On Breaking Climate Records — And Not Panicking

Thucydides in The Peloponnesian War speaks of Athenian prisoners dying from “variation in the temperature” in the conditions they were kept. Athens itself suffered deadly droughts at least in the late Eighth Century, before Christ, and in the Fourth Century, BC, too.

Plutarch speaks of the nasty effects of drought in Egypt. There are also certain Biblical hints of poor weather in that land.

And we all remember the backstory for this Woodhouse quip: “Mike nodded. A somber nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812, and said, ‘So you’re back from Moscow, eh?'”

These, from memory, are only a wee hatful of only-the-Lord-knows how many examples—the unknown number being our point. Still, it is a large enough sample to conclude that weather varies, and not always in pleasant ways. Though pleasant is relative. Mongols (with Spaniards) and Japanese have different views of the pleasantness of wind, for instance.

Last week there was a heat wave—of hot propaganda. Many boasted it was the hottest day evah. The record was broke by a hundredth of a degree, or maybe it was two hundredths. The glee behind these claims was unmistakable. But global warming has its own version of Steve Sailer in Tony Heller, who was quick to point out this picture (see also this):

Heller used old temperature readings, made by thermometers. The ones that aren’t deleted, that is. There is also a different set of contemporary thermometers that was 5 degrees cooler. The propagandists relied on output from Expert models, which goes through all manner of massagings before becoming “the temperature”. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong, only that it might be, and that when you see these numbers they should always have a predictive (and not parametric) plus-or-minus attached to them. We don’t here have to understand that difference. But we must always insist on knowing the model’s uncertainty.

Incidentally, Big Joe Bastardi (who is still entering lifting contests) tweeted Thursday: “the summer so far features the 2cnd coolest June max temp wise since 2000 and the last. 45 days more than 60% of nation BELOW NORMAL.” That’s a model, too. But a different one, so models can differ.

Now suppose this year you inaugurate the world’s first ever Journalist Marathon. The reporter with the most number of stories in a month which contains no lies or logical omissions wins. Somebody will win. Well, maybe. Anyway, if one did win, that win will break the “record”. Or, rather, it will set it. In Year Two, there’s a good chance that record set in Year One will be broken again, simply because besting one number is not that hard.

Shorter series see more records broken than longer ones, ceteris paribus. With me?

Satellites have been lofting away for about 45 short years. Humans have been roaming around for millennia. It’s easy to break a record of only 45 years, and hard to break one of thousands. It’s especially easy to break a modeled record, which is what the satellite record is: model output. You didn’t think satellites were lowering thermometers through the atmosphere, did you?

That means it’s always a disservice to spit out month-by-month pictures without the plus-or-minuses. It’s worse than that, too, because these models purport to be something called a globally average temperature. Which might have its uses, but is a thing no one or nothing experiences.

Here’s an example of a panic picture that was making the rounds last week (from this official source):


But this is only 43 years of data: and they got lucky that the mean used to draw the dashed line in the middle used the coldest years. The two hotter years were 2015 and 2016, depending on which month you look at. And then we read the fine print (at bottom):

… [the] gridded dataset that provides estimates of temperature based on a blend of satellite, ship, and buoy observations.

A blend. What a nice word.

It’s as I said: these lines are models. Models which are not constant through time, either. So where are the predictive + and -? They must be there to make any decisions. After all these one-number points in time are meant to represent the temperature of all the world’s oceans (or most of them).

What was the temperature of the oceans in 1001? How could you know to any actionable degree of uncertainty? Here’s one guess:

That’s from this paper. Notice the + and -, and notice, too, that suddenly 2023 doesn’t look at interesting.

Again, tell me, what was the temperature in Rome on 15 March 44 BC? “Rome” is not specific. Rome is, and was, big, so the temperature varies where you are. So let’s pick the Theatre of Pompey. What was the noontime temp that day?

Nobody knows. So if you compare that day to to-day, what you can say? Well, nothing certain. You can measure the temperature today, and you guess the temperature then. But your guess is model dependent—and you can never check it.

It used to be said that Rome was warmer back then than now. But that claim, somehow, became an uncomfortable, and it’s being pulled back bit by bit. It’s not a bad bet to say that Experts will soon say Rome was freezing most Marchs.

So. If you want to say a record has been broken, even using the propaganda phrase “since records have been kept”, you can’t make it. Not with reasonable certainty.

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Categories: Statistics

14 replies »

  1. The US Temperature Index, which for the last 18 years has been based on the gold-standard USCRN, indicates that the June 2023 average temperature was slightly below normal. And the average temperature has been flat for the last 18 years. When I show this to climate doomsters, their response is that, since they have been told that we are in a climate “emergency”, the USCRN must not be a reliable indicator. They have all drunk the Kool-Aid.

  2. This will all make more sense once you’re chipped, cattle tagged,
    and living in a cell with the IQ of an androgynous bee.

  3. 1 – Andy May did a great article on this some years ago. See the chart in
    Very informative.

    2 – the “climate anomaly” is a construct designed to make very small changes look significant while hiding errors and omissions in the underlying measurements but has no real basis in climate science. Somewhat dis-similarly (!) “average surface temperatures” make no practical sense because: (a) the data cannot be trusted; (b) there is no proportionally spaced sensor grid to work from; (c) temp varies vertically, horizontally, and over time with multi degree variations less than a hundred feet apart dirt common. note that [raw] satelite data has drift too, and only exists back to about 1976.

