UK Met Office responds: It’s still getting warmer

If you were engaging in social media this past weekend, you might have found an October 13, 2012 article suggesting that global warming stopped 16 years ago. The article is here. David Rose of the Daily Mail wrote it. The article says the UK Met Office sent out a news release release saying its data showed that global warming has stopped and that there is no “discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.” It now comes to light that this information is not true. The UK Met Office did not release a statement suggesting that “global warming stopped 16 years ago.” The UK Met Office, in fact, disavows any association with Mr. Rose and his article and says it was never asked any questions regarding the actual science of climate change and global warming by Mr. Rose. On October 14, 2012 – one day after Mr. Rose’s article appeared in the Daily Mail – the UK Met Office released its own blog post discussing the issues with the Daily Mail article. It’s very interesting reading.

The Daily Mail article carried this headline: Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released… and here is the chart to prove it The chart that supposedly “proves it” is below.

This chart accompanied the October 13, 2012 Daily Mail article. It supposedly shows that global warming stopped 16 years ago, and it was supposedly released by the UK Met Office. The UT Met Office said on October 14, however, that it did not release this chart or say that global warming had stopped. In fact, UK Met Office says its data show a warming trend during the years under discussion. Image via Daily Mail

In its blog post in response to the Daily Mail article, the UT Met Office describes Rose’s information as “misleading.” To quote the Met Office’s blog post:

It is the second article Mr Rose has written which contains some misleading information …

The UK Met Office emphasizes it did not say that global warming stopped 16 years ago. Here’s an excerpt from the UK Met Office regarding the October 13 Daily Mail article:

The linear trend from August 1997 (in the middle of an exceptionally strong El Nino) to August 2012 (coming at the tail end of a double-dip La Nina) is about 0.03°C/decade, amounting to a temperature increase of 0.05°C over that period, but equally we could calculate the linear trend from 1999, during the subsequent La Nina, and show a more substantial warming. As we’ve stressed before, choosing a starting or end point on short-term scales can be very misleading. Climate change can only be detected from multi-decadal timescales due to the inherent variability in the climate system. If you use a longer period from HadCRUT4 the trend looks very different. For example, 1979 to 2011 shows 0.16°C/decade (or 0.15°C/decade in the NCDC dataset, 0.16°C/decade in GISS). Looking at successive decades over this period, each decade was warmer than the previous – so the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s, and the 2000s were warmer than both. Eight of the top ten warmest years have occurred in the last decade.

The graph above – from the UK Met Office website – shows years ranked in order of global temperature. According to the UK Met Office, it illustrates the point that eight of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past decade. Click here to expand image

To be fair, the UK Met Office – known for its conservative statements on the subject of global warming – also said this:

Over the last 140 years global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.8ºC. However, within this record there have been several periods lasting a decade or more during which temperatures have risen very slowly or cooled. The current period of reduced warming is not unprecedented and 15 year long periods are not unusual.

Global temperatures have indeed been rising over land and ocean over the past decades, as the chart above shows. Image via NCDC/NOAA

So … it is still warming after all. In fact, in a report released by the National Climatic Data Center this week, global land and ocean surface temperatures for the month of September 2012 tied with 2005 as the warmest September on record, at 0.67 degrees Celsius (1.21 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average of 15.0 degrees Celsius (59.0 degrees Fahrenheit). It appears that the rate of warming has slowed slightly at this time; in other words, at the moment, it’s not increasing in warmth as fast as it was. Temperatures remain at all-time highs since records began, however, and our warming climate continues to break its own records.

Bottom line: On October 13, 2012, the Daily Mail posted an article crediting the UK Met Office with saying that global warming stopped 16 years ago. The article went viral this week. One day later, however, the UK Met Office disavowed the Daily Mail article, saying it did not say global warming had stopped and was not contacted by the article’s author. According to the UK Met Office and tens of thousands of other scientists worldwide, global temperatures are still rising.

October 17, 2012

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Matt Daniel

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