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Global Warming Since 1997 Underestimated By Half 534

Posted by Soulskill
from the invest-in-sponges dept.
Layzej writes "A new paper shows that global temperature rise of the past 15 years has been greatly underestimated. The reason is that the weather station network covers only about 85% of the planet. Satellite data shows that the parts of the Earth that are not covered by the surface station network, especially the Arctic, have warmed exceptionally fast over the last 15 years. Most temperature reconstructions simply omit any region not covered. A temperature reconstruction developed by NASA somewhat addresses the gaps by filling in missing data using temperatures from the nearest available observations. Now Kevin Cowtan (University of York) and Robert Way (University of Ottawa) have developed a new method to fill the data gaps using satellite data. The researchers describe their methods and findings in this YouTube video. 'The most important part of our work was testing the skill of each of these approaches in reconstructing unobserved temperatures. To do this we took the observed data and further reduced the coverage by setting aside some of the observations. We then reconstructed the global temperatures using each method in turn. Finally, we compared the reconstructed temperatures to the observed temperatures where they are available... While infilling works well over the oceans, the hybrid model works particularly well at restoring temperatures in the vicinity of the unobserved regions.' The authors note that 'While short term trends are generally treated with a suitable level of caution by specialists in the field, they feature significantly in the public discourse on climate change.'"
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Global Warming Since 1997 Underestimated By Half

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  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:32AM (#45432507) Journal

    Clearly they have a cooling effect.

  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:43AM (#45432619)

    Japan is rejecting its existing CO2 commitments, Australia is rejecting existing and new CO2 laws, and we're seeing rejections of carbon trading systems in Europe.

    So what is the point?

    The only reason we have such intense political conflict over the issue is that it is used to justify taxes, restrictions, and various other regulations.

    Well... Those aren't going to be happening any time soon indifferent to the science.

    The economy is terrible.

    People already feel over taxed.

    Any further taxes, restrictions, or regulations along these lines won't be accepted.

    So why are you guys still trying so hard? For now at least... its over. Its done.

    AGW may be the doom of humanity and we might all be living under water while Kevin Costner drinks his own pee while shooting "smokers" in their mad max oil tanker.... But that won't change the fact that people will vote these regulations down.

    So... if you're interested in doing anything besides spinning your wheels uselessly... figure out another way to contribute to a solution besides unpopular heavy handed government restrictions.

    I say that with the full knowledge that about a dozen people are about to tell me that that is the only thing that will work. Well, no it won't because it won't be accepted and therefore won't work. So if that is all we've got then there is no solution. If people won't accept it... then it won't work. Unless you want to try an Eco-dictatorship where you just shoot people that disagree. Have fun with that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)
      You seem to be assuming that because it won't be easy, it shouldn't or can't happen. This is idiotic. Of course there are objections. There are objections and obstacles to every significant change that should happen.

      Name one important transition throughout history that occurred smoothly. Hell, ending prohibition on alchohol took some work and that was something everyone should be able to agree to. Look at pot legalization or gay marriage today. It should be clear at this point that the biggest pro
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Karmashock (2415832)

        Sure. Try to fly to the moon by flapping your arms... then call anyone that says that's impossible stupid.

        Keep up the good work.

        • Your point is what exactly? That taxing carbon is as impossible as it is to fly to the moon with your arms? I'm honestly lost. It SOUNDS clever and funny, whatever it is you're trying to communicate, so kudos to that.
  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:46AM (#45432655)
    Regardless of which side of the warming debate you're on, hearing reports that a climate projection was off by half doesn't instill confidence that scientists really understand what's going on.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:53AM (#45432735)

      No no no. You don't understand. *this* time we got it right.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ebno-10db (1459097)

      They don't really understand what's going on, at least with any degree of precision. That's why responsible climatologists give overall projections a wide error band. However, pretty much all the predictions based on honest science (as opposed to throwing spaghetti against the wall) point in the same direction.

    • Especially (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday November 15, 2013 @09:55AM (#45432759)
      Especially when a couple month ago we heard that they overestimated because the temperature increase has stalled over the last 10 years. Perhaps this accounts for the missing temperature rise? But then....

