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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #13A

Posted on 26 March 2014 by John Hartz

13 of 14 warmest years on record occurred in 21st century

13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred this century, according to the UN.

Publishing its annual climate report, the UN's World Meteorological Organisation said that last year continued a long-term warming trend, with the hottest year ever in Australia and floods, droughts and extreme weather elsewhere around the world.

Michel Jarraud, the WMO's secretary-general, also said there had been no 'pause' in global warming, as has been alleged by climate change sceptics. “There is no standstill in global warming,” Jarraud said.

2001-2010 was the warmest decade on record, the WMO noted, and added that the last three decades had been warmer than the previous one.

13 of 14 warmest years on record occurred in 21st century – UN by Adam Vaughn, The Guardian, Mar 24, 2014

Climate change to disrupt food supplies, brake growth

Global warming will disrupt food supplies, slow world economic growth and may already be causing irreversible damage to nature, according to a U.N. report due this week that will put pressure on governments to act.

A 29-page draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will also outline many ways to adapt to rising temperatures, more heatwaves, floods and rising seas.

"The scientific reasoning for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change is becoming far more compelling," Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told Reuters in Beijing. 

Climate change to disrupt food supplies, brake growth-UN draft by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Mar 23, 2014

El Nino likely in 2014, says Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Climate models show an increased chance of a 2014 El Nino weather event, said Australia's bureau of meteorology, leading to possible droughts in Southeast Asia and Australia and floods in South America, which could hit key rice, wheat and sugar crops.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said an El Nino could occur during the southern hemisphere winter, May-July, with Australian cattle and grain farmers already struggling with drought which has cut production.

The last El Nino in 2009/10 was categorized weak to moderate. The most severe El Nino was in 1998 when freak weather killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

El Nino likely in 2014, says Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Reuters, Mar 25, 2014

Global warming not stopped, will go on for centuries

 There has been no reverse in the trend of global warming and there is still consistent evidence for man-made climate change, the head of the U.N. World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Monday.

A slow-down in the average pace of warming at the planet's surface this century has been cited by "climate skeptics" as evidence that climate change is not happening at the potentially catastrophic rate predicted by a U.N. panel of scientists.

But U.N. weather agency chief Michel Jarraud said ocean temperatures, in particular, were rising fast, and extreme weather events, forecast by climate scientists, showed climate change was inevitable for the coming centuries.

Global warming not stopped, will go on for centuries: WMO by Robert Evans, Reuters, Mar 24, 2014

Global warming to hit Asia hardest

People in coastal regions of Asia, particularly those living in cities, could face some of the worst effects of global warming, climate experts will warn this week. Hundreds of millions of people are likely to lose their homes as flooding, famine and rising sea levels sweep the region, one of the most vulnerable on Earth to the impact of global warming, the UN states.

The report – Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – makes it clear that for the first half of this century countries such as the UK will avoid the worst impacts of climate change, triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. By contrast, people living in developing countries in low latitudes, particularly those along the coast of Asia, will suffer the most, especially those living in crowded cities.

Global warming to hit Asia hardest, warns new report on climate change by Robin McKie, The Observer, Mar 22, 2014

Indonesia's forest fires feed 'brown cloud' of pollution

High above the vast Indonesian island of Sumatra, satellites identify hundreds of plumes of smoke drifting over the oil palm plantations and rainforests. They look harmless as the monsoon winds sweep them north and east towards Singapore, Malaysia and deep into Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. But at ground level, south-east Asian cities have been choking for weeks, wreathed in an acrid, stinking blanket of half-burned vegetation mixed with industrial pollution, car exhaust fumes and ash.

From Palangkarya in Borneo to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the air has been thick, the sun a dull glow and face masks obligatory. Schools, airports and roads have been closed and visibility at times has been down to just a few yards. Communities have had to be evacuated and people advised to remain indoors, transport has been disrupted and more than 50,000 people have had to be treated for asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses in Sumatra alone. Last week more than 200 Malaysian schools were forced to close, and pollution twice reached officially hazardous levels.

Indonesia's forest fires feed 'brown cloud' of pollution choking Asia's cities by John Vidal, The Observer, Mar 22, 2014

Lessons from the Little Ice Age

CLIMATOLOGISTS call it the Little Ice Age; historians, the General Crisis.

During the 17th century, longer winters and cooler summers disrupted growing seasons and destroyed harvests across Europe. It was the coldest century in a period of glacial expansion that lasted from the early 14th century until the mid-19th century. The summer of 1641 was the third-coldest recorded over the past six centuries in Europe; the winter of 1641-42 was the coldest ever recorded in Scandinavia. The unusual cold that lasted from the 1620s until the 1690s included ice on both the Bosporus and the Baltic so thick that people could walk from one side to the other.

The deep cold in Europe and extreme weather events elsewhere resulted in a series of droughts, floods and harvest failures that led to forced migrations, wars and revolutions. The fatal synergy between human and natural disasters eradicated perhaps one-third of the human population.

Lessons From the Little Ice Age by Geoffry Parker, New York Times, Mar 23, 2014

Most extreme weather 'virtually impossible' without man-made warming

Extreme weather systems wreaking havoc across the world would have been "virtually impossible" without man-made climate change, says a report released Monday by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2013, which is released annually by the WMO, also reports this year that the world has unequivocally warmed dramatically over the last one hundred years and continues to heat up.

According to the report, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record all occurred in the 21st century. 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, in a tie with 2007. Over the last 30 years, each decade has been warmer than the last, "culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record," said the WMO.

Most Extreme Weather 'Virtually Impossible' Without Man-Made Warming by Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams, Mar 24, 2014

No standstill found in global warming or extreme weather

The World Meteorological Organization, marking today's celebration of World Meteorological Day, said there is a need for more focus on the climate issue by young people. The focus comes at a time when most children and young adults in Europe are participating in activities of various organizations, but only a small percentage actively engage in climate issues.

"There is no standstill in global warming," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. "The warming of our oceans has accelerated and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come.

"While the challenges facing the next generations are enormous, the opportunities for addressing them have never been greater," Jarraud said.

No Standstill Found in Global Warming or Extreme Weather by Christina Reed and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Mar 24, 2014

Warming is big risk for people

If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming.

In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human.

"The polar bear is us," says Patricia Romero Lankao of the federally financed National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., referring to the first species to be listed as threatened by global warming due to melting sea ice.

She will be among the more than 60 scientists in Japan to finish writing a massive and authoritative report on the impacts of global warming. With representatives from about 100 governments at this week's meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they'll wrap up a summary that tells world leaders how bad the problem is.

Big climate report: Warming is big risk for people by Seth Borenstein, AP/Contra Costa Times, Mar 23, 2014

Warming may increase freshwater methane emissions

British scientists have identified yet another twist to the threat of global warming. Any further rises in temperature are likely to accelerate the release of methane from rivers, lakes, deltas, bogs, swamps, marshlands and rice paddy fields.

Methane or natural gas is a greenhouse gas. Weight for weight, it is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century, and researchers have repeatedly examined the contribution of natural gas emitted by ruminant cattle to global warming. But Gabriel Yvon-Durocher of the University of Exeter and colleagues considered something wider: the pattern of response to temperature in those natural ecosystems that are home to microbes that release methane.

They report in Nature that they looked at data from hundreds of field surveys and laboratory experiments to explore the speed at which the flow of methane increased with temperature.

Warming May Increase Freshwater Methane Emissions by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Climate Central, Mar 23, 2014

We messed up the currents of the deep oceans

Scientists say man-made climate change has fundamentally altered the currents of the vast, deep oceans where investigators are currently scouring for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, setting a complex stage for the ongoing search for. If the Boeing 777 did plunge into the ocean somewhere in the vicinity of where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, the location where its debris finally ends up, if found at all, may be vastly different from where investigators could have anticipated 30 years ago,

One Reason It May Be Harder to Find Flight 370: We Messed Up the Currents by James West, Mother Jones, Mar 21, 2014

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Comments 1 to 21:

  1. "13 of 14 warmest years on record occurred in 21st century"


    This is surely impossible, as I have it on good authority that there has been no global warming since 1998. ;)  How can a denialist meme survive such a throbbing kick to the shins from reality? It boggles.

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  2. I think the comment is that there has been no statistically significant increase in global warming since 1998 (actually I think some say since 1997 and others claim since 1995)

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  3. Poster, this is essentially the same remark that you made in December. If you wish to discuss this, how about going to one of the relevant threads? Search for "hiatus".

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  4. Even global warming deniers who agree the global average temperatures have increased during the 20th century will use the "hiatus" to dispute anthropogenic global warming ie the warming has occurred naturally and is not caused by greenhouse gases.

    Putting aside the fact that deniers have not identified what the "natural" cause is, is it safe to say another fact that shows it is unlikely to be natural is the global average temperatures did not experience any cooling trend in the 15 years of the "hiatus"? It seems to me that in general the global average temperatures had as much chance of a cooling trend in those years instead of a warming trend.

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  5. regarding ElNino development there is a very intresting discussion on the

    Arctic Sea Ice Forum.;topicseen#new

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  6. Thanks for ypur criticism scaddenp.  Perhaps you might also have suggested Gingerbaker could have looked for another thread.  Incidentally have you seen the comments (admittedly from climate change deniers Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal and James Delingpole in Breitbart News) that the upcoming IPCC report from Working Group II will ( -snip-) estimates a rise of 2.5C in glbal temperature will cost the global economy between 0.2% and 2% of its GDP.  Do you have any thoughts or comments why on Ridley and Delingpole suggest the  Summary for Policymakers will be "much more alarmist"  than  the report from the Working Party?  Are they  telling lies?  

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Accusation of fraud and misconduct snipped.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  7. Poster - The low-ball estimates you describe come almost entirely from Richard Tol, taken from his own papers and inserted into the WGII report - as discussed at Rabett Run his work represents an extreme opinion, not that of the literature as a whole. 

    Richard Tols estimates seem to assume a best-case scenario (immediate curtailing of emissions), ignore many possible consequences of climate change, and only hold true up to the mid-21st century. They are by no means the mid-line estimates. 

    [Ridley and Tol, incidentally, are both on the Academic Advisory Council of the denialist organization GWPF]

    "Do you have any thoughts or comments why on Ridley and Delingpole suggest the Summary for Policymakers will be "much more alarmist" than the report from the Working Party?"  That outcome remains to be seen, as the WGII report has not been published yet - it may be more pessimistic than they expect. Clearly, though, denialists such as Ridley and Delingpole find it advantageous to highlight the lowest estimates. 

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  8. KR  I went to Rabbett Run where the most significant comment from Eli Rabbett was  and I quote "Spelling Nazi".  Is there really any need for that sort of comment?  I (really) am a scientist in a hard science (Biochemistry/Molecular Biology) with a PhD from UWA and also not entirely covinced by the AGW hypothesis.  This doesn't make me wrong or right it just makes me a normal cautious scientist.  (-snip-) there is very little certainty in science.  And don't quote cigarettes and cancer as there is little doubt that link is true but and i repeat but that link came from detailed observation by Richard Doll not via computer programs he employed


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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are now skating of the this ice of sloganeering which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Please read the Comments Policy and adhere to it.

    [DB] Moderation complaints snipped.

  9. Poster - my comment was not meant as criticism, but your repetition suggested it was something of a concern for you and if so, it would be better to discuss in the appropriate place.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] A good place to discuss the "hiatus" would be on the comment thread of James Wright's recent post, Global warming not slowing - it's speeding up.

  10. Poster - Your comment is rather lacking in content; you seem to have missed the point that some of the low-estimate language in the WWII draft was primarily the result of a single author, based on his own work, and that the Working Group as a whole has some serious objections (and perhaps some corrections before publication) based on its factual support. 

