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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Did global warming stop in 1998, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010?

What the science says...

Select a level... Basic Intermediate

Global temperatures continue to rise steadily beneath the short-term noise.

Climate Myth...

Global warming stopped in 1998, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, ????

"January 2008 capped a 12 month period of global temperature drops on all of the major well respected indicators. HadCRUT, RSS, UAH, and GISS global temperature sets all show sharp drops in the last year" (source: Watts Up With That).

A common claim amongst climate skeptics is that the Earth has been cooling recently. 1998 was the first year claimed by skeptics for 'Global Cooling'. Then 1995 followed by 2002. Skeptics have also emphasized the year 2007-2008 and most recently the last half of 2010.

NASA and climate scientists throughout the world have said, however, that the years starting since 1998 have been the hottest in all recorded temperature history. Do these claims sound confusing and contradictory? Has the Earth been cooling, lately?

To find out whether there is actually a 'cooling trend,' it is important to consider all of these claims as a whole, since they follow the same pattern. In making these claims, skeptics cherrypick short periods of time, usually about 20 years or less.

The temperature chart below is based on information acquired from NASA heat sensing satellites. It covers a 30 year period from January 1979 to November 2010. The red curve indicates the average temperature throughout the entire Earth.

The red line represents the average temperature. The top of the curves are warmer years caused by El Niño; a weather phenomenon where the Pacific Ocean gives out heat thus warming the Earth. The bottoms of the curves are usually La Niña years which cool the Earth. Volcanic eruptions, like Mount Pinatubo in 1991 will also cool the Earth over short time frames of 2-3 years.
Figure 1: University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) temperature chart from January 1979 to November 2010. This chart is shown with no trend lines so the viewer may make his own judgment.

Below is the same temperature chart, showing how skeptics manipulate the data to give the impression of 'Global Cooling'. First they choose the warmest most recent year they can find. Then, in this case, they exclude 20 years of previous temperature records. Next they draw a line from the warmest year (the high peak) to the lowest La Niña they can find. In doing this they falsely give the impression that an ordinary La Niña is actually a cooling trend.


Figure 2: Representation of how skeptics distort the temperature chart. Even though the chart clearly indicates increased warming, skeptics take small portions of out of context to claim the opposite.

What do the past 30 years of temperature data really show? Below is the answer.


Figure 3: Trend lines showing the sudden jump in temperatures in the 1995 La Niña (Green lines) and the 1998 (Pink lines) El Niño events. Brown line indicates overall increase in temperatures.

The chart above clearly shows that temperatures have gone up.  When temperatures for the warm El Niño years (pink lines) during 1980-1995 are compared to 1998-2010, there is a sudden increase of at least 0.2o Centigrade (0.36o Fahrenheit). Temperatures also jumped up by about 0.15oC (0.27oF) between the cool La Niña years (Green lines) of 1979-1989 and those of 1996-2008 (the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 lowered the Earth's temperatures in the midst of an El Niño cycle). The overall trend from 1979 through November 2010 (Brown line) shows an unmistakable rise.

This is particularly clear when we statistically remove the short-term influences from the temperature record, as Kevin C did here:

In spite of these facts, skeptics simply keep changing their dates for 'Global Cooling', constantly confusing short-term noise and long-term trends (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Average of NASA GISS, NOAA NCDC, and HadCRUT4 monthly global surface temperature anomalies from January 1970 through November 2012 (green) with linear trends applied to the timeframes Jan '70 - Oct '77, Apr '77 - Dec '86, Sep '87 - Nov '96, Jun '97 - Dec '02, and Nov '02 - Nov '12.

 Basic rebuttal written by dana1981

Update July 2015:

Here is a related lecture-video from Denial101x - Making Sense of Climate Science Denial


Last updated on 7 September 2017 by MichaelK. View Archives

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Comments 1 to 25 out of 101:

  1. Ok, so the argument is that La Niña is bringing cooler water to the surface, which means that less heat is being transferred from the oceans to the atmosphere resulting to the lack of recent warming. Makes sense. However, the reduced transfer of heat from the oceans should logically then be accelerating the rise in ocean temperatures. Problem is that there hasn't been any recent rise in ocean temperatures: The Argo system, the best data available, is showing no rise in ocean temperatures at all (indeed, a slight cooling) since it was deployed in 2003. This data raises a lot of questions. If the heat isn't in the atmosphere, and it's not in the oceans, where is the Global Warming heat supposed to be?
    Response: Note that the heat capacity of the oceans is much greater than the atmosphere. So relatively small amounts of heat exchange (from the ocean point of view) make a big difference to atmospheric temperatures.

