Faux Pause: climate contrarians lose favorite talking point

In an ongoing effort to discredit mainstream climate science, climate contrarians have incorrectly asserted that there is a “pause” in the rate of global warming. This was never true, but now, it is even less true.

(Originally Published Here)

To any objective observer, the Earth is now a world warmed. The decade 2001–2010 was the hottest decade on record, and every single month since March 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average. The present year promises to be the sixth warmest year on record. Already this year, our fellow Americans out West have been confronted by record breaking wildfire, extreme drought, and devastating floods. All this in addition to the ongoing pine beetle epidemic ravaging our forests. All of these “natural” disasters are exactly what climate scientists expect from a world warmed by human emissions.

Despite all these facts, the contrarians have been heavily (and somewhat successfully) asserting that the world isn’t warming, that global warming has paused.

While this has always been a blatantly misleading argument that deliberately confuses short-term variation with long-term trends, a new study makes it perfectly clear that the world has warmed.

Contrarians focused on the rate of warming since 1998, which was an exceptionally hot year due to climate change and El Nino. This makes later years appear to be relatively cool, and is a form of lying with statistics. They draw a line on a graph showing the rate of warming from that unnatural peak in 1998 to now, and make it look like warming has continued at a steady pace, and not accelerated as expected (an argument that would fail any Statistics 101 class, as it ignores “regression to the mean”).

With this cherry-picked and statistically laughable graph in hand they cry “Global warming has paused! The climate models have failed!” as though the rate of acceleration of temperatures is somehow going to make or break the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. This would be quite the achievement, considering CO2’s greenhouse characteristics have been known since the 1820’s!

Our current system for measuring temperatures has a relatively large area around the poles that is not well covered. This new research uses advanced techniques to fill in the gaps in our measurements. When these holes are filled, what looked like a slight stagnation in the rate at which temperatures were increasing rose to agree with model projections.

What Cowtan and Way found, to the dismay of contrarians, was that when the poles are included the rate of global temperatures has been on pretty much the same upward trajectory since at least the 1950s. Climate change has continued to get worse and worse, despite what contrarians claim.

This means that not only is the “pause” a statistically unsound argument, but now we know it never existed in the first place!

So for those keeping score, the contrarians have only a debunked and imaginary pause in the rate of acceleration of warming, while there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans cause warming, the UN’s climate change panel states 95–100% certainty that humans are causing warming, every major scientific institution endorses the consensus that humans cause warming, there have been almost 345 consecutively warm months in a row, and broken extreme weather records all over the world.

For those that may be wondering what motivates contrarians, since it clearly isn’t the science, other new research finds the answer is exactly what you would suspect. Fame and fortune seemingly outweigh the condemnation that comes with resolutely denying the realities of our warmed world.

Given that sad fact, we begrudgingly await for the contrarians next excuse, now that they have been caught trumpeting this “faux pause.”

More like this

Sorry, but the 17 year pause is still on.

Coltan and Way - Signs of Cooling
[link deleted]

Please don't put links like that on my blog. This is a science blog. Thanks for complying with the policy in the future (see About page).

By Ipso phakto (not verified) on 14 Dec 2013 #permalink

I fear greatly for my grandchildren and all the other children around the world - we are playing with fire and I see no real chance to reverse this trend. What have we wrought??

By Nancy L Singham (not verified) on 15 Dec 2013 #permalink

I've always find it odd tat when science agrees in some way with denialist will point and say 'see its science' but when they disagree they scream FRAUD FAKE SCIENCE!!!
And like Nancy I fear for our G'kids, and take some joy in that I will not be here.

It's very interesting how fast the fake news propagate, no matter how many people predicted it was fake in the first place. If it's fake it's suddenly very relevant, no matter the topic.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Dec 2013 #permalink

Some people just like to be contrary to accepted knowledge. It's been proven many times over that wearing a seat belt increases your chance of survival in a severe car crash. A friend of mine doesn't wear his seat belt because the Law dictates that he must wear it. He feels he is expressing his freedom by not wearing his seat belt. Did I mention he drives a SUV?

No doubt the carbon cartel would be dancing for joy if, for some reason, the consensus among the World's scientists was that the Earth was cooling. But if that were the case there would be knot of contrarians who would swear there was a conspiracy and the World was really warming up. I would bet they would mostly be the people who are the climate change denialists now.

I think they feel a little (maybe a lot) intimidated by science and taking a contrary stance to the accepted belief is a way of taking it on and overcoming it in a fashion. We need to catch them when they are young and teach them that science isn't scary. It's fun.

By Richard Chapman (not verified) on 17 Dec 2013 #permalink

Richard, exactly; I think that actually explains a very large number of denialists, at the lowest ranks. In many cases they are being exploited, I think, by those with more of a direct stake in the game.

Sorry, but the world is NOT warmed in the slightest. I've looked at the temperature records for the past 50 years for my state, my locality, and my country....... once you adjust for various things, the world has NOT warmed at all or such a small amount it is well within the standard deviation of a chaotic system like the Earth's climate.

By Christopher Kidwell (not verified) on 18 Dec 2013 #permalink

@Christophe Kidwell
Wow, you should publish a paper
I love the disclaimer "once you adjust for various things"

By David White (not verified) on 19 Dec 2013 #permalink

David, it's true - I find that if you detrend the temperature data, the average temperature hasn't increased at all over the last century.

You'd be amazed at what the data can show "once you adjust for various things".

By Windchaser (not verified) on 19 Dec 2013 #permalink



If only all deniers censored themselves.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 20 Dec 2013 #permalink

Hi, Greg,
Interesting blog.
As a layman, I have to rely on "argument from authority" authorities in this field, which is not my field of study nor work. So it is, I venture, for nearly everyone here. (For sake of clarity, I am a climate change "moderate": AGW is real, but it not likely to be catastrophic. Net effects in the future range from moderately negative to moderately positive.)
What I find distressing about climate science communications is the overselling of what I call "consensus of catastrophe". I rarely see a news story about the 97% number that does not subtly or even overtly link that number to a near-certain prediction of catastrophic climate change.
Because of this, I do not depend on any media outlet, nor any self-appointed AGW spokesman in this area--I read the IPCC reports myself, and go well past the summaries for policymakers, digging for the level of consensus and expressions of certainty down in the bowels of the reports.
That is the basis of my distress. People conjoining "97%", "high level of confidence", and dire predictions have, if the IPCC working groups are to be believed, gone into unsupportable guesswork.
Now this may be good guesswork, but we still need to be careful to correctly describe what it we are talking about, how we know it, and how well we know it. If we want to go beyond that into personal opinion about what this means for the future and what we, as a society, should do about it, those remarks should be clearly labeled.
Thanks, again, for an interesting blog.

By Mr. Lynch (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

Its actually cooling which means getting colder meaning there is going to be more ice, and there is in the north pole this year, much more, and the sun is dimming, and the volcanoes are exploding and it really is hard not to laugh when you read the opening lock-step lines of global warming cartoons which all say the same thing.

By Mark Sircus (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

Three questions are needed to check and see if the person you are talking to actually understands what he's saying. Actually one.
As an Electronic Engineer in the field of radiation communications and controls I check each global warmer for signs of delusion before any disruption of my lunch break or wherever I find someone asking me what I think of it.
(1)Do you believe possible suspension spinning illuminated in vacuum a sphere, sensors distributed on it's surface, immersion of which into a frigid bath of nitrogen and oxgen, can make every sensor on that sphere show temperature rise of 90F/30C?

If the answer is yes then you have got a lot of explaining already and you're just at question one.

(2) Do you believe possible a sphere suspended spinning illuminated until stable temp T in vacuum, can have reflective media (H2O/CO2) between the illumination source and sphere remove 20% energy from the surface, and
create more energy arriving at the surface,
than when more energy was arriving at the surface?

Again: if you answered yes, you've shot straight to delusional without a detour of any kind.

(3) Do you believe possible a sphere suspended spinning illuminated until stable temp T in vacuum, can have reflective media (H2O/CO2) between the illumination source and sphere remove 25% energy from the surface, and
create more energy arriving at the surface,
than when 5% more energy was arriving at the surface?

In order to believe in global warming you have to believe not only that a frigid nitrogen bath conductively and convectively raised temperature on an object otherwise heated in vacuum,

you also have to believe reflective insulation between a fire and a rock made more energy come out of the rock converted to infrared
than went into the rock.

If you answered yes to even one of those questions you're self certified delusional.

Not maybe. You're delusional if you thought heating in vacuum left a sphere cooler than heating immersed in a frigid thermally conductive bath.

By Bill from Nevada (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

Re-posted at What's Up With That? here LoL:

By Bill from Nevada (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

Magic Gais, Magic Gais, MaGiC GAiS!


LoL That's what ya get for not studying enough hard science to be able to accurately project which way thermometers on surface of a sphere will go when it's heated in vacuum

then plunged beneath frigid reflective fluid bath, and agitated through spinning it a thousand miles an hour.

