Tag Archives: temperature data

Volcanoes and Antarctic Ice Cores

My last post argued that Antarctic Ice Cores are poor proxies for world climate.  They do not show short term changes.  Changes take centuries to develop in ice cores.  Sudden changes that last for a few years or even hundreds of years can be completely missed by ice cores.   Things like…say…a sudden spike in carbon dioxide levels following a volcanic eruption.

Ice cores provide general information about the world of the past…but it is just that…general information. This post will use one single event, the Toba super volcano eruption to accentuate the point.


Lake Toba is a large lake in Indonesia.  The lake is 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide.  About 74,000 years ago it was the center of a super volcano eruption.  The caldera of this much studied volcanic event encompassed the entire lake and surrounding territory…

This eruption was a really big deal.  It almost wiped out mankind.   This eruption was such an extraordinary event, it is difficult for me to comprehend exactly how big it was.

Scientists measure volcanic eruptions using the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI.   The total volume of material expectorated by the volcano is estimated.  Small volcanic eruptions are VEI1, super volcanoes are VEI8.  The following chart helps me get a sense of the size of the various events. I like this chart because it includes the 3 most recent events I like to use to get perspective, Mt. St. Helens, Pinatubo and Tambora.   The St. Helens explosive eruption of 1980 was a relatively small event.  Yep a small event.  Pinatubo was about 10 times larger and it was big enough to change temperatures worldwide for 2 years. Tambora is the most recent VEI7 event and was some 10 times larger than Pinatubo.  Tambora began erupting on April 5, 1815.  The eruption could be heard over a 1000 miles away.   1816 was nicknamed the year without a summer.

Tambora was a big deal.  The biggest in recent history. Toba was a VEI8 event some 28 times bigger than Tambora.

Imagine if you can what that must have been like.  It was so cold and so dark that that man almost didn’t survive the event. NOW let’s take a peek at the Vostok Antarctic Ice Core.   I have selected a graph that blows up the period from 50,000 years ago  to 100,000 years ago. I see a very small dip some 74,000 years ago.  A dip of perhaps half a  degree C with virtually no change in carbon dioxide levels.  Carbon dioxide levels spiked during the eruption, particulate matter would have stayed in the atmosphere for centuries.  Temperatures all over the world would have dropped dramatically.  Temperatures are supposed to have dropped 3 to 5 degrees C and the event is supposed to have changed global climate for 1000 years.

The chart is full of bigger moves.  Bigger than a VEI8 event?  What natural event could that be?  About 4000 years before the event there is a sudden fall of about 3 degrees C in a very short period of time.  I wonder what caused that?

When I look at ice cores and think about super volcanic events I feel better about the world.   If the world can survive a Toba event and recover…maybe the gloom and doom being spouted at UN climate meetings is a bit overdone?

Australia Heat Wave BBC Mistakes

I must be a tiny bit sensitive.  When I see a climate related article that makes absolutely no sense, I tend to overreact.  A case in point, a recent BBC article on hot weather in Australia.  The article says:

“Australia has been warming up by about 0.9C [a year] since 1910,” Dr Braganza told the BBC.

Australian temperature records go back to 1910.

The emphasis added by the writer is clearly a silly stupid mistake, the world warmed about 0.9 degree C in the 20t century and not 0.9 degree C per year for 105 years.  Australia hasn’t started acting like Venus, although on a warm day in January it might seem so.

Australia’s average annual weather bounces around quite a bit which is not particularly surprising as regional climate varies much more than the world as a whole. Just three years ago the average for the year was a full degree C lower than in 2013.

Australia hasn’t been steadily rising for a hundred years.  It’s had warm years and cold ones with a slow rise over the century  as this data  from the Australia Bureau of Meteorology demonstrates:


Clearly the person writing the article didn’t understand how climate works or she wouldn’t have made such a silly mistake…and I guess that is my complaint.

It is interesting that Australia is warming faster than the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.  Most 20th century warming occurred over land in the Northern Hemisphere as this University of East Anglia  Climate Research Unit (CRU) graph demonstrates:


Still it is a bit of a puzzle.  I wonder why the little ecosystem that is Australia has acted as it has.  Perhaps it’s simply a short term trend.  It’s difficult to tell with such a small data set and such a big country.

I’d suspect the older Australia data to be of poor quality.  Most of the best data on climate is new data.  I’d be a bit surprised if they had good land based data even 50 years ago.  It’s a big place…so any comment about a trend that began in 1910, when the data began, is a bit of a guess.  Probably a SWAG number?!

