Brace yourselves for that refrain from global warming skeptics as the new year begins.
“Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming,” writes Christopher Booker in a column at the UK’s Telegraph. “After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.”
I wonder what data he’s been looking at. According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the meteorological year (Dec. 07-Nov 08) was the coolest year since 2000, thanks to a relatively strong La Niña event, which has chilled the Pacific basin. But despite that, it was the ninth warmest year since reliable instrumental measurements were begun in 1880. And the nine warmest years have all occurred between 1998 and 2008.
Here’s the data from GISS:
The left panel compares 2008 with the 1951-1980 period, and it’s quite obvious that this year was anomalously warm, particularly across Eurasia, the Arctic, and on the Antarctic Peninsula. Large parts of the Pacific Ocean were cooler than the long-term average — because of the La Niña conditions. The right panel depicts the long term trend since 1880. I’ve been looking, but I can’t seem to find the “flatlining” temperatures Booker referred to.
“One part of one cold winter does not a trend make,” says James White, director of the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, and a climate expert. “No reputable climatologist would argue that a warm summer month or two proved global warming, and none would argue that a few weeks of cold snap in winter in North America proves the opposite. Don’t confuse weather and climate. And enjoy the cold weather… it is getting rarer.”