levels, which, of course, didn’t happen.]
So you can clearly see that the green line rises and then plateaus, repeatedly, until it really starts to take off in the decade of the 2010s. Perhaps the source of much of the media’s confusion is that the authors describe their results in the final line of the abstract this way:
Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.
But what they mean by that statement is not what a simple reading of that sentence would suggest: They do not mean that “the global surface temperature may not increase over the next ten years starting now.” What they mean is what the lead author, Dr. Noel Keenlyside, wrote me [in 2008] when I asked for a clarification:
Thus, based on our results we don’t expect an increase in the mean temperature of the next decade (2005-2015).
They are predicting no increase in average temperature of the “next decade” (2005 to 2015) over the previous decade, which, for them, is 2000 to 2010! And that’s in fact precisely what the figure shows “” that the 10-year mean global temperature centered around 2010 is the roughly the same as the mean global temperature centered around 2005.
The authors have not predicted the next 10 years won’t see any warming. They have, however, offered an explanation for why temperatures have not risen very much in recent years, and, perhaps, why ocean temperatures have also not risen very much in the past few years (see here). Dr. Keenlyside continues:
However, as you correctly point out, our results show a pick up in global mean temperature for the following decade (2010-2020). Assuming a smooth transition in temperature, our results would indicate the warming picks up earlier than 2015.
Again, at that point, Dr. Keenlyside reiterates the disclaimer that this analysis can’t be used for year-by year predictions. Indeed, he notes that his main conclusion is not really quantitative, but qualitative:
Given the uncertainties that exist in such kinds of preliminary studies, I believe it is more useful to point out that climate on decadal timescales may be quite different from that expected only considering external radiative forcing (as in the IPCC). This is actually an obvious, but I believe mostly overlooked fact. Our results highlight this.
I would add two points. First, as you can clearly see in the figure “” the actual observed runnning average temperatures from the Hadley Center since 1995 have been between the IPCC scenario projection and Dr. Keenlyside’s forecast, which does suggest that his model may be underestimating warming. Indeed, the lack of agreement between the model’s “hindcast” and actual temperatures since 1995 should remind us again to view this only as a very preliminary analysis with predictive ability that is much more qualitative than quantitative.
Second, this general prediction “” internal variability leading to slower than expected warming in recent years through 2010, followed by accelerated warming “” is almost exactly the same prediction that the Hadley Center made last summer in Science (see here). They concluded:
“¦ at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.
“¦ [2014 will] “be 0.30° ± 0.2°C warmer than the observed value for 2004.”
Similarly, the US Naval Research Lab and NASA just predicted in a new Geophysical Research Letters study (see “here“):
From 2009 to 2014, projected rises in anthropogenic influences and solar irradiance will increase global surface temperature 0.15 ±0.03 °C, at a rate 50% greater than predicted by IPCC.
So I take all three of these admittedly preliminary short-term forecasts to suggest that warming is going to be a roller coaster ride, with much short-term variation, but we are probably going to get quite hot quite fast early in the 2010s.
One final caveat: After reading my first draft of the 2008 post (which I subsequently revised), Dr. Keenlyside wrote me, “All our figures are decadal means, and it is hard to say (due to high frequency internal variability) at which point [after 2010] a rapid increase will occur.” That is, his study does not necessarily predict the rapid warming will actually start, in say, 2011, though his results are not inconsistent with that possibility. He reiterates that his paper is not designed to make such detailed year-by-year predictions. Indeed, the paper was designed to show that any such predictions are complicated by decadal-scale climate factors.
So I think it is quite safe to say that:
- The work of Dr. Latif and Dr. Keenlyside in Nature “does not allow one to make any inferences about anthropogenic global warming,” as Dr. Latif put it to me.
- Their work has no forecasting skill after 2015. Indeed, Latif told me “we don’t trust our forecast beyond 2015.”
- Dr. Latif is not making any predictions about what will happen after 2015 “” other than that the long-term temperature warming trend driven by anthropogenic GHGs will continue and that the near-term temperature trend must catch up with the long-term trend, likely during a period of rapid warming.
- Reporters are going to keep getting this wrong.
- Anti-science disinformers are going to keep getting pretty much everything wrong.
I’m hoping to run something from Latif this week that will clear things up once and for all. Or not.
As a great sage once said, “Anyone who isn’t confused here doesn’t really know what’s going on.”