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  11. Poster @8:

    re "spelling nazi", exactly what sort of response did you expect to a comment whose sole purpose was to point out a spelling error?  If that is your basis for ignoring the entire blog post, you are patently looking for excuses to avoid conclusions you do no like.

    re "normal cautious scientist"

    No, it makes you an abnormally cautious scientist with regard to AGW, as is demonstrated by the fact that AGW is overwhelmingly accepted by experts in the field.  It probably makes you a selectively abnormally cautious scientist, both in being unusually cautious about AGW alone, and unusually uncautious about accepting "facts" that challenge AGW.  We already have at least one demonstration of that with your "spelling nazi" comment.

    re: "A bit less certainty"

    Poster sets up a rhetorical bind.  A lack of apparent certainty is interpreted by the public as indicating a lack of solid evidence in favour of the theory.  In this case the theory is well backed by evidence, and the level of certainty expressed is appropriate to the level of evidence.  Poster is unhappy, however, because enough certainty is expressed so that the expression of caution cannot be misinterpretted as a lack of evidence.  (He also seems strangely unphased by the dogmatic certainty expressed by deniers.)

    re: "note that there is very little certainty in science"

    Utter garbage.  Perhaps Poster can tell me how much uncertainty there is that the center of mass of the solar system lies within, or very near to the circumference of the Sun?  Or that the percieved motion of the stars is a consequence of the rotation of the earth?  Or that chemicals combine in discrete ratios?

    In fact, very much of science (probably most of science) is very certain.  Far more certain knowledge than that obtained in any other field except mathematics.  Scientists do not, however, study those areas of science.  Rather they use the certain elements to probe the uncertain elements, which is then fatuously interpretted as there being "very little certainty in science".

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  12. Tom Curtis

    I suggest you might read this, taking especial note of the section "From the Royal Society's archives.  If you read it you might like to reflect on your "Utter Garbage" comment

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  13. Tom Curtis re-reading your comments about certainty is science I encourage you to read this piece from Nature

    It commences "The biggest mystery in climate science today may have begun, unbeknownst to anybody at the time, with a subtle weakening of the tropical trade winds blowing across the Pacific Ocean in late 1997." and inter aloia containsd this "Climate scientists, meanwhile, know that heat must still be building up somewhere in the climate system, but they have struggled to explain where it is going, if not into the atmosphere. Some have begun to wonder whether there is something amiss in their models."


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Inflammatory tone snipped.

  14. My apologies for my sloppy typing, there are too many typographical errors in the above comment.  I wrote"inter aloia containsd"  that should be inter alia contains".  That said the piece in Nature is well worth reading for itself  as  it illiustrates both uncertainties in climate science and the efforts being made to resolve them

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  15. Poster @12 forward, I remind you that your statement was that:

    "...Mr Cook and his team might take note that there is very little certainty in science."

    (My emphasis)

    Your statement was about certainty in science in general, rather than the level of certainty of specific aspects of climate science.  Pointing to specific aspects of climate science with a high level of uncertainty therefore represents a straigh forward bait and switch.

    If you want to defend your absurd notion that "there is very little certainty in science", defend it.  And start by showing that there is very little certainty that the Earth is an oblate speroid, rather than a euclidean plain.  Alternatively, concede that you massively overstated the facts - to the point of absurdity- for rhetorical purposes.  And let us have no more of this dishonest rhetorical game of pretending you were saying something entirely different to that which you actually said. 

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  16. Poster, 

    "Science" can be interpreted as an endeavor, or as the body of scientific knowledge derived from that endeavor.  The scientific endeavor focusses on unresolved issues, because there is no need to actively study resolved issues.  It can be tautological, therefore, to say there is much uncertainty in the endeavor of science because uncertainty is specifically what the activity of science addresses - and this is what journals like Nature will highlight as they are concerned with cutting edge scientific endeavor.  

    At the same time, it is non-sense to suggest that issues that have been resolved are still uncertain.  There is a huge body of scientifically resolved issues which we build on to further the scientific endeavor.  Climate science is no different.  There is no doubt that CO2 has increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial period, that human activity is responsible of that increase, that the greenhouse effect exists, and that warming of the planet has occured in response. Those issues have been resolved by decades, sometimes over a century, of prior scientific research.

    Most of the current research now addresses how the warming will manifest itself going forward, the implications of that warming for us and the living world and the possible ways that feedbacks could exacerbate or ameliorate those implications.  Of course there is uncertainty in those topics — they wouldn't be interesting to scientists otherwise!  But that uncertainty has absolutely no bearing on the body of resolved scientific knowledge upon which that new research is built.