      While infilling works well over the oceans, the hybrid model works particularly well at restoring temperatures in the vicinity of the unobserved regions

      The method used works well over the oceans - is that where they omitted data and the used the prediction method? But it works "particularly well" where we have no actual data to validate it...

      • Re:Especially (Score:4, Informative)

        by Layzej (1976930) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:20AM (#45433049)

        The method used works well over the oceans - is that where they omitted data and the used the prediction method? But it works "particularly well" where we have no actual data to validate it...

        no - while the infilling that NASA uses works well over the oceans. The hybrid method (leveraging satellite data) works particularly well over the unobserved regions.

        And yes - they do have data to validate it. Read the preceding paragraph: The most important part of our work was testing the skill of each of these approaches in reconstructing unobserved temperatures. To do this we took the observed data and further reduced the coverage by setting aside some of the observations. So to test the skill of the various methods they just compare the results against the data that they set aside during the tests.

      • In a geologic sense, 10 years is but a blink of an eye.

        That's pretty much the problem we're in. A decade means nothing. A century is starting to show a hint of a trend. And we, as human, affect climate SO radically that we don't even needed a century to have an impact on the climate. Sadly, we can't really sit around for a century doing what we're doing now and then go "hey look, 70 years ago we could have prevented this".

        • by fnj (64210)

          The postulated AGW effect, far from being uniquely rapid, is in fact, much more gradual than some naturally caused pronounced climate effects. By orders of magnitude.

          The Younger Dryas [wikipedia.org] of just 12 thousand years ago caused a mini ice age lasting 1300 years. It had long been thought to be about a decade in onset (still much more rapid than AGW effect), but recent evidence [sciencedaily.com] now suggests that it transformed a warm and sunny Europe into an icy, near-glacial freeze in only six months.

          Thee were several dramatically [wattsupwiththat.com]

    • Regardless of which side of the warming debate you're on, hearing reports that a climate projection was off by half doesn't instill confidence that scientists really understand what's going on.

      And having somebody claim this is about "climate projections" will show us what?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A factor of a half is not "orders of magnitude" larger. It's of order 0 in fact.

    • by iCEBaLM (34905)

      Regardless, if we spend money to reduce our greenhouse gases and it turns out global warming was a myth, no harm no foul, and as an added bonus, we have less smog!

      If we don't spend money to reduce our greenhouse gases and it turns out global warming is real, we're boned.

    • by FriendlyPrimate (461389) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:14AM (#45432985)
      If a doctor tells me I have cancer, and then later tells me it's progressing twice as fast as originally thought, of course that causes me to lose confidence in doctors and thus ignore anything they have to say. Instead, I'll go listen to the homeopathy providers who keep telling me that doctors don't know what they're talking about, and aren't always telling me that I'm going to die. After all, doctors are only interested in making money.
    • by andy16666 (1592393) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:16AM (#45433005)
      Wait, there's a debate about whether or not the climate is warming? That's news to me. There's certainly a debate about exactly how quickly it's rising, which is something the scientists have not expressed certainty about. But the fact that the planet is warming as well as the question of the main cause very well studied, well demonstrated and not heavily debated among scientists.

      Science really isn't about confidence. It's about evidence. If holding the line, even when you know you're wrong, is what makes people feel confident, it's no wonder they turn to religion. But I'm personally thankful that at least one discipline isn't afraid to publish results that contradict earlier findings, if that's where the evidence leads.

      As someone who understands this process, findings like this lend tremendous credibility to the scientific community, and yes, boost my confidence in the work they're doing and the integrity of the published results. It's what makes science the best method we know of for understanding reality.
      • I wouldn't really consider this data as findings so much as creations of data. Funny how the created data only always points in one direction. Whenever I collect real data, sometimes it is higher than what I expect, sometimes it is lower.
    • by k.a.f. (168896)

      Regardless of which side of the warming debate you're on, hearing reports that a climate projection was off by half doesn't instill confidence that scientists really understand what's going on.

      An order of magnitude error is a factor of 10. This was a factor of 0.5.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      "No, no, really.

      This time I'm SURE we're right on."

      -Scientists*

      *ie activists posing as scientists. Real science is a matter of hypothesis and testing, not public proclamations and "demands for action".