    Initial results from the Argo system contained a cooling bias due to issues with the pressure system. The latest results from Argo show warming. This is particularly the case when the results down to 2000 metres deep are considered (the upper waters show more variability while the overall warming trend is more apparent when viewing the 2000 metres heat content).

    Bottom line - the oceans are still warming.
  2. @Periander: 1. Argo only measures to 2km. Oceans are much deeper than that. 2. If La Nina is bringing cooler water to the surface, you would *expect* that Argo would show a cooling at the surface.
  3. "Oceans are much deeper than that." Quite the generalization there. Many are, many are not. Neverthe less are you arguing that all the heat is finding its way to the deep deep depths of the ocean without leaving a trace in the top 2 kilometers? That's quite a sequestration mechanism there! Can you provide me with details?
  4. 5meocmp Argo shows an averaged temperture for various zones. You need to look at maps that contain smaller snapshots to see the changes wrought by both El Nino and La Nina. The effect actually begins as a localized cooling (La Nina) or heating (El Nino) along the Peru-Chile (or South American) subduction zone. The change in ocean surface temperature over the zone causes changes in both ocean currents and wind direction* (*towards the Andes mountains or away from them). This type of phenomena is not restricted to El Nino/La Nina but occurs in lesser degrees all around the "Ring of Fire". Since these changes in the subduction zone are reflections of what is occurring in the mantle it follows that the tidal movements in the mantle are the actual cause of a very strong climate driver. As we know that tidal effects are heavily influenced by gravitational pull of large extraterrestrial objects we can show that there is significant climate forcings from our neighbors in the solar system. To what degree remains a question. See the arguments in "Its the Sun" for references.
  5. John You may recall that I had mentioned that the solar activity causing changes to the magnetic field rang a bell but I cound not put my finger on it. Well I just did in my last comment. It is starting to come together.
  6. Periander The heat transferred in an El Nino is from the earth itself, indirectly through the ocean. It's a form of vulcanism known as a subduction zone (see comment 4).
  7. Ok over the last 10 years the temperature has cooled slightly, or stayed about the same, or maybe even warmed slightly. But whatever the real outcome, the assertion that we are going through a radical period of accelerated warming and are on the verge of a climactic catastrophe (tipping point), sounds very very dubious a statement indeed... but isn't this the concept that inspires all the work that goes into a website such as this?
    Response: Personally, the inspiration for this website is not about catastrophes or end of the world stuff. I'm more concerned about the incremental changes that will and are impacting society - decreasing food production in low latitude countries which are least able to adapt, decreasing water supply which will only be exacerbated over time. Sure, there is some hysterical doomsday alarmism out there (from both sides). But for those lacking the foresight to care about the world they hand over to future generations, this is something that will effect us now and over the next decade.
  8. Will Nitschke As a skeptic I find this site the most open minded of all the climate blogs I have visited, especially when compared to our American sites. I find the links and graphs especially useful and highly recommend this site to others who often comment on the web.
  9. If the La Nina is moving cooler water to the surface, then it stands to reason that warmer waters are moving to the depths. Is there a flaw in my reasoning?
  10. Lee Logical assumption. The upwelling flow, warm or cold, effects ENSO and the Air currents, hence weather and climate. The resulting flows within the ocean I have not looked into but it would be interesting to know. Anyone?
  11. Quietman If I were to chose a collarobator to make a discovery, I might choose you. Open minds tend to prevail in science. What I see that is difficult about understanding the climate is that there appear to be 10 variables, all dependant on the others. In basic Physics, theories are easy to test because there were only a few variables, all easily measured and constrained. No such situation exists with climate and weather. The complexities are more like String theory or Chaos theory. And, Quiteman, you are correct about the sites. Most sites are more Political Science, that science. Tom
