"The hottest year ever recorded" embroidery

Almost breathless and without qualification, it is being reported in some corners that 2014 was the "hottest year ever recorded" on Earth.

Strictly speaking, it's true. But too many reports are leaving the impression that last year's temperatures are spiraling upward, jumping far beyond the last record year. If you look more closely at the figures, you will see, yes, the temperatures continue to increase, but the last year's "record" was just a skosh higher than 2010, the last record year.

Here are the details, according to Berkley Earth:

Berkeley Earth has constructed an estimate of the global average temperature during  2014, including land and sea. The key findings are:

  1. The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.
  2. For the land, 2014 was nominally the 4th warmest year since 1753 when the land surface temperature record began).
  3. For the sea, 2014 was the warmest year on record since1850.
  4. For the contiguous United States, 2014'ranked nominally as the 38th warmest year on record since 1850.

It would behove everyone to read the entire report to better understand that climate change science was a lot more nuance than some folks would have everyone believe. For example, the report warns that you must take in the degree of uncertainty when discussing the findings:

Numerically, our best estimate for the global temperature  of 2014 puts  it slightly above (by 0.01C) that of the next warmed year (2010), but by much less than the margin of uncertainty (0.05C). Therefore it is impossible to conclude from our analysis which of 2014, 2010 or 2005 was actually the warmest year.

The margin of uncertainly we achieved was remarkably small (0.05C with 95 percent confidence). This was achieved in part by the inclusion of data from over 30,000 temperature stations and by the use of optimized statistical mthos. Even so, the highest year could not be distinguished. That is, of course, an indication that the Earth's highest year could not be distinguished. That is, of course, an indication that the Earth's average temperature for the last decade has changed very little. Note that the ten warmest years all occur since 1998.

This is not to say that the Earth is not warming long-term. Or proof that humans are not causing global warming or climate change. What I'm saying is that there is more to this debate than rhetoric, "consensus" and "certainty." People who bring up these nuances ought not be ridiculed or cast a members of the "flat Earth society."

Chief among those who bias is showing is the New York Times, which reported the research thusly:

2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics

Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

For those wondering if  Berkeley Earth is among those skeptics, you should know that much of what it has to say provides some evidence of global warming. You might want to check out their donors here. As the organization states:

All donations, except for the Energy Foundation grant, were provided as unrestricted educational grants, which means the donor organizations have no say over our activities or what we publish. All of our work and results are presented with full transparency.

So, can we please, please give the science the respect it deserves?

For the other side of the story, check out ChicagoNow blogger Bob (R.J.) Adams.

For information on my award-winning historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812," visit: http://www.madness1812.com


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  • You seem to be conceding the truth of global warming but very reluctantly.

  • I'll try saying it again: Respect for science requires everyone to stop making this a rhetorical or political debate. The evidence is incomplete and, sometimes, contradictory. Aren't scientists (journalists and commentators) supposed to be skeptical?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    97% of climate experts agree that humans are causing global warming. See skepticalscience.com.

  • Dennis, thank you for the referral. The controversy over global warming will probably be settled long after we're all gone, but this is how discourse should be conducting in the public square. My hat is off to you, this morning, my friend. (figuratively, speaking, of course. Global warming obviates the need for hats)

  • Dennis: I haven't read the report yet. But I am a bit befuddled.

    We see headlines claiming the warmest year ever. Yet we have other scientists observing a hiatus and seeking to explain it. If there is indeed a hiatus, why would this be the warmest year ever? Either the hiatus scientists are researching a non-existent phenomenon, or the science driving this latest report is reporting incorrect data.

    Which means you are correct...we need to read the reports to resolve the apparent contradiction.

  • I always get a chuckle out of those who say that "the science is in". Well, science once claimed the world flat and that bleeding sick people was a sure cure.

    The climate change community has a political aim, and that is more control over individuals, except for them, of course. They preach from exiting their private jets or sitting at home using and energy source to post things. For those who have no political aim (that they are aware of), they are essentialy cult members. They have to believe in something, I suppose, no matter the facts. That's called faith.

    Not one Climate Change True Believer has explained to me yet how there were huge switches of temperature over the many thousands of years, long before the internal combustion engine and coal-fired plants.

    And not one -- not one-- Climate Change Cultist has volunteered self-extermination to lessen their contribution to CO2 and thus save the earth they so love. Not a damned one has done this.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    This is not a matter of faith. The evidence is overwhelming. Just ask the people in Miami who are dealing with flooding from the rising ocean level.

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