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Global warming claim incomplete

Posted: December 31, 2013 7:34 a.m.
Updated: January 1, 2014 5:00 a.m.

In your paper’s “Noted and passed” feature, December 23, 2013, I discovered that “the planet is heating up at an alarming rate.” This surprised me for global temperatures have remained remarkably unchanged on a trend basis for the past 16 years. This phenomenon has received a bit of notice because it shows how complex the climate is and how difficult it is to make predictions. It also shows that there are natural factors e.g., the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” (PDO) which negatively swamp the effects of greenhouse gasses for perhaps decades. These negative factors get precious little attention because they would lessen the urgency felt by some policy proponents to currently begin to curb emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels. The political difficulty of convincing electorates of the problem seems to have enabled an attitude of being less than truthful about the problem’s urgency.

NOAA’s monthly report “State of the Climate” bases its warmest or coldest month claim upon an instrument record for land based stations, which in 1880 through the first 40 years of the instrument record was extremely sparse. Based on that sparse network, then that claim of the warmest November is accurate but incomplete. What would be more helpful would be to more fully explain the pause in global warming that has occurred since 1997 and then place that warmest month claim in that larger context.

Consider for a moment if the economy had failed to grow for the past 16 years but over the last century had increased in size by 5 percent you could make the claim that economic output for November was the highest it has ever been since recordkeeping began (bumps and wiggles in a time series don’t influence trends) and it was the 345th consecutive month that economic output was above its 20th century average. At the same time, government statisticians ignored that economic output had remained unchanged for the past 16 years. I am sure you would be screaming from the highest point in Camden that this deceitful practice of reporting economic statistics must end at once. But yet when this exact same practice is performed upon climate data you are alarmed at a trend that doesn’t exist.

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