  12. "But for those lacking the foresight to care about the world they hand over to future generations, this is something that will affect us now and over the next decade." Are we debating science or philosophy? Facts or wishful thinking? "What is happening and how it may affect the earth" and "Do we want this to happen" are two different issues depending on whether you are human or not. As soon as you ask a question like that you move from 'hard' sciences to Behavioural sciences to How I Feel About Life And All That. Not science. There are probably thousands of lifeforms out there only too happy to see CO2 levels going up with the temperature. Others that don't. Where did we get the right to decide what the future of this planet and it's associated lifeforms should be? From just being the 'dominant' species? We talk about the kind of planet we want to hand down to our descendants but nobody has put up a specification as to what that might be. And if you did, there will be a load of people disagreeing with you. Change will happen, with or without us burning off fossil fuels. The real question is Will there be a catastrophic event as a result of our activities and How do make sure we survive it? Just as we have had to find ways round the problems our ancestors gave us, so will our descendants have to do the same. If we can make it easier for them, fine. But our basic imperative is to make sure man as a species survives. Isn't that what evolution is all about?
  13. Mizimi You make some very good points. Unfortunately if we are correct in our argument for natural causes there are no "fixes" and this whole carbon (CO2) issue will ruin the industrialized world as we know it. It is already having a very damaging effect on several countries.
  14. QM: I understand the quandary we are facing; if AGW is a reality then unchecked it will have disastrous consequencies for us all. Equally,trying to control AGW effects ( unless you limit controls to the more advanced nations) will inevitably have just as serious consequencies for developing nations. So who decides who gets hurt? So I see both scenarios as compelling reasons to get the science right before taking any action. "When in doubt, do nowt", or as I think you said in another post..."doing nothing is an option" Industrialised societies as we know them will end if we do not develop viable alternatives to fossil AND nuclear fuels simply because we will run out of them sooner or later. That seems to me to be a much greater ( and certain) problem than whether we survive a few degrees rise in temperature. Yes life might be a bit more difficult and unpleasant, but survivable by just about everybody. A global industry collapse ( with war as a precursor)will probably not be survivable.
  15. I don't believe doing nothing is an option. While I doubt we will run out of fossil fuel for along time yet, the cost of extracting it is increasing while the demand for it is also increasing rapidly. So doing nothing and sticking your head in the sand is not really a bright idea. And why should anybody think that employing alternative forms of energy will cause the world's economies to crash? Surely doing nothing is going to cause that much more quickly?
  16. Running out of fossil (and Nuclear) fuel is a certainty. BUT before we ever reach that point - however far away that may be - an energy 'war' will start,( arguably has already started)and it will escalate as the energy required to extract these fuels approaches the energy derived from them. Concerns about the effect of a slight rise in temperature over the next century and the consequences thereof are irrelevent in this context: our civilisation will survive the predicted global warming scenario, it will not survive if we do not develop alternative energy sources that are independant of fossil fuels. "Doing nothing" refers to direct action to reduce CO2 emissions; I would argue it is better to do nothing in that context and spend the money 'saved' on exploring and developing alternate energy sources. (Which has the long term effect of reducing CO2 from FF's )
  17. Running out of fossil fuel is a certainty. Reserves of fuel on current usage will run out in a few hundred years if "Green" movements continue to restrict drilling in "sensitive" areas. I am probably wrong but I often wonder where all this fossil fuel came from. Back in my school days (35 years ago) I was taught that is was from the Dinosaur days. The Earth was much hotter, Plants grew much lusher ( More CO2) . There was abundant Plant life that grew and died and rotted in swamps eventually forming Oil. This will not happen today. This planet is cold. It has been 11,500 years since the last Ice Age. The next Ice Age is due. We need millions of years of heat and increased CO2 to give the Earth a fighting chance.
  18. Running out of fossil fuel is a certainty. Reserves of fuel on current usage will run out in a few hundred years if "Green" movements continue to restrict drilling in "sensitive" areas. I am probably wrong but I often wonder where all this fossil fuel came from. Back in my school days (35 years ago) I was taught that is was from the Dinosaur days. The Earth was much hotter, Plants grew much lusher ( More CO2) . There was abundant Plant life that grew and died and rotted in swamps eventually forming Oil. This will not happen today. This planet is cold. It has been 11,500 years since the last Ice Age. The next Ice Age is due. We need millions of years of heat and increased CO2 to give the Earth a fighting chance.
  19. Where is the evidence that the next ice age is due?
  20. Mizimi:Concerns about the effect of a slight rise in temperature over the next century and the consequences thereof are irrelevent in this context: our civilisation will survive the predicted global warming scenario,... This 'slight' rise in temperature could be enough to raise sea levels by seven metres just from Greenland alone in the next hundred years. Even in 2008, 634 million people live within 10km of coasts. Do you see that as irrelevant?
