2008 to be 10th hottest year: warming trend up, or stalling?

November 12, 2008

This year is set to be about the 10th warmest since records began in the 19th century, according to Phil Jones, a leading British climate scientist — see story here.

But does that confirm a long-term trend of global warming, stoked by human emissions of greenhouse gases, or show that it has stalled? The warmest year on record is now a while ago, in 1998.

Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, has no doubt that the underlying trend is still up — 1998 was an unusual year when global temperatures were boosted by an El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean. And this year, the opposite La Nina effect is cooling the planet.

(Among signs of a cooler 2008, some high Alpine ski resorts in Switzerland have opened early…)

And Jones says that the world’s thermometers may also be underestimating temperature rises because the Arctic — visibly warming since summer ice shrank in 2007 to the smallest since satellite measurements began in the 1970s – is pretty much excluded. That’s because there’s a lack of records from 1961-90, the benchmark years for judging current global warming, because ships didn’t go there.

But Joseph D’Aleo, a meteorologist who leads ICECAP (International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project), wrote in a comment that ”flawed science and bad siting” of thermometers often mean a bias towards warmer readings. He says that 2008 might only be in the top 20 or 30 years.

ICECAP says it is that it is worried that “the sole focus on greenhouse gases and the unwise reliance on imperfect climate models while ignoring real data may leave civilisation unprepared for a sudden climate shift that history tells us will occur again, very possibly soon”.

And many sceptics about the U.N. Climate Panel — distilling conclusions from work by 2,500 experts worldwide – are finding ammunition from the fact that temperatures are not setting records every year. The Climate Panel says it is at least 90 percent likely that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, are the main cause of warming in the past 50 years.

D’Aleo notes that Jones’ unit forecast once that 2007 could be the warmest on record. Jones says that the La Nina was unexpected at the time and knocked it down the rankings.

Jones says that natural variations in the climate — such as El Nino, La Nina or volcanic eruptions that can dim the sun — can easily mask the faint warming trend. Each year, he says temperatures can swing about 0.2 degree Celsius from the annual average because of natural variations. Meanwhile, global warming is adding about 0.2C per decade – by that sort of reckoning, he says it’s not unusual that a year ranks 10th.

So who’s right?

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So who is right?

CO2 still increases annually in the atmosphere. Human behavior hasn’t changed significantly to forstall further increases. As long as we continue our behaviors of burning fossil fuels the risk of warming and major shifts in climate increase. That’s the view of a majority of climate scientists including the ones I know personally. It’s clear to me that the deniers and the vested interests for continuing to warm the planet put us on a wild ride of future environmental catastrophes.

Some environmentalists I know are pessimistic and believe we’ve already lost the battle. Is it any use to change our ways? These wide range of views illusrate the difficulty humans have to know what is in their best interest.

It’s no wonder in the religious tradition of Prophets who warned people of bad things to come unless they changed their ways, the stories tell that people didn’t listen, rejected the prophets and experienced the suffering and punishment waiting for them. That’s the story. We are still a stubborn species and don’t want to listen to those who forcast our doom even as we know in our gut that we can’t keep doing what we are doing which is unsustainable and short sighted.

One day, and maybe not too far into the future, we will see major ecosystems suffer, crash and die out threatening our food source and survivability.

Here’s what I wonder? When our nearly 7 billion humans grow to 13-14 billion, how will we eat and where will we find drinking water? And if we continue to be “pro (human) life” so that we grow human populations to reach 20 to 30 billion on this planet, how will future generations live? How can ecosystems survive? Human population acceleration and a warmer planet due to burning carbon based fuels combine to make a recipe for disaster. Is this the future we intend to leave our great grand children? It’s something I think about often. When I arrived on the planet there were barely 2 billion people living. It has trippled so far in my life time and appears to keep on accelerating. I wonder when the great religions will finally face this dangerous trend of population growth which they have embraced in the name of “pro-life?” I believe this is the greatest challenge to conventional morality in our time. Maybe the great Armegedan fantasy will be fulfilled by an unconscious desire to court the dark side of mass extinctions? We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Posted by Don Knudson | Report as abusive

To Don:

Nobody ever said there were not natural climate cycles. Nobody ever said CO2 was the only contributor to global climate change.

The world needs to address this global warming issue as soon as possible…….any further delays will damage the world environment……….

The statement that 1998 was the ‘hottest’ year is incorrect. NASA Goddard James Hansen corrected a mathematical error and has acknowledged this months ago. 1934 was the hottest and 1998 the second. Additionally there was an error in the 2008 temperatures which has been recently corrected. It was due to some incorrect readings from Russia. The British scientist is well behind the times and needs to check facts. Dozens of times I have seen lazy journalists refer to 1998 as the hottest year in the last 100. That is simply wrong. There has been no hotter year than the 1930s and thus no ‘warming’ for about 74 years. MIT scientist recently published a study of methane gas distribution and concluded the facts do not fit with the theory of man induced global warming – one of dozens of studies that undermine the political decision to promote man induced warming.

Posted by pat moran | Report as abusive

Don– I think you have hit on something, the global warming agenda is a religion and it is not a Christian religion, but a cultural religion. Thank you for finally stating what has been obvious to many for quite some time.
Thank you Dale for stating some well deserved pointers that Don fails to understand. Allow me to state another. The way I see things, the SUN is the ONLY heat source for the planet. The moon, neighboring planets and stars don’t offer the Earth ANY warming. So if the SUN is the only heat source and the planet has natural temperature flucuations, why are the craniums of the scientists not talking about the sun? (Ans: Because of their cultural religion requires this of them.) Does CO2 have the ability to warmer anything? (Ans: No.) It is warmer in city centers than in the corn fields, in part, because concrete and asphalt have an ability to radiate the sun’s heat and up the temperatures. Does concrete or asphalt have the ability to warmer anything? No, it is the sun that warms the concrete not the concrete that warms itself. So the best way to cool a city is to dial down the heat from the sun, not take away all the concrete. Taking the concrete away is like treating a bullet wound with a Band-Aid. Let’s start treating climate change by treating the source, not the simptum. Any ideas on how to cool the sun?

Posted by Glen | Report as abusive

I have no doubt climate change is occuring but I think more resources should be spent on adaptation because this is going to be critical. It is amazing the amount of money spent on energy efficiency that will reduce GHG minimally.

Secondly, the rich crusaders who have a massive environmental footprint, should not be able to buy their way out via GHG credits. If the average person is expected to reduce consumption then the rich should live the same lifestyle.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

The following might be of interest on the use of highly reflective microcrystals for increasing terrestrial albedo to mitigate global warming:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4B_dnIMi aA

This may be a more feasible approach as compared to other proposals.

Posted by john brady | Report as abusive

[...] 2008 to be 10th hottest year: warming trend up, or stalling? World Weather Post – Thursday, November 20, 2008, 22:30 “This year is set to be about the 10th warmest since records began in the 19th century, according to Phil Jones, a leading British climate scientist”, Reuters reports. [...]

Hello – just look at the weather this week – global warming is a fear fed by false prophets. Humans are just not powerful enough to affect the worlds weather. Making political and financial decisions based on this nonsense will cost each of us dearly. The same set of scientists who raise the fear of “Global Cooling” in the 1970′s are now trying to sell us “Global Warming”. Wake-up people – look outside – it is COLD with more snow and ice than we have seen in decades!!

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive