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At a glance - What has global warming done since 1998?

Posted on 28 February 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "What has global warming done since 1998?". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

At a glance

This date-specific talking-point is now something of a historical curiosity, but we'll leave it in the database for now because it's such a good illustration of the simplistic yet reckless mindset of the serial climate change misinformer. And indeed, we could (out of sheer mischief) revise this myth by replacing "1998" with "2016" - and in a few years time, by "2023" or "2024". In fact, that's what we are now starting to see in the climate change misinformation stream, © the Usual Suspects. 

Anyway, as first predicted over a century ago, Earth's surface, oceans and atmosphere are all heating up due to our increasing greenhouse gas emissions, but over the years the warming has occurred at varying rates. This should in no way come as a surprise, since other physical phenomena periodically act either to offset or enhance warming. A prime example is the effects of La Nina and El Nino, an irregular but often powerful cyclic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. This cycle can influence temperature and rainfall patterns right around the world. In a La Nina year, temperatures are suppressed, whereas an El Nino year sees them enhanced. This is noise on the long-term upward trend, something that explains why climatologists work with decades, not just a few years in isolation, in order to get a grasp on what is going on.

The year 1998 featured an enormous El Nino and consequent high temperature spike that was a huge outlier, standing out well above the slower but steady upward trend caused by our emissions. That spike and the subsequent return to a more 'normal' warming pattern lead to numerous media claims by misinformation-practitioners that global warming had “paused” or had even stopped.

You only need to remember one thing here. Those who create and spread misinformation about climate change don't care about reality. Public confusion is their aim. In this instance, the misinformation exercise involved deliberately selecting a limited block of years starting with the massive El Nino of 1998 and using that very warm starting-point to insist that global warming had stopped. They knew this would likely work for a few years and that the public would quickly forget why that was the case. Mother Nature had handed them a gift. It was an irresistible bunch of low-hanging fruit to exploit: little wonder the tactic is known as 'cherry-picking'. More recently, given that 2016 was the hottest on record, a similar opportunity has been spotted by some misinformers, although it’s not really caught on yet.

Talking about reality, what actually happened? Well, as of 2023, a couple of decades down the line, the top ten warmest years have all been since 2000, whatever observation-based dataset you choose, with eight of them being in the 2015-2022 period. 1998 is nowhere to be seen any more. By modern standards, it simply wasn't warm enough.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "at a glance" section. Read a more technical version via the link below!

Click for Further details

In case you'd like to explore more of our recently updated rebuttals, here are the links to all of them:

Myths with link to rebuttal Short URLs
Ice age predicted in the 1970s
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
CRU emails suggest conspiracy
What evidence is there for the hockey stick
CO2 lags temperature
Climate's changed before
It's the sun
Temperature records are unreliable
The greenhouse effect and the 2nd law of thermodynamics


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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. While working on a vaguely-related project I updated this rebuttal AGAIN, despite it being less than 12 months old, because 2023 smashed temperature records. Depressing business this, sometimes! No need to do anything with this post as it's timestamped. Anyone wanting to read the updated version will find it here:

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