Skip to content

2013 Global Temperature – Flatlining

Dr David Whitehouse

On Wednesday the Bank of England governor Mark Carney said that the UK’s economy was improving and that the time had come to view the glass as half-full and not half-empty. It would be nice if sometimes reporting of climate change stories occasionally looked at things from a different perspective as well.

As is traditional, although illogical, at this time of the year various organisations tell us what the global temperature of the year will be with 90% of the temperature data available. First off the block this year is the World Meteorolgical Organisation. They issued a press release to coindide with a presentation at the current UN climate talks in Warsaw.

It said: A preliminary assessment of global temperatures during the first nine months of 2013 indicates that this year will likely be among the 10 warmest years since global records began in 1850. For the year to date, January−September 2013 ties with 2003 as the seventh warmest such period on record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature that was 0.48°C 1 ±0.12°C 2 (0.86°F±0.22°F) above the 1961–1990 average and equal to the most recent 2001–2010 decadal average. This is also higher than both 2011 and 2012, which were 0.44°C and 0.46°C above average, respectively, when La Niña conditions had a cooling influence over the global temperature.

There is nothing wrong with that although the size of the errors renders their comments about 2011 and 2012 and La Nina effects rather marginal.

Later in the document the WMO report went on to say what it should have said much higher up in its press release.

“With ENSO-neutral conditions prevailing and exceptional warmth observed around the oceans south of Australia and the equatorial western Pacific Ocean, the global ocean surface temperature for January−September 2013 was the highest since 2010, tying with 2004 as the sixth warmest on record, at 0.35°C above the 1961−1990 average and close to the most recent 2001−2010 average…Across the world’s land surfaces, the January−September global temperature was 0.80°C above the 1961−1990 average and close to the 2001−2010 average.”

In other words 2013 is close to the average between 2001 – 2013. To those who do not look beyond a headline that tells a rather different story of 2013 global temperature.

2013 A Vintage Year…For Champagne

With data for October now available the temperature outcome for 2013 is becoming quite constrained. In NASA Giss Jan – Oct 2013 ranks as the 7th warmest of that period. According to this database 2013 as a whole is probably going to be between the 10th and the 6th warmest year on record, though such absolute ranks do not mean much as the associated errors encompass the small variations in the mean. A better way of describing the data is that the ‘pause’ in global surface temperatures continues, according to Giss.

It is a similar situation with the NOAA data as well. Throughout the year 2013 has maintained a fairly constant position between the 9th and the 6th warmest year. September was interesting. In Giss it was recorded as the hottest September on record whilst in NOAA it ties with 2003 as the 4th hottest. According to NOAA 2013 is likely to end between the 6th and the 8th warmest year. Again the summary is that there has been no change – the ‘pause’ continues.

According to HadCrut4 2013 is around the 9th warmest year based on data available so far for this year. Again 2013 will end with a continuation of the ‘pause.’ This will make the current ‘pause’ in global surface temperatures a little over 16 years which is significant given the prominence given to Santer et al 2011

“Because of the pronounced effect of interannual noise on decadal trends, a multi-model ensemble of anthropogenically-forced simulations displays many 10-year periods with little warming. A single decade of observational TLT data is therefore inadequate for identifying a slowly evolving anthropogenic warming signal. Our results show that temperature records of at least 17 years in length are required for identifying human effects on global-mean tropospheric temperature.”

It also finally resolves the Met Offices prediction made a few years ago that half of the five years after 2009 would be record breakers. Although only 2010 was according to HadCrut4, it was not statistically significant.