    Your broad generalizations haphazardly paint over this distinction between the endeavor of science and the body of established scientific knowledge upon which it builds.  In doing so, you make science generally sound like a fruitless enterprise that never generates established knowledge, which is non-sense given how much predictive ability science gives us in our everyday lives, including with respect to climate.

    I do understand that someone from a different branch of science might be unclear about what exactly is the established science in climate science, and what are the new cutting edge research questions for scientific endeavor.  Before expressing doubt, I would expect you to educate yourself about those, just as someone from a different discipline would expect me to educate myself about his/her field before making broad statements.

    If you don't do that, regardless of your real intentions, you appear just like those who deliberately obfuscate because of their non-scientific agenda.

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  17. Stephen Baines @16, thanks for a well written and clear exposition.  It misses, however, some nuances.  Specifically, and first, when we practice science as an endeavour, we continue to use the "certain" parts of science as an instrument (often literally) in our inquiry about the uncertain parts.  If we use a microscope, we relly on the near absolute certainty of aspects of optics in doing so.  If we examine the operation of climates, we relly on the certainty of the Navier-Stokes equations, of the laws of thermodynamics, Galilein mechcanics and Newtonian dynamics as approximations to their relativitistic counter parts at low velocities, the composition of the atmosphere, the radiative spectrums of the components of the atmosphere, the response to atmospheres to Newtonian gravity (as an approximation to their behaviour under General Relativity) and so on.  We rely on the certainty of hundreds of physical laws in the instruments we use to probe the climate and its components.

    Further, of necessity we always focus our enquiries such that what is uncertain is a small part of the operation, and what is certain is large.  So far as is possible, we always make sure there is only one, or very few dependant variables.  Where we not to do so, no enquiry could reduce confusion.  Consequently, even as an endeavour, that which is certain in science far exceeds that which is uncertain.

    What is true, almost tautologically, is that which is subject to active enquiry is not yet certain.  Science always enquires on the edge of ignorance; from which we cannot conclude that 'nearly all of science is ignorance'.

    The second point is that no part of science (except mathematics) is absolutely certain.  Even the theory that there is an external world (ie, that we are not "brains in vats") could, in principle be overthrown by continuing observation.  But the possibility of this, or that the Earth is flat, or (and here with space I would list the majority of scientific knowledge), is so small that without the occurence of evidence that calls it into question, the possibility of error on these points can be neglected in practise.

    There is an unfortunate tendency among some scientists and commetators on science to notice the first poin in the above paragraph, and to think that it seriously calls into question the second.  Of course, no scientist actually puts that radical skepticism into practise.  If they were to do so, they would never determine any result, out of complete mistrust of their instruments. 

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  18. Tom Curtis, not even mathematics is absolutely certain, because humans create the mathematical descriptions.  Else all mathematical "proofs" would be unerringly correct forevermore, at the first moment that any one human was "certain" of their correctness.

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  19. "How certain" is actually what is relevant rather than philosphical arguments about what is knowable and what is not. Policy makers have to make decisions all the time in the face of uncertainty. It is possible that some new theory will explain all our observations what implying that we need to act on our emissions, but extremely unlikely. "The race is not always to the fastest, nor the fight to the strongest, - but that's the way to bet". Trying to use the lack of certainty as an excuse for inaction is extremely poor policy. Uncertainty cuts both ways.

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  20. Basically, I agree on both points. I try to use the term "established knowledge" to indicate statements that the community has adjuged can be treated as true based on the evidence. Individual scientists often use these statements as starting points in generating hypotheses or defining questions. They are open to question if enough evidence challenges them - but it has to be A LOT of evidence, as there is already a lot of evidence in support of them. I gave some examples that I think would be very hard to challenge given the current evidence. 

    In the article that Poster referred to, the basic tenets of AGW were accepted as given. To then imply that, by addressing a set of new questions premised by established knowledge, scientists necessarily undercut the premises upon which the new questions were based is tantamount to saying one cannot do science of any sort. It's extremely sloppy thinking, but I think it is not uncommon thinking.

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  21. Previous post was addressed to Tom Curtis.  


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