Climate Science – A data plucking epidemic

Cherry picked data and wild ass guessing  are everywhere in climate science discussions.   I just spent three posts discussing a new gloom and doom article by James Hansen and 17 other scientists.   The whole article is chock full of cherry picked data and wild guesses.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the starting assumption, namely that the world temperature has risen 1 degree C in the 20th century.   Well that’s not strictly true.  Here is the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit(CRU) Chart from 2009:


The NOAA  data looks similair but a bit different.  The NOAA data is best viewed by looking at their web site.  The NOAA data is interactive.  One can place a curser on any year and get a specific reading for that year.   The year 1900 was -0.1 degree C and 2000 was +0.4.  The years around 1910 were -0.4 which would have been provided a +0.8 net total for the time period.   The only way you get a 1 degree C reading is to stop in 1998 (a strong El Nino year).

And the data keeps changing all the time.   Here is the 2012 East Anglia data.

Notice how 1998 is now cooler and 2010 is the new hottest ever!

Suppose I wanted to support the argument that the climate hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years.  I could start with 1879, a +0.1 degree C year according to NOAA…and end my data in ….well lets look at some Satellite data and cherry pick our best number:


Let’s pick 2008.

The satellite is using a slightly higher temperature as their zero point which means there is some warming, but probably less than +0.2 degree C. in that specific period from 1879 to 2008.     So how much warming did we have?   And how much is natural climate variation and how much is man caused?  I don’t know and neither does Dr. Hansen.

World temperature is a guess that does not stay constant.   In 2006, a skeptic noticed that the NASA climate data was flawed.   They had used raw rather than corrected data for most of North America in their models and they had been doing it since the year 2000.  NASA corrected their mistake and suddenly 1939 got lots warmer relative to 1998 and 2005.   1939 no longer makes even the top ten.  Between 2006 and 2013…1939 got colder!?  And so did 1998.

World temperature is a SWAG number.  There are two mains reasons I am comfortable saying that.  Oceans and test site irregularities.

70% of the world is ocean.  Before 1979 we had almost no data.  Ships at sea provided temperatures.  These temperatures have been accumulating for a long time, but standards have existed only since the 1950’s.  When should a temperature be taken, how often should it be taken, and at what point on the hull?

Ocean temperature outside shipping lanes began with satellite data in 1979.   And Satellite data measures the air near the surface, not the sea temperature.  Buoys began being used in the 1980’s which provided better data.  But buoys drift and most are near land.  So what was the temperature of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica in 1879?   What is it right now?  AND how much has it changed between 1879 and 1979?

Test sites are impacted by their environment.   As the environment becomes more urban, the temperature at the site rises.   There are literally thousands of sites that must be adjusted.  A paved road and/or new mechanical equipment nearby have the ability to impact calculations.   Cities are warmer than the countryside nearby.  When a site does not provide data, and that does happen, the data must be surmised is some way.   SWAG is rampant.

Here is a piece of information provided by a skeptic demonstrating the difference between raw and corrected data for New Zealand. .  First the unadjusted data:


And now the adjusted data:


I have absolutely no idea as to whether the adjustments are right or wrong.  I do know this though….they tell a different story.

When I am told storms are becoming more frequent and more extreme, I tend to question the source.  The world is a spectacularly changeable place.  Here are a few simple examples that come to mind.

  • Settlements in Greenland a thousand years ago.
  • Villages high in the Alps that have shown up after recent melting.
  • A Sahara that has gone from sand to lush vegetation and back again to sand in the last 5000 years.
  • Starvation of the Mayans due to severe and prolonged drought less than 1500 year ago.
  • The dust bowl of the 1930’s (at the end of another prolonged warm spell).
  • Krakatoa volcano eruption of 1883. And throw in the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption.  Krakatoa is assumed to have lowered the world’s temperature for 5 years.  The year following the Mt. Tambora eruption is know around the world as the year without a summer.
  • Parts of New York State were under 5000 feet of ice just 20,000 years ago.

Whenever I hear a climate hawk talk about gloom and doom and a climate tipping point, I think about Super Volcanoes.    Ahhh.   More on that next time.

Surprise — Record Cold in Anchorage

I fully expect global warming doomsayers to show up at any moment.   It has been a warm summer in much of the USA.  I am here to offer comfort to those of you expecting doom in the immediate future.

It’s been  cold in Anchorage, Alaska.  Really cold.  Record setting cold.   According to the Anchorage Daily News, the first 13 days of July have been the coldest in history (or since 1915 when they began taking records).

Life guard Lori Jones is on duty at the empty swimming beach at Goose Lake on Friday, July 13, 2012.

 Alaska is a big place….and we are part of the USA, so we are going to mess up the statistics. Eventually our weather will change, it will get warmer here and colder somewhere else.  But the USA including Alaska is less warm than you might think….when it’s all averaged together.

Every time I think about the world’s temperature….I wonder how they do it.  Warm in the lower 48 states of the USA with temperature data everywhere, not so many sites in a colder Alaska.  Lots of sites in Europe, not so many in Africa.   Less than 20 temperature sites in the Arctic Ocean, only 8 south of 60 degrees south latitude.  It has got to be the ultimate wild ass guess.