Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

NASA: “Likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years”

By Joe Romm  

"NASA: “Likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years”"

Share:

google plus icon

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has released its final report on “2008 Global Temperatures.” Last year “was the coolest year since 2000.” Given 0.05°C “uncertainty in comparing recent years,” NASA “can only conclude with confidence that 2008 was somewhere within the range from 7th to 10th warmest year in the record.”

The bigger climate news, of course, is that “in the period of instrumental measurements, which extends back to 1880 … The ten warmest years all occur within the 12-year period 1997-2008.” That’s why the climate story of the decade is that the 2000s are on track to be nearly 0.2°C warmer than the 1990s (see “Very warm 2008 makes this the hottest decade in recorded history by far“). And that temperature jump is especially worrisome since the 1990s were only 0.14°C warmer than the 1980s.

The headline coming out of NASA’s report, however, is clearly that they are sticking by their near-term forecast of an imminent record:

Finally, in response to popular demand, we comment on the likelihood of a near-term global temperature record. Specifically, the question has been asked whether the relatively cool 2008 alters the expectation we expressed in last year’s summary that a new global record was likely within the next 2-3 years (now the next 1-2 years).

Since global temperature in any year can be affected by many factors that have nothing to do with the long-term climate trend, and since short-term predictions gone awry are inevitably seized on by the DICKs (denier-industrial-complex kooks) as evidence the long-term predictions are wrong (even though they are no such thing), I’m not sure it is wise for GISS to make such predictions. But they have made the prediction:

Given our expectation of the next El Ni±o 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.

Their analysis is certainly worth reviewing since, for better or worse, what happens to temperatures in the next few years may well affect just how much climate action that we are going to take (I will discuss the medium-term temperature forecast in the literature at the end):

Natural dynamical variability: The largest contribution is the Southern Oscillation, the El Ni±o-La Ni±a cycle. The Ni±o 3.4 temperature anomaly (the bottom line in the top panel of Fig. 2), suggests that the La Ni±a may be almost over, but the anomaly fell back (cooled) to -0.7°C last month (December). It is conceivable that this tropical cycle could dip back into a strong La Ni±a, as happened, e.g., in 1975. However, for the tropical Pacific to stay in that mode for both 2009 and 2010 would require a longer La Ni±a phase than has existed in the past half century, so it is unlikely. Indeed, subsurface and surface tropical ocean temperatures suggest that the system is “recharged”, i.e., poised, for the next El Ni±o, so there is a good chance that one may occur in 2009. Global temperature anomalies tend to lag tropical anomalies by 3-6 months.

Solar irradiance: The solar output remains low (Fig. 4, below), at the lowest level in the period since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s, and the time since the prior solar minimum is already 12 years, two years longer than the prior two cycles. This has led some people to speculate that we may be entering a “Maunder Minimum” situation, a period of reduced irradiance that could last for decades. Most solar physicists expect the irradiance to begin to pick up in the next several months — there are indications, from the polarity of the few recent sunspots, that the new cycle is beginning.

Figure 4. Solar irradiance through November 2008 from Frohlich and Lean [ref. 8]. (Click for large GIF or PDF.)

However, let’s assume that the solar irradiance does not recover. In that case, the negative forcing, relative to the mean solar irradiance is equivalent to seven years of CO2 increase at current growth rates. So do not look for a new “Little Ice Age” in any case. Assuming that the solar irradiance begins to recover this year, as expected, there is still some effect on the likelihood of a near-term global temperature record due to the unusually prolonged solar minimum. Because of the large thermal inertia of the ocean, the surface temperature response to the 10-12 year solar cycle lags the irradiance variation by 1-2 years. Thus, relative to the mean, i.e, the hypothetical case in which the sun had a constant average irradiance, actual solar irradiance will continue to provide a negative anomaly for the next 2-3 years.

Volcanic aerosols: Colorful sunsets the past several months suggest a non-negligible stratospheric aerosol amount at northern latitudes. Unfortunately, as noted in the 2008 Bjerknes Lecture [ref. 9], the instrument capable of precise measurements of aerosol optical depth depth (SAGE, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment) is sitting on a shelf at Langley Research Center. Stratospheric aerosol amounts are estimated from crude measurements to be moderate. The aerosols from an Aleutian volcano, which is thought to be the primary source, are at relatively low altitude and high latitudes, where they should be mostly flushed out this winter. Their effect in the next two years should be negligible.

Greenhouse gases: Annual growth rate of climate forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) slowed from a peak close to 0.05 W/m2 per year around 1980-85 to about 0.035 W/m2 in recent years due to slowdown of CH4 and CFC growth rates [ref. 6]. Resumed methane growth, if it continued in 2008 as in 2007, adds about 0.005 W/m2. From climate models and empirical analyses, this GHG forcing trend translates into a mean warming rate of ~0.15°C per decade.

Interestingly, a couple of major studies in the last two years have provided a forecast of significant medium-term warming (see “Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming“)? With the general caveat from the authors that the study as a whole should be viewed in a very preliminary fashion and should not be used for year-by-year predictions (and the specific caveat that the study has myriad flaws), the 2008 Nature article 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.
  • The fast warming would likely begin early in the next decade — similar to the 2007 prediction by the Hadley Center in Science (see “Climate Forecast: Hot — and then Very Hot“).

Again, such predictions are easily influenced by La Ni±a and volcanoes, but barring any big surprises, NASA and Hadley are saying you can expect records to be breaking soon.

