Global Climate Snapshot: Spring 2012

I am a global warming agnostic. A lot of people are completely convinced global warming is real. A lot of other people call themselves “skeptics,” but they are just as completely convinced that global warming is not real. I am biased towards that latter viewpoint, based on everything I have read and seen, but I am on the whole undecided, because there is also evidence that points the other way.

I thought it would be useful, then, to begin summarizing recent news about the environment and whether these events point towards or against the notion that the earth is warming and making lots of bad things happen. This will help me keep track of climate trends, and also help you form a more complete opinion in case you heard about some of these events but not all of them.

Note: I do not care about studies or computer models that suggest that the green Tibetan juice beetle could potentially decrease in size by 10% thanks to a slight increase in ocean acidity, or anything like that. I’m talking about actual things that are actually happening. Give me data! Let’s begin…

Animal Populations

1. Healthy polar bear count in the north. Several years ago, researchers predicted that by now polar bears along the Hudson Bay would fall as low as 610 due to “warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin bears’ ability to hunt.” But after a recent aerial survey, the polar bear numbers in the region are now estimated within “a range of 717 bears to 1,430.” Does that smell like a warming globe? NO.

2. Emperor penguin count in Antarctica doubles. Researchers identified new colonies and increased their penguin count estimate from a 270,000-350,000 range to about 595,000. They still say “current research suggests that emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change,” but there’s no sign of that yet. Does that smell like a warming globe? NO.

Oceans and Ice

3. Arctic sea ice. The northern ice cap has been one of the strongest evidences for a warming globe in recent years. The sea ice levels have been dropping since we began collecting satellite images 30-some years ago, and in 2007 the amount of ice dropped to a stunning new low in the summer. Since then, however, the summer lows have neither reached to lower records nor returned to pre-2007 years.

Right now, the northern sea ice extent is having its best April since 2001, and has almost returned to “average” levels not seen for many years. In 2010, the ice cap also had a strong spring – thought not as strong as this one – but the summer melt still left its minimum as one of the lowest ever. I’m very curious to see what happens this year. Does it smell like a warming globe? Right now it looks like NO but we’ll see what happens this summer.

4. Antarctic Ice. The southern ice cap is also having a very strong April. Unlike the undeniable Northern decline in recent decades (which most skeptics swear is part of a longer cycle), Antarctic sea ice has actually been increasing over the same time period. There has been recent news about a study concluding that warming ocean waters were causing Antarctic ice to melt from below, but that study was from 2003-2008. Four years after the study ended, southern ice levels are 700,000 square kilometers above average. The fancy “study” says the ice is melting from below; the daily surface data so far still shows an increase. If that changes I will gladly report it, but right now: Does that smell like a warming globe? NO.

5. Sea level Rise. Data has been flat for two years, but similar pauses have happened in the past. Overall trend still points to a rise, though it is not accelerating. Does that smell like a warming globe? Hard to say right now. We’ll have to see if the pause picks up to a new height.

Temperatures

6. U.S. had record heat in March. The average US temperature in March 2012 was 8.6 degrees F above average, breaking thousands of local records. Skeptics have plenty of reasons for doubting the official temperature stats (besides, it was barely higher than the old March 1910 record), but when the official temperature stats show a record across the country over a whole month, I confess that is fairly significant, and will say that, YES, it smells like a warming globe. But, speaking of a warming globe

7. The earth had the coldest March since 1999. And for an even longer trend, the first three months of the year were the coolest since 1996. Wow! Whenever skeptics focus on some part of the earth suffering from intense cold, the warmists always say, “Well, part of the earth may be cold for awhile, but overall temperatures are increasing.” So when the U.S. has record heat for a month, shouldn’t we focus on the overall globe for the last three months where temperatures have been…. the coldest in 16 years? According to the official record? I don’t expect it to stay like that for the rest of the year, but by any objective analysis that has to more than override the evidence of the U.S. record March. Does this smell like a warming globe? NO.