Can ya hear those banjos? Those are playing for your magical light in the sky you claim is too big not to believe in

too small for any class of instruments such as infrared astronomy
to measure.
LoL what a hick.
Just - what a hillbilly from - whichever set of hills,
it's still a hillbilly when it answers "Oh YeS I DO!"
to not ONE
but all THREE
"Are you delusional?"
REAL science
checks on your
pseudo science magical gais & laight story.

By Bill from Nevada (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

@Bill from Nevada
Point 1: You're not going to change any minds by using the word "delusional".

Point 2: I'm an educated guy, but I find your description of our planet quite mystifying. Maybe you should explain terms like "frigid", where you get numbers like 90F, etc.

By Mr. Lynch (not verified) on 21 Dec 2013 #permalink

As of June 2013, these are the length of time for no statistical warming, using the Skeptical Science Trend Calculator; HT justthefacts

I will post updates as I get them.

For RSS the warming is not statistically significant for over 23 years.
For RSS: +0.122 +/-0.131 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1990
For UAH the warming is not statistically significant for over 19 years.
For UAH: 0.139 +/- 0.165 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1994
For Hadcrut3 the warming is not statistically significant for over 19 years.
For Hadcrut3: 0.091 +/- 0.110 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1994
For Hadcrut4 the warming is not statistically significant for over 18 years.
For Hadcrut4: 0.093 +/- 0.107 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1995
For GISS the warming is not statistically significant for over 18 years.
For GISS: 0.105 +/- 0.110 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1995
For NOAA the warming is not statistically significant for over 18 years.
For NOAA: 0.086 +/- 0.103 C/decade at the two sigma level from 1995

If you want to know the times to the nearest month that the warming is not statistically significant for each set to their latest update, they are as follows:
RSS since July 1989;
UAH since May 1993;
Hadcrut3 since August 1993;
Hadcrut4 since July 1994;
GISS since October 1994 and
NOAA since May 1994.


By Les Johnson (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

Bill, I'm a fellow EE with an optics/comm background and who designs thermometry electronics for spacecraft, so our backgrounds are similar. But I can't make heads or tails of your examples because they're so poorly explained as to make answering them all but impossible. Are you trying to pretend that radiative backscattering isn't real? Are you trying to imply that the greenhouse effect isn't real, or that CO2 doesn't absorb IR while being largely transparent to visible wavelengths? Because I can't tell.

Les - you do realize that you're essentially demonstrating the SkS escalator, right?

By Brian Angliss (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

Question for Les:

Can you show me any statistically significant cooling trends in the past, say, 50 years?

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

And Les, surely you realize what you're doing. You are specifically identifying the exact points where statistical significance at the 95% level fails. That is the definition of cherry picking.

But let's look at what that actually means. All you're doing is selecting the exact point where we have a statistical confidence that there is a warming trend. Does that mean that there is NO warming trend previous to that? Not on your life.

What does a confidence level at the 90% level mean? It still means there is a very high likelihood there is a warming trend, but it's more difficult to determine due to noise in the data relative to the trend.

This is why I pose my question above. No statistically significant warming does NOT mean no warming. It just means there's less statistical confidence of the TREND being different than zero.

When you can show us a long term, statistically significant cooling trend, then you deniers might have something to crow about. Until that point, you're just playing silly games.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

Les has conveniently also provided the most likely global surface warming trends from each dataset:

For RSS: +0.122°C per decade from 1990
For UAH: 0.139°C per decade from 1994
For HadCRUT4: 0.093°C per decade from 1995
For GISS: 0.105°C per decade from 1995
For NOAA: 0.086°C per decade from 1995
For HadCRUT4 hybrid using the Cowtan & Way (2013) methodology: 0.12°C per decade from 1997

And of course global heat accumulation equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations or 7.4 quadrillion kitten sneezes per second.

That's a lot of warming.

By Dana Nuccitelli (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

re: Les' link at #18.

Les, what you're ignoring with the graph you've created is the influence of other factors, like the ENSO and PDO.

If there were NO other influences on global surface temperatures, then your graph would be interesting. But we had an extraordinary El Nino in 1998 and we have had a long series of neutral and La Nina conditions since then. Add in the influence of falling solar irradiance and China industrial pollution, you have a lot of factors that you would expect to reduce the trend over this period.