  21. Samboc & sandy The next ice age can not begin until after the current one ends. We ARE IN an ice age, Ice Age 4 known as the Neogene-Quarternary Ice Age. This is an interglacial period within the confines of Ice Age 4. In other words this is colder than normal and slowly returning back to earth normal (hot). Before you ask what is normal, you should know that all 4 of the ice ages only constitute about 10% of the earths history (but a much higher percent, maybe 40%, if you only count from the beginning of life). That means that 90% of the earths history (or about 60% of its inhabited history) is a HOT earth (but habitable despite extremely high CO2 levels ay times). The information is available at both government and university sites. I suggest becoming familiar with the scientific terminology at these sites and then look at the graphs of paleoclimates. The alarmists like short terms, 30 years rather than say 50 or 100 and for paleoclimates no more than a few hundred thousand years rather than millions because it makes AGW look pronounced and they can't account for high temps and low CO2 or low temps with high CO2 because it does not fit their models or their agendas.
  22. Sandy Winder: In the context of the survival of civilisation, yes I do see it as irrelevent. That does not mean I am not concerned! Bubonic plague killed over half the population of Europe in the 14th century (estimated 35 million people) and a quarter of the worldwide population. The population in Europe recovered within a century. The 634 million you mention represent 10% of the world population so the effect of that 7 metre rise ( even if it killed them all) would have less effect on civilisation than the bubonic plague. The timescales are roughly the same..100yrs, the difference is that we have the ability circumvent the effects of rising sea levels so the net outcome will not threaten civilisation. It depends on what your perpective is, survival of the individual or survival of the species; marked global cooling would be a lot more difficult to survive than the equivalent level of global warming.
  23. QM: Well stated!! ( although I still see a downward trend in paleoproxy record!) Mankind in general ( and politicos in particular) is often very myopic when it comes to 'proving' a current view is THE right one. It is interesting to note the shift in emphasis from Global Warming to Climate Change. You can't argue against one of these...guess which?
  24. Mizimi You are correct, the overall slope is negetive. I am referring to the current slope of the past 5 million years as positive.
  25. Re #23 The notion that one can change reality or somehow diminish real world implications with semantics is a dismal's politics, not science. The world is warming..the evidence indicates that the massive enhancement of greenhouse gases is a dominant causal factor....our understanding of the climate system and its response to enhanced greenhouse effect indicates that we're very likely to get a considerable amount of additional warming. That's "global warming"...and it's already causing "climate change"... As for the "shift in emphasis" from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change", much of that "shift" has come from the sectors of the political spectrum, especially in the US, that has had such a degrading effect on the entire US sociopolitic during the last several decades: So, for example, it was Frank Luntz, the Republican party strategist, that urged Republican candidates in a memo some years ago, to use the phrase "climate change" rather than "global warming", because (in his words): "Climate change is a lot less frightening than global warming". At that time, Luntz's aim was to misrepresent the science and to play the "uncertainty" game ("there's no proof that cigarette smoke causes cancer"..."there's no proof that aspirin enhances the liklihood of Reyes syndrome in children".."there's no proof that CFC's denude high altitude ozone concentrations" etc. etc. ad nauseum). Happily, like an awful lot of people that combine politics with at least a semblance of honesty, Luntz has shifted his viewpoint, such that he said in an interview a couple of years ago: "It's now 2006...I think that most people would conclude that there is global warming taking place and the behaviour of humans is affecting the climate..." The take home messages are, first, that the natural world sadly doesn't bow to ones' political pursuasions (see King Canute's political advisors!), second, that on the supposed use of semantics to politicise/downplay real world consequences, one should be a little more careful in assessing where the politicizations are coming from.... ....and third, if one considers that it is appropriate to misrepresent and deliberately misunderstand the science in pursuit of political agendas, one might consider who is actually benefitting from one's contrived might discover at some future time that one was being treated as a chump to service someone else's agenda!

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