How Warm Was the World in July, Amidst the Historic Heat Waves?

Summary:  The most accurate source of global temperature data comes from satellites, with their full coverage and more standard sensors. Thanks to the internet we need not rely on secondary sources; we can see the data for ourselves. For analysis, of course, we must rely on scientists. Previous posts have discussed the 2 century long global warming. Today we look at the data and analysis of July’s global temperatures, neither of which well matches the heat wave hysteria washing through the news media.

Preliminary Global Temperature Report for July 2012
From the National Space Science & Technology Center at the University Of Alabama At Huntsville

Click to expand image to full size.

Summary (from section 2):

  • Global composite temperature: +0.28 C (about 0.50 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Northern Hemisphere: +0.44 C (about 0.79 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Southern Hemisphere: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Tropics: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Global climate trend since 16 November 1978: +0.14 degrees C per decade.
  • Compared to global seasonal norms, July 2012 was the coolest July since 2008.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Analysis by John Christy (red emphasis added)
  3. Other perspectives on temperature trends in our warming world
  4. About this data and analysis
  5. About the research team
  6. For more information

(1)  Introduction

Scientists in this debate (and anyone reading the literature) know that the world has been warming during the past 2 centuries. The questions concern the relative weight of the causes, which have varied over time, and forecasts. Especially important is understanding the net effects of accelerating human impacts on Earth’s climate, such as land use changes, and emissions of aerosols and CO2 (which spiked after WWII).

Unfortunately the debate in the news media has become a cacophony of politically motivated misinformation, with both sides increasingly becoming anti-science (ie, with a Soviet-like the only true scientists are those who agree with us; the others are evil). Continuation of these trends — both in our impacts on the biosphere and corruption of public debate — will have ugly effects.

It need not be so. We can run the public debate better. And the climate sciences need both more funding and better supervision. It’s no longer an academic debate, but a major public policy challenge. More like the Manhattan Project than the human genome project.

Here we see current global temperatures — one perspective on this complex subject, allowing comparison with what we read in the news media. In section 3 are links to see other perspectives: the past decade, the past 2 centuries, the past 4 centuries, and beyond.

(2)  Analysis by John Christy (red emphasis added)

Summary

  • Global composite temperature: +0.28 C (about 0.50 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Northern Hemisphere: +0.44 C (about 0.79 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Southern Hemisphere: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Tropics: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees F) above 30-year average for July.
  • Global climate trend since 16 November 1978: +0.14 degrees C per decade.
  • Compared to global seasonal norms, July 2012 was the coolest July since 2008.

Compared to seasonal norms the coldest spot on the globe in July was the South Pole, where winter temperatures averaged 4.5 C (8.1 degrees F) colder than normal. If it isn’t usually the coldest place on Earth in July, seeing temperatures during the deepest part of the Antarctic winter that much colder than normal might move the South Pole into that spot. By comparison, the “warmest” place on Earth in July was in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Temperatures there averaged 3.43 C (about 6.2 degrees F) warmer than normal for the month.

Here is the trend of the monthly global lower troposphere anomaly (source: the UAH Earth System Science Center):

Click to enlarge image.

Past monthly data can be found at the UAH Earth System Science Center.

This was reposted from the website of Roger Pielke Sr — Senior Research Scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at UC-Boulder and an emeritus professor of the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (see his bio at Wikipedia).

(3)  Other perspectives on temperature trends in our warming world

(a)  Different data series over many horizons:   Good news!  Global temperatures have stabilized, at least for now.

(b)  The sea surface temperatures back to 1981 (covering 70% of the Earth’s surface; seas are the primary heat sink): the Reynolds OI.v2 data from NOAA National Operational Model Archive & Distribution System (NOMADS).

(c)  The Hadley Centre  Central England temperature dataset: started in 1659, it’s the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world.

(d)  James Hansen’s (Prof, Columbia – one of the world’s leading climate scientists) website gives a wide range of interesting graphs, including a comparison of the forecasts in his famous 1988 paper with actual CO2 and temperature results. CO2 followed its steady rate of increase, but global temperature has risen less than in any of his 3 scenarios.

(4)  About this data and analysis

In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer and John Christy used data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth beginning in 1979.

The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about eight kilometers above sea level. This includes remote desert, ocean and rain forest areas where reliable climate data are not otherwise available. Once the monthly temperature data is collected and processed, it is placed in a “public” computer file for immediate access by atmospheric scientists in the U.S. and abroad.