BUT even with all those negative (cooling) factors, we still have a positive (warming) trend. What you should be concerned about is the fact that none of those negative factors are likely to continue long term. Once they start turning positive we are very likely to see a warming trend that exceeds the longer term trend.

AND what you should really be asking yourself is, why, with all these cooling factors, are we not seeing an actual cooling trend in the surface temperature record?

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 22 Dec 2013 #permalink

The real problem is that the IPCC forecasts do not match actual temperature measurements.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 24 Dec 2013 #permalink

Fascinating. It seems that the evolving models do come closer to observed temperatures. The most recent (FAR), however, projects a warming of 0.15C per decade, which would be 1.5C per century. Not much to get worried about IMO.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 24 Dec 2013 #permalink

Greg: I am 83 years old and have three surviving children, only two grandchildren (who are the smartest and best looking, naturally). And maybe I don't understand the relationship of warming and its effects; but I have lived long enough to realize that warm is better than cold (and it is pretty cold right now in Houston; how is it in...brrrr...Minnesota?). Maybe you can give me some cites so I can read up on the effects of warming. This is an interesting area, politically and scientifically, for an old guy who remembers the panic over a forthcoming ice age. True magazine (you are too old to remember that one) had a big feature citing work by then-current scientists. And old enough to have a great distrust of mega-organizations, including government.

Off topic: I see you have two young children. My dad once told me to enjoy the years when the children were young, since they would be the best years of my life. You know, he was right! So enjoy the little guys while you can.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 24 Dec 2013 #permalink

PS. Forgot to mention that both are graduate engineers; Tina is a Petroleum engineer for Marathon and Jim is a computer engineer with 8by8. Following a family tradition: My first degree was in Chemical Engineering and my younger son (their dad) is a geophysicist...kinda like an engineer.

The world of science is amazing. I am particularly interested in your posts about birds...I always thought they were dinosaurs! And now they find the duckbills might have had a comb on top of the head! Marvelous. And Chinese dinos with feathers! Who said skin couldn't evolve into feathers!

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 24 Dec 2013 #permalink

Oops. Greg, I meant that you are too YOUNG to remember True magazine. Or that you are NOT old enough to remember it. Senility or fumble fingers or something.

BTW, True magazine was kind of like a Popular Science of the time. No hard science involved. But the ice age craze was a popular topic.

We all know we are in an interglacial period during which the earth warms until it doesn't. Then we fall back into another ice age.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 24 Dec 2013 #permalink

Think of all the dinosaur images, depictions, toys, etc. that have to be redone to include feathers (and the other features more recently discovered by science)!

Great! I have a few small dinos that I have kept for years..tricerotopsians and others...would love to see them decked out with feathers! And combs.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hope Santa was good to the little ones.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 25 Dec 2013 #permalink

Greg: I can't find the graph I was relying on in stating that the IPCC can't predict temperatures too well. It was (as I recall) a display of the various models as lines in a matrix of temperature versus CO2 ppm in the atmosphere. Actual readings of temperature were also shown, in a line that was below almost all of the models (I seem to recall that one of the models was close enough to put the readings in the error band). Maybe you are familiar with that one and can help me find it.


By Sylvester B (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Here's a discussion of models:


There is a graph that shows numerous models and actual temperatures that you may be thinking of, showing the actual temperatures within the error margin but for later years being on the low side. That is nothing remarkable. More recent research referred to here in the original post has caused those surface temperature readings to be adjusted ... once previously missing data was added in ... to be more in the middle.

The bigger issue, though, is that the surface temperatures as a whole are currently under-estimating global warming because the ocean has been eating up more heat than usual. We can expect that over the next year the ocean may stop eating extra heat and go to average, or perhaps even start releasing more heat, depending on what the ENSO does. Some predictions show it at 50-50 likely to go to neutral vs. El Nino, others suggest a somewhat higher likelihood of El Nino, but this is hard to predict and we have to wait and see.

Thanks, Greg. All very interesting, although I still have problems working with anomalies vs actual temperatures. The earth does continue to warm up, even I can deduce that from the anomalies. But as to heat now being absorbed in the deep ocean...why now? What is so different now as opposed to twenty or a hundred years ago? Do the oceanologists have an explanation? El Ninos have been know since...well, almost forever.

BTW, how close are you to International Falls? Weather report says it set a new record something like minus 42deg F. You are probably catching some of the Arctic air as well.

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink


By Sylvester B (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

The ocean has been absorbing over 90% of the heat all along. Over time periods of 10 years or so the amount the oceans absorb changes as the nature of the interaction between the sea surface and the atmosphere changes (things like ENSO). It happens that over the last several years there has probably been more going into the ocean than average, and we can anticipate that this will go up and down over time.

