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1934: the 47th hottest year on record

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Jim Meador

This post is the Basic version (written by keepingitreal) of the skeptic argument "1934 is the hottest year on record".

The year 1934 was a very hot year in the United States, ranking third behind 2006 and 1998. However, global warming takes into account temperatures over the entire planet. The U.S.'s land area accounts for only 2% of the earth's total surface area. Despite the U.S. heat in 1934, the year was not so hot over the rest of the planet, and is barely holding onto a place in the hottest 50 years in the global rankings (today it ranks 47th).

Climate change skeptics like to point to 1934 in the U.S. as proof that recent hot years are not unusual. However, this is another example of "cherry-picking" a single fact that supports a claim, while ignoring the rest of the data. Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2005 as the hottest. Right now 2010 is on track to join the top ten, which will knock 2004 off of the list.

The fact that there were hot years in some parts of the world in the past is a weak argument against climate change. There will always be regional temperature variations as well as variations from year to year. These happened in the past, and they will continue. The problem with climate change is that on average, when looking at the entire world, the long term trend shows an unmistakable increase in global surface temperatures, in a way that is likely to dramatically alter the planet.

Note: we're currently going through the process of writing plain English versions of all the rebuttals to skeptic arguments. It's a big task but many hands make light work. If you're interested in helping with this effort, please contact me.

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Comments 1 to 9:

  1. It might be worth making the point, somehow, somewhere, that the 10 coldest years on the global record all occurred before 1920. (As far as I could see on the GISS graph.) It's not just how hot these recent years may or may not be, it's how far they are out of contention for inclusion in a list of 10 or 20 or 50 cold years. This might be more suited to one of the other topics though.
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  2. "ranking third behind 2006 and 1998" According to which series? I think the NASA GISS series has the 2005 and 2009 as the hottest years. (eyeballing the graph) NCDC shows 2005 and 1998 as the top two. Apart from this minor comment, it´s great to see the active "community of communicators" that´s been formed here.
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  3. Please disregard my previous post. Of course, you meant the US and not the world in that sentence (gosh, my posts are very messy lately). So, according to which series is 2007 the world´s hottest year? (references on my messy post above)
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  4. Huh? If we are trying to refute the claim that "1934 is the hottest year on record", why do we need anything past the first sentence of this article? For with that one sentence, the thesis is already defeated. Or is it this sentence that is unnecessary, and another single sentence that must be kept? I ask this because the article seems to be making a hard tack, first talking about hottest year in the US, then abruptly switching to hottest globally. But this really is unnecessary. It would be much easier for the reader to follow, if the article made a more logical progression, such as: 1) remind the reader that it is global average that we need, not just US data 2) go straight for that global data, showing that 1934 was only 47th, not first. Done. There. Wasn't that a lot simpler? There is no point in continuing to distract the reader with our opponents' red herring: the hottest year in the US is completely irrelevant. Also, the definition of cherry picking is not quite right, nor is it phrased decisively enough to persuade the reader that cherry picking is to be avoided. I suggest changing the wording to address both problems as follows: "However, this is another example of "cherry-picking" a single fact that appears to support a claim, while ignoring the rest of the data, the data forming a whole picture that does not support the claim."
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  5. The U.S. accounts for only 2% of the earth's total land area. I believe you meant to say surface area?
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  6. Since you're talking percentages. What % of the globes surface where humans recording temperature in 1934? If that was say 20% does that make it any more valid than the cherrypicking by the deniers?
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  7. Dr. Masters considers the phenomenon that led to 1934 and the currently ended Russian heat wave to be the same. It has to do with a polar jet stream the "gets stuck" farther south than usual. If you look at the temperature anomaly map there was an equally cold area to the east of the hot area. A friend in the North of England complained to me of unusually cool temperatures while the heat wave was going on in Russia. The heat wave is cherry picking if it is used to support AGW until further analysis is done.
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  8. "Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2007 as the hottest." It's 2005, not 2007, according to GISS and NCDC. HadCRU, and the two major satellite records have it at 1998. Making these distinctions is not fit for a 'Basic Version' post, I guess, but you should at least change 2007 to 2005.
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    Response: Hottest year has been corrected from 2007 to 2005. Thanks for the feedback.
  9. As far as I can tell 2007 is the hottest year in the NCDC global land record. Given that ocean covers most of the worlds' surface using the land-ocean record would be better, which would give 2005 as the hottest year (as noted by other posters).
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