  • The only thing in TFS is that they cover 85% of the globe, where does the "half" come from?

    • by Layzej (1976930) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:00AM (#45432823)

      The only thing in TFS is that they cover 85% of the globe, where does the "half" come from?

      From the paper, which actually found 2.5 times as much warming by leveraging satellite data as the CRUtemp does by ignoring the unobserved region. The paper shows that the Arctic is warming at about eight times the pace of the rest of the planet. This is not an unexpected finding: see polar amplification [wikipedia.org]

      • by Layzej (1976930)
        That should read: found 2.5 times as much warming by leveraging satellite data than the CRUtemp does by ignoring the unobserved region.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, apparently the numbers they chose for the missing areas increase the total warming by "half".

      which kind of implies that the warming there has been enermous.

      but the figures from these closest one's were already used in previous estimates? and snow etc of polar regions has been pretty well in focus? so huh?

  • by srussia (884021)

    The reason is that the weather station network covers only about 85% of the planet

    What does that even mean?

    • by acoustix (123925)

      "Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that." - Homer Simpson

    • It means that there are no surface weather stations on 15% of the planet.

  • by jamesl (106902) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:01AM (#45432843)

    One model predicts global warming. A second model guesses at the surface temperature in places where there are no thermometers and finds warming. The second model confirms the first.

    And this is science.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:02AM (#45432867)
    Below is a link to National Geographic's interactive map page of what the world would be like hundreds of years from now if all the ice in the world actually melted.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/rising-seas/if-ice-melted-map [nationalgeographic.com]

    And some think that the NatGeo's prediction may be too low...

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/11/map-sea-level-rise-probably-wrong-its-too-optimistic/71246/ [theatlanticwire.com]

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmail. c o m> on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:07AM (#45432919) Journal

    Between the jellyfish blooms and this...things are looking much worse all the sudden. I'm not even getting into the various "superstorms" yet.

    A risky idea that might get us out of this is to dump lots of money into a "manhattan project" for fusion power and photovoltaics. Advances in those fields could solve global warming quite easily.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:45AM (#45433333)
      I don't think anything can solve global warming "easily." Even if we had practical fusion today, we wouldn't be able to replace fossil fuels within 30 years (to hazard a guess). It took a century to build the grid. We can't overhaul it in one year or one decade. Not even if everyone felt a sense of urgency, and, demonstrably, not everyone does.
      • We wouldn't have to stop using fossil fuels quickly and entirely to be on a good path to solving global warming. Fusion and photovoltaics could eliminate the need for fossil fuels to power the electrical grid, and by extension, to power most cars. That would only leave aircraft, rail and trucking, and a few super-polluting supertankers & other large ships.

      • by Agent0013 (828350)
        The depressing thought is that if your efforts actually help that gives the deniers ever more evidence that they were correct. I am thinking of all the people that say the Y2K preparing was a waste of time because the world didn't end and planes didn't fall out of the sky. Many people spent a long time preventing that stuff from happening, but the fact that they succeeded means that they wasted their time?! I did experience a Y2K event so I see that it wasn't just all smoke and mirrors. (Minor event - bar l
  • OK, enough (Score:4, Informative)

    by Evtim (1022085) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:18AM (#45433019)

    Look, I am fed up with this. Just turned 40 last Sunday. Have pictures from all the 40 birthdays. All the way through the 70-ties and half 80-ies I am on ski - 50 cm or more snow, winter is in full swing. Late 80-ties and early 90-ties - cold but not freezing. After that it became ridiculously hot until last Sunday when the absolute record was set - it was 23 (I repeat 23 degrees!!!). And BTW, this 20-23 degrees lasted for 4 weeks in total (mid-October -mid November). Utterly ridiculous and unheard off.

    Since 10 years the fruit trees in our garden do not bear fruit because it is too hot in January and February, so they start blossoming too early. Then a few frosts in March and they are gone. 17 degrees Celsius in mid-February (for a week or longer)? In my country where this is the coldest month? WTF?!?

    Say what you will about anecdotes, I don't give a damn. My experience is unambiguous. The Earth is warming.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:27AM (#45433135)

    I admit, it's a bit off topic, but it is something that has bugged me for ages and I still didn't find an answer, so please, maybe someone can shed some light on it:

    Why is there a "controversy" about Global Warming, and why is there none about "Terrorism"?