There has not been regular monitoring of deep ocean temperatures at the level of the surface (sea surface, air, ice). But there are some data that go back in time and more recently there has been an increase in the amount of data, but nothing is ever going to match a gazillion weather stations on the surface and satellite data for the atmosphere and sea surface temperature.

I'm about 290 miles south of International Falls. It is zero here now, but over the weekend we'll see temps about 25 or more below zero.

Brrr. Stay close to the fire!

By Sylvester B (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Have some friends explain it to you Brian.

It's not complicated.
it's first principles:
fundamentals of your faith.
Specifically reduced to basics,
for you who believed in it.

You are an activist .

You understand.
You saw what I said.
Your hands got real still.
You tried to think of something.
You are an Electronic Engineer.
You have spoken, read, extensively.
You made your most intelligent response.
You claimed that you had suddenly developed
sudden onset reading comprehension impediment.
That doesn't say too much about your faith in the science.
That doesn't say too much about your faith in the basics.
That doesn't say too much about your faith in the heater.
That doesn't say too much about your faith in the "Yes!"
That doesn't seem to be in your power to utter lest you
develop sudden reading comprehension impediment.
"I developed a sudden reading impediment"
is your answer.

Go ahead Brian. Try to answer the questions.
I re-wrote them so an activist can understand.

(1) This is about whether you understand the effect of a cold thermally conductive bath,
on an object immersed in it, after being heated to full, stable temperature, in vacuum.

The earth is a sphere.
The earth is spinning.
The earth is in vacuum.
The earth is illuminated.
The earth is heated by it.

Can immersion of the sphere
in frigid nitrogen/oxygen coolant
make every single surface sensor report temp rise of average 91F/33C?

Do you Brian Angliss
believe possible,
immersion of an object
heated to full temperature in vacuum
into frigid coolant
causing sensors on it's surface,
to report temperature rise averaging 90F/30C?

Your claim is sudden development
of rapid-onset reading impediment.
also known as "I got struck blind."

I see it tried all the time.
We all do.

Crying out you were suddenly struck down by
rapid-onset reading impediment is one of
the most common Green House Gasser
bluff/fold/run techniques
from your Evangelists

They have to.

(2) Second question's also fundamental Magic Gas.

Do you believe possible, heating a sphere with light,
to then suspend reflective molecules between light & sphere
sphere surface
energy sensors
to indicate more energy arriving with 20% less arriving
than when there was 20% more energy arriving?

Yes or No

The last question's an extension of the second:

Do you believe after blocking 20% energy to sensors
you can add enough reflective H2O/CO2 to block 25%
causing surface heat sensors to report
more energy arriving when 75% does,
than before, when 80% was arriving?

Whenever you regain the capacity to process language Brian
Either "Oh Yes I do! believe in that!" Or "No I don't believe in ANY that."

Either way it's obvious to everyone who had to claim
"being struck blind" as the reason you declined to answer.

Brian Angliss
December 22, 2013
Bill, I’m an EE ... I can’t understand what you're saying."

By Bill from Nevada (not verified) on 14 Jan 2014 #permalink

To Bill the Troll from Nevada:

According to your ridiculous logic
(spiced very nicely with
insulting rhetoric to everyone but yourself
and mysterious

it should be super-hot on the Moon -

The Moon

Enjoys the same irradiation as the Earth,
is not immersed "in frigid nitrogen/oxygen coolant".
(as you choose to call
our precious Atmosphere
for some obscure reason.)


(M.Sc. in environmental science,
Ph.D. in statistics)

@Bill from Nevada: I think people are declining to answer you because your prose is very unclear. From what I can gather, you seem to think you have in your brilliance disproven the GHE with some kind of ontological argument?

If so, you might want to note that even Denialist saints Roy Spencer and Judith Curry acknowledge the GHE. The former has in fact posed a rather difficult challenge to those like you attemting to disprove it. Contrarian climatologist saint Richard Lindzen calls those who deny the science on this "nutty".

But since you have got one up on even these experts in the actual field in question (something EE is not), maybe you'd care to explain then why the Earth is not an iceball in space - as it once was known to have been? Our planet ought to be a heck of a lot cooler, minus the GHE - this is cutting edge nineteenth century science. Might want to look up the names Fourier and Tyndall - apparently they were either delusional or in on the conspiracy, in its very early stages.

By Dan Aldridge (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink