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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