    Global Warming may or may not happen. Ok. I don't want to discuss what kind of "proof" one side or the other may have, let's just say it may or may not happen. Likewise, terrorism. There may or may not be terrorist attacks on some parts of "our" (with varying definitions of "our") soil. Again, I don't want to discuss whether or not they would happen.

    The point now is: We try to do anything in our power to prevent terrorist attacks, while at the same time we argue whether or not we should do anything to prevent Global Warming. My question is: From a risk management point of view, shouldn't it be the other way 'round?

    Both are classic examples of Risk Management problems. Risk and cost to mitigate vs. reward/damage contained. It's the usual 2x2 matrix. On X, we have "do nothing" and "do something", on Y we have "nothing happens" and "something happens" (ok, very simplified, but you get the idea). So, in case of terrorism, that would net us:

    We don't do anything and nothing happens: Pre-9/11 situation, no cost, perfect situation
    We do prepare and nothing happens: Possibly the current situation, high cost and no damage
    We prepare and an attack happens: Also the possibly current situation, high cost but with good damage control, leading to no/little damage
    We don't prepare and an attack happens: Worst case scenario, no cost to prepare but high damages, possibly costing thousands of lives.

    When you do the same matrix for Global Warming, it looks quite similar, though with a teeny-tiny little twist at the end:

    We don't do anything and nothing happens: Current situation and best case future scenario
    We do prepare and nothing happens: High cost, potential change in our lifestyle for no gain.
    We prepare and an attack happens: Also high cost, but climate changes can be mitigated to the point where only little/no damage has to be suffered.
    We don't prepare and an attack happens: Worst case scenario, with millions on coastlines being dead or homeless, with out of control storms and the weather from hell.

    The thing I have problems with now is: The former can, worst case, cost a few thousand lives with maybe a building or two gone. The latter can literally cost millions of lives with coastal areas becoming uninhabitable for decades, if not forever, with storms causing damages in the billions and unforeseeable effects to agriculture and nature (and of course tourism, but I guess that's the least of our concerns then). And we're not talking about some brown bodies being killed, that could well be millions of AMERICANS dead, so the usual "Anyone outside the US doesn't count as human to the US" won't apply.

    Yet we pump billions into the defense against terrorism, but we keep bickering on whether or not Global Warming may or may not happen. Anyone able to explain the sense in that?

    • by Layzej (1976930)
      You raise a good point. Among scientists there is really no controversy about whether global warming will result from increased CO2. It will. That is basic physics. The controversy is in the political arena. I suspect the reason is vested interests. Entrenched businesses benefit from action to mitigate terrorism but suffer from action to mitigate climate change.
    • by lil_DXL (3432951) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:47AM (#45433361)
      The common denominator between the war on terror and climate change denial is quite clear. The war on terror has redistributed enormous amounts of wealth from the government (aka taxes, everyone's money) to a few dozen selected businesses while climate change denial does the same with heavy industries as regulations raises costs, so... yep, it's the good ol' profit motive that is behind this catastrophe. It all gets worse when you take into account how popular the post-hoc ideology invented to justify this slow genocide is. "Climate change is a conspiracy" is a conspiracy.
    • by brianerst (549609) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:06AM (#45433607) Homepage

      There's a couple of reasons:

      1. Intrusiveness. The War on Terrorism hardly affects most people in their day-to-day lives - they have to take off their shoes at airports, nameless bureaucracies have computers read thru their humdrum emails and it was a very defined subset of Americans who were shipped off to war. The War on Carbon potentially affects everything because it makes day to day life so much more expensive and restricts normal consumer choice (you want a filament lightbulb? Too bad - buy a CFL! Don't like them for some reason? Buy an LED for 10x as much! Oh, and did we tell you that your yearly trip to Grandma in Arizona is killing the planet? Stop doing that!).