The easiest climate predictions of all are

  • The decade of the 2010s will be the hottest in the instrumental record
  • Then the decade of the 2020s will be the hottest in the instrumental record
  • Then the decade of the 2030s will be the hottest in the instrumental record
  • Then the decade of the 2040s will be the hottest in the instrumental record
  • Then the decade of the 2050s will be the hottest in the instrumental record

And, absent the strong possible GHG reductions starting immediately, that prediction can be repeated for the remaining decades of this century.

And while the temperature data before the instrumental record is obviously less reliable, the phrase “in the instrumental record” can probably already be replaced by “in the last two millenia” (see “Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years“).

By mid-century, we’re almost certain to be “hottest in 125,000 years” (i.e. as hot as when sea levels were 15 to 20 feet higher). Final stop — an ice-free planet.

Related Posts:

Tags:

‹ The top 25 Bushisms of all time.

Inhofe And Fox News Anchor Bumble Through ‘Socialist Czar’ Talking Points ›

14 Responses to NASA: “Likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years”

  1. NASA released the 2008 results on the same day that Dr. James Hansen was chosen by his peers to receive the 2009 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20090114/

  2. GFW says:

    Heh, I must be a “conservative”. I’ve been thinking that we’ll almost certainly set a new record in the next 5-6 years.

  3. Wes Rolley says:

    All we need to ensure that a new record will be set is for China to clean up it’s coal fired air pollution. All of that particulate matter we saw in the run up to the Olympics last year did some good.

    That is why Sen. Bayh’s statement about the reluctance of this Congress to take action without an agreement with China made me cringe.

    Wes Rolley is CoChair, EcoAction Committe, Green Party US

  4. paulm says:

    “…By mid-century, we’re almost certain to be “hottest in 125,000 years” (i.e. as hot as when sea levels were 15 to 20 feet higher)….”

    Does this mean that we are ‘almost certain’ to see sea level rise greater than 2m?

    Any takers on when this might happen?

  5. dthomson says:

    Science is supposed to be about facts. The fact is the entire decade of recent high temperatures has been wiped out in two years and the temperatures continue to plunge. Either carbon dioxide causes the planet to warm, or it does not. Obviously, the “enormous” amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere over the past 150 industrialized years didn’t mean squat in 2008. Obviously, CO2 is not the prime mover of global temperatures. Scientifically, the CO2 global warming hypothesis has been falsified. It is about time to start acting like scientists and letting the flawed CO2 hypothesis collect dust with all the other failed theories of science.

  6. Ian Forrester says:

    Yes, science is about facts. Unfortunately, the only fact which is apparent in your post is that you do not have a clue about climate science.

    Go read some science papers, they are full of facts.

  7. paulm says:

    Got any links Ian ?????????????????????????????

  8. Bob R. says:

    Auto mechanics is supposed to be about facts. The fact is the entire road trip with recent high engine temperatures has been wiped out in two downhill miles as the temperature continues to plunge. Either a broken coolant pump causes the planet to warm, or it does not. Obviously the “enormous” amount of radiator fluid released from the car over the past 150 miles didn’t mean squat in the last mile. Obviously, coolant pumps are not the prime mover of engine temperatures. Scientifically, the coolant pump hypotheses has been falsified. It is about time to start acting like drivers and letting the flawed coolant pump hypothesis collect dust with all the other failed theories of auto repair.

  9. jorleh says:

    What about the difference of the northern and southern hemispheres? Most of the feedback inducing mechanism are situated in the North: Greenland, tundra, Arctic ice (albedo), Siberian and Canadian forests, snow in winter (albedo) etc.?

    The South is coming but late: so what is the warming in the North and what is the warming in the South during the last decade?

  10. Ian Forrester says:

    Paulm, my comment was directed at dthompson. Sorry for the confusion.

  11. Dano says:

    Regarding he weak denialist FUD credulously spread by dthompson:

    The fact is the entire decade of recent high temperatures has been wiped out in two years and the temperatures continue to plunge.

    No it has not. We do not get our own facts.

    The temp gains have not been wiped out. This is a false talking point, and you should drop it as it makes you look silly.

    Either carbon dioxide causes the planet to warm, or it does not.

    Had you taken High School physics, you’d have learned that it does. You should drop this argumentation as it makes you look painfully ignorant.

    HTH.

    Best,

    D

  12. David B. Benson says:

    dthomson — Here are the facts about temperatures:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/what-if/

  13. swingman23 says:

    Greetings from Illinois where we just spent the last 52 hours below zero and wher it won’t get above freezing for at least the next 8 days – just in time for what is historically the coldest part of winter.

    Seriously climate CHANGE has been with us for eons. If it had been around 10,000 years ago the TOP of the Sears tower would have been under 3,000 feet of ice.

    If you visit the Field Museum of Natural History, be sure to see the exhibit of Sue, the T-Rex dinosaur. This is the most completely preserved fossil of a dinosaur of that size. Dinosaurs are widely believed to have been cold-blodded animals that could only exist in temperate climates yet…Sue’s remains were found in South Dakota, 60 miles south of the North Dakota border, hardly a tropical Eden today.

    This isn’t to say that we should be reckless with our resources, but only to suggest that we can’t assume we have total control over our planet. Unexpected events can take place for which we can’t blame ourselves.

    Thoughtful deliberate action to preserve what we can while promoting prosperity will benefit all of us.

  14. Dano says:

    Seriously climate CHANGE has been with us for eons. If it had been around 10,000 years ago the TOP of the Sears tower would have been under 3,000 feet of ice.

    Imagine how much money one could make if you could make a talking point filter for WordPress/RSS etc…

    Best,

    D