Climate science and media

It’s been a couple of months since I posted anything about climate change, so I guess it’s about time.

In January, NASA released its analysis of land and ocean temperature analysis for 2009, and declared the year in a statistical tie for the 2nd-warmest year on record, and the period 2000-2009 the warmest decade on record.  Unlike my post of December 15 I haven’t bothered to produce my own updated graph, but here is one produced by NASA.  (Instead of absolute temperature this shows temperature anomaly, where zero is the average for the period 1951 to 1980).

Maybe I’m missing something, but it certainly appears to me that a warming trend is occurring.

However, Les MacPherson wrote in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix a few days ago, “Even the leading alarmists now are compelled to admit what already was apparent to anyone who looked at the record, namely that there has been no global warming for the last 15 years.”

Les MacPherson has confirmed to me by email that the “leading alarmists” referred to is Dr. Phil Jones, one of the climate change researchers whose emails were hacked at the University of East Anglia recently, and the admission was made in a  BBC interview.  Here is what was actually said:

Q – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?

A – Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

I’m not going to get into the concept of statistical significance, whether at the 95% or any other level, and perhaps Les MacPherson is being totally without guile in his interpretation, but I would respectfully suggest that not everyone examining the record is  finding it “apparent” that “there has been no global warming for the last 15 years.”

I’m siding with the scientist rather than the opinion columnist on this one.

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