8. The warmist explanation for the cool surface temperatures is that the heat is hiding in the ocean, where it will come back to haunt us! (Unsurprisingly, prominent skeptic Anthony Watts pokes holes in their data.) I guess I’ll say that YES, a continued increase in ocean heat content smells like global warming, but I’m not convinced that this data is robust and we’re not seeing any signs of the ocean getting warmer, from the lack of recent melting at the poles to the recent stalled sea level rise to the new forecast that says a cooler Atlantic could mean fewer hurricanes this year. So where is it? We shall wait and see…

Other News

9. Himalayan glaciers are growing. In other news, it was recently announced that some glaciers in the Himalayans are not shrinking but are actually growing. They say that this is expected in a complex world but that overall more glaciers are shrinking. If I see news about such shrinking glaciers, I will report it as well.

Conclusions

We are at a crossroads. There are a lot of global measurements which have pointed towards a warming planet in recent years, including surface temperature record, melting Arctic ice, and a rising sea level. These measurements were supposed to accelerate, but right now they have stopped getting worse altogether. These are short time periods, though, and they could certainly resume their marches at any time. If they do, that will smell more like global warming. If they don’t, it most certainly will not.

About three months from now I will look at the data again, such as what is happening with droughts, tornadoes, and hurricanes, along with updates on the ice levels and temperature records, and any other interesting climate news that comes out by then. I’ve tried to take an objective look at the data while admitting that my bias probably shines through. If you think I’ve left misrepresented something or left something out, please let me know. And there’s my first global climate snapshot!

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6 Responses to Global Climate Snapshot: Spring 2012

  1. Of note is the recent news of James Lovelock changing his position on global warming saying he and others like him, such as Gore, were being “alarmist” and that although he still believes the Earth is warming, the process is much slower than he predicted. Here is a link to an article about it:

    http://news.yahoo.com/gaia-scientist-takes-back-climate-change-predictions-162747709.html

    Also often ignored is the Senate report on global warming where over 700 scientists (many are climate experts and Nobel Prize recipients). This is a very interesting read, and here’s a link:

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=2674e64f-802a-23ad-490b-bd9faf4dcdb7

    Thanks for your interesting take on the subject. I personally believe the Earth’s climate is far more complex than we give it credit for, and ultimately swallows up our little puffs of CO2. Many see what they believe rather than believing what they see.

    • Joshua Hedlund says:

      I also believe Earth’s climate is complex – too complex for us to understand well enough to set up computer models and predict what its average temperature will be 90 years from now. The great thing about the Internet is that it helps preserve old predictions that could otherwise be forgotten, so as time goes on we will increasingly know if various predictions are looking right or wrong.

    • The heart of the Gaia hypothesis was that Earth’s climate is regulated by a series of self-correcting systems that kept the climate at a certain equilibrium. That’s in direct opposition to the CAGW claim that the climate is dominated by large positive feedbacks, so it’s not too surprising that Lovelock and joined the skeptics.

  2. Forgot to mention that Lovelock is the founder of the Gaia theory, proposing that the Earth itself is a living organism. I partially agree with this, but believe the Earth is used by the force of biological life itself, and every creature and plant is a manifestation of that force. It’s really not that hard to reconcile that belief with my total belief in Christ. I think God essentially created a beautiful aquarium!

  3. I think the evidence you cite makes a good case against Gore/Suzuki-style rapid catastrophic warming. However, I think it’s also consistent with a world where global warming is real but slow, and where annual temperatures are dominated by multi-decadal fluctuations. Such a world might see decades of “stable” temperatures (where the positive effect from global warming is offset by the negative effect of a fluctuation in its “downswing”) alternating with decades of rapidly rising temperatures (where the positive effect from global warming is added to the positive effect of a fluctuation in its “upswing”). Those who assumed the period of rapidly rising temperatures would continue forever were wrong, but those who take the period of “stable” temperatures to mean that there is no overall warming trend would also be wrong.

  4. Pingback: Global Climate Snapshot: Summer 2012 « Global Climate Snapshots « PostLibertarian

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