For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991. In 1996, they were selected to receive a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society “for developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.”

This text was assembled from their websites; see the links in the next section.

(5)  About the research team

(a)  John Christy (from his website)

He is a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he began studying global climate issues in 1987.

He received the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois (1984, 1987). Since November 2000 he has been Alabama’s State Climatologist. In January 2002 Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

He has served as a Contributor (1992, 1994, 1996 and 2007) and Lead Author (2001) for the U.N. reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in which the satellite temperatures were included as a high-quality data set for studying global climate change. He has served on five National Research Council panels or committees and has performed research funded by NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT and the State of Alabama and has published many articles including studies appearing in Science, Nature, Journal of Climate and The Journal of Geophysical Research. He has provided testimony to several congressional committees.

(b)  Dr. Roy Spencer (from his bio)

He received his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. His work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.

(c)  Important note, to preempt the usual slander

Neither Christy nor Spencer receives any research support or funding from oil, coal or industrial companies or organizations, or from any private or special interest groups. All of their climate research funding comes from federal and state grants or contracts.

(6)  For more information

See these FM Reference Pages:

Posts describing new science research, and statements by scientists

  1. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009
  2. Big news from NASA about the causes of climate change!, 6 June 2009 — About solar effects
  3. Breaking news: a new analysis blows more holes in the “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction, 15 August 2010
  4. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?, 6 February 2012
  5. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two, 10 February 2012
  6. The slow solar cycle is getting a lot of attention. What are its effect on us?, 11 February 2012
  7. A famous scientists makes a startling admission about Earth’s climate, 26 April 2012
  8. A look at the debate among climate scientists about global warming, 31 July 2012

A series looking at what we know – and don’t yet know:

  1. What we know about our past climate, and its causes
  2. Good news!  Global temperatures have stabilized, at least for now.
  3. Is it possible to debate climate change with true believers? See the replies to Thursday’s post.  Comments welcomed!
  4. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?
  5. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two
  6. The slow solar cycle is getting a lot of attention. What are its effect on us?

This post originally appeared at Fabius Maximus and is posted with permission.

4 Responses to "How Warm Was the World in July, Amidst the Historic Heat Waves?"

  1. Valli Genevieve   August 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I follow your posts quite often but your posts on climate change make me question everything else you post about. You just sound silly when you say things like "July 2012 is the coolest July since 2008". We just lived through it, we know quite well how much hotter than usual it was for days on end.

    Now, I know you will respond with great snark as you usually do when someone disagrees with you, but seriously!!! This blind spot about climate change hurts all your other arguments. I look at them and say if he can manipulate what is clearly evident then what else is he manipulating that I don't know enough about to spot. I will stick with Dr. Hansen, thanks.

    • Fabius Maximus   August 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      (1). The text to which you object was clearly presented as that of Prof Christy. His bio was also enclosed. Not mine. Please direct your rebuttal to him.

      Also, in the future please read the text more carefully before objecting. Such errors might be the reason you disagree with their contents.

      (2). "We just lived through it, we know quite well how much hotter than usual…"

      That's an extraordinary claim, that you can can personally measure the global temperature now vs past years — doing so even better than experts using global satellite data. It is not, however, a claim I will debate with you.

      • Valli Genevieve   August 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

        Dear Fabius,

        I apologize for not being clear. The sense of having lived through it, is meant both experientially (I have lived in Maine these last five July's and this one has had less rain and more heat) and trusting those empirical sources that proclaimed higher temperatures over the last decade and record breaking temperatures for July through out the country.

        But perhaps we are arguing semantics, are you denying climate change or are you denying human causation? While the answer matters, it is not one I can do anything about. But as a graduate student in Green Design at Boston's Architectural College, I find it dismaying to see intelligent people like yourself helping to slow down the process of adaptation. There is no reason to waste water, create vast waste streams, waste energy because we design poorly. We need to be designing for stewardship and for passive survivability as storms become more intense and heat waves and droughts become more frequent and more prolonged. I remain interested in creating a sustainable culture that rest lightly on the earth. It does not seem at odds with your desire for a robust democracy that uses a fact based approach to public policy.

        I have included a link to Alex Wilson's comments on adaptation: http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm/200

        Valli Genevieve