      2. The sheer cost. Most mitigation schemes for global warming are in the ludicrous number range - trillions of dollars a year for 100 or more years. On top of that drag, most are designed to destroy economic growth (you almost have to in order to ratchet down energy use fast enough). This isn't a boo-hoo First World Problem - it's mostly a tragic Third World Problem. Germany gives up a few percentages of economic growth for 50 years - that's a hit (and the government would fall). Ethiopia gives up economic growth for 50 years and you're consigning millions to abject poverty and breeds radicalism.

      3. The perception gap. The War on Terror seems to affect the rich and powerful in the same ways it affects the poor and the hoi-polloi - maybe a little less (they're rich!) but it seems somewhat similar. Even Mitt Romney has to take his shoes off at the airport. AGW mitigation, however, seems to be a problem that only the poor and middle class need to sacrifice for - Al Gore has numerous mansions, jets all over the world, uses more energy in a day than most families do in a week. AGW "solutions" seem to nicely dovetail with the natural desires of the elite - less upward mobility, pricier and/or more organic food, paternalism toward their lessers.

      The optics on AGW are terrible - which is one reason there's such resistance. Killing bad guys, however expensive and destructive that may be, appeals to a lot of folks. If there were better optics - and a range of policy choices that didn't seem to favor the technocratic elite - you might not have such hostility.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:39AM (#45434093)
      I think it's as simple as the perceived risk of terrorism being dramatic and sudden (something blows up) and the perceived risk of climate change being gradual (droughts and hurricanes and whatnot get worse, incrementally). Add to that the fact that we're used to the weather doing bad things that we can't control -- there have always been droughts and hurricanes -- and you have a strong set of biases against doing anything about AGW.
    • Here is the direct answer to your question, it has to do with the economic intersts that each policy affects.

      Defense and security spending is a type of economic stimulus and makes many people a lot of money.

      Global warming is about using and spending less and potentially costs people money.

      As a result people evalulate the risks of these two situations differently.

  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Friday November 15, 2013 @10:31AM (#45433195)

    Instead of dreaming up new ways to interpolate over spotty and incomplete data, why don't they invest in some thermometers and stick them where they need to fill in the data gaps going forward? Real measurements trump "we think this is what the measurements would have been" any day of the week.

    And if the response is, it's hard to put up weather stations in all of these far off and exotic locales, tough beans. The fact that science is hard doesn't make incomplete measurements and convoluted interpolations any more solid.

  • Amazing (Score:4, Informative)

    by jovius (974690) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:31AM (#45433953)

    I thought Slashdot was the place for rational individuals. Instead many of the posters are simply in denial what's happening. Of course AGW is being exploited, but the change is still real, and the humans have changed the Earth's atmosphere and the capacity to react to such sudden changes. What's happening now on the global scale is a natural feedback for the historically sudden input by one species and its technology.

    If you still don't find that logical - taking into account simple physical phenomena known for over 100 years (and direct observations) - imagine this:

    Alien race starts to pour greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere. Who do you think is guilty of the resulting warming? What if the alien race starts to chop trees and rain forests, and - gasp - what if they actually maintain billion head cattle population (responsible of major chunk of the greenhouse gas emissions)?

    The cattle population for example would be at its natural level if we stopped feeding it, letting the cattle to find its own food.

    It's amazing how denial can work, isn't it? It's natural however - the first phase of confronting something uneasy - but it's still there on the path to understanding, so don't worry you are well on your way.

  • In other news ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:37AM (#45434065)

    ... data estimation techniques prove to work better where measurements are not available to validate them.

    The authors note that 'While short term trends are generally treated with a suitable level of caution by specialists in the field, they feature significantly in the public discourse on climate change.'

    Which is a nice way of saying that the results of this data is to be taken with a grain of salt. But they acknowledge that the general public will probably grab them and run of in some direction or other, screaming nonsense.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday November 15, 2013 @11:49AM (#45434217)

    How is it that EVERY SINGLE WEEK there is some new story about how AGW is WAY worse than we thought.

    You want to know why no one gives a shit about AGW? This is why? You can only tell me my life is over tomorrow for so many days before I realize you're talking out your ass ... even if I'm a stupid moron.

    EVERY FUCKING THING THAT HAPPENS IS CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING ...

    And no one gives a shit because common sense tells us that we should be dead by now ... well, 20 or 30 years ago, according to these guys and their 'OMG WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT'.

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