    3 – if you download radiosonde data from NOAA; find the transition altitude for temp (top of the troposphere); and plot that for worldwide (sort-of) data since 1906 (data is dense from about 1950 on) you will find that the troposphere has not expanded over time. Warmer gases expand, so no expansion ==> no warming.

  4. The FACT that most women do not at all look like fashion models, does not at all prevent fashion models from selling fashion to women.

    conclusion: USE YOUR OWN MODELS

  5. Any time they talk about “a record WORLD temperature” I tune out. If you’re talking about a specific location you at least have some chance of comparable data (though even there the measurement methods and surrounding conditions, eg. city cover, may mess with things.) Even going to the level of a state, or a county, is pretty suspicious. But there’s just no way to consistently measure temperatures over the entire world, meaning that some sort of averaging will always be used. One with thousands of places for the researcher to place his thumb on the scales.

  6. As for the Roman Warming Period, on the wikipedia talk page we get this as an explanation for why the current article isn’t coherent:

    “I suspect this is part of the Great Climate Wars in which the *cough* “skeptics” try to show that it was warm in the past; that will account for the mish-mash of stuff, and the Greece section is those who know better pointing out that it wasn’t ”

    So they are already trying to erase the notion, and indeed most of the article as it stands is devoted to trying to claim that the period was at most as warm as it is today.

  7. The Science has convinced me that The Government can indeed control The Climate ~ and that failing to do so therefore demonstrates The Incompetence of Our Leaders.

  8. who falsifies statistics intends to bully and get away (like all the mentally retarded backbenchers everywhere); the publications contain names and e-mail — so can and want to be confronted; just grumbling here from the armchair is très chic — but nothing more! put the link to the article here in the timeline of the fraudsters …

  9. Junk stats and models aside, what’s wrong with warmth? This year is the best garden ever (my 48th in a row). Peas, lettuce, spinach, squash, sweet corn, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, zinnias, marigolds, etc etc all growing fabulously. Just bursting. Record crop coming on in the orchard. All the plants love the warmth.

    It makes sense to be afraid of sharks, drunk drivers, and politicians, but not warmth! Embrace the warmth; it’s a boon and a blessing.

    Warmer is Better. Live it, love it, bask in the warmth. Winter will be here soon enough, and then you’ll wish you were somewhere warmer.

  10. The glee behind these claims was unmistakable

    That, Shirley, is because this is narrative based evidence making. The narrative, and all the money, power and careers that it brings, is fed by a continual stream of such claims. You don’t even need to fool all of the people all of the time, only enough of them for enough of the time – and that “enough” is a surprisingly small amount.

    In addition to the fallacy of the “hottest evah” narrative set out above, it is also false in another way: even if the models were entirely valid in themselves, what they would be modeling is something that does not exist – “The Temperature” of a State, a country or “The Globe”.

    That is because temperature is an “intrinsic” property of matter, as opposed to “extrinsic”. You can take a series of temperatures of different samples of matter and calculate the average, but that average (oC, oF, Kelvin or Rankine) has no meaning, except as a kind of hand-waving proxy for heat (Joules).

    Take a silly example: What is the temperature of a glass of gin & tonic? If I tell you that it was made from gin at 20 oC, tonic and lemon both at 5 oC and a lump of ice at-15 oC, what is the temperature of the whole? The “average” is 3.75 oC but the true answer is we don’t know. We don’t have the masses of each element, nor the specific heat capacities, nor the latent heat, nor any knowledge of the environment.

    Now try this with a planet composed of many different materials, with different specific heat capacities, water in three phases, gasses at varying pressures, one side sunny, the other dark, rotating, heating, cooling all at the same time… It has no “temperature” in any meaningful sense, nor does the use of temperature anomalies rather than plain temperatures fix this. And if it has no temperature, it is meaningless to discuss a future 1.5oC warming because that won’t exist either.

    The whole Global Doominess is underpinned by an unspoken assumption of temperature that just isn’t true. But they carry on regardless; nobody likes a show stopper because the show, and the money, might stop 😉

  11. In Massachusetts, nighttime lows were generally in the 50s, into late June. There may have been a night or 2 that dipped into the 40s. If you have a pool that’s not heated, there’s a good chance that you didn’t swim in it for the entire month. It’s just starting to feel like summer now. Spare me all of the warming talk.

  12. Exactly 5 of the National Weather Service’s weather stations meet their own standards. Five. All the rest are unsuitably sited and unreliable – by their own standards and measurements. And yet, somehow, they have actively refused to correct this situation.

  13. gareth: Taking your observation about temperature versus thermal energy content (joules) a step further, heat flow is driven by temperature differences, not absolute temperature. One can envision a flat ambient temperature profile over the course of a day that transfers more thermal energy than another temperature profile with a high peak temperature. All temperature measurements are averages over time and space, and a single number can’t convey any of the necessary details needed for real understanding. On the other hand, it’s at least conceivable that a single number could be meaningfully tracked for the total heat content of the oceans.

    Giving at least the hard core of climate scientists the benefit of the doubt, they no doubt understand that standalone atmospheric temperature measurements are fairly meaningless, and instead deal with heat flow and heat content in their models, and the emphasis on record-breaking temperatures is just easily-digested pablum for the masses, perhaps also serving propaganda purposes.

    On the other hand, while it seems that there is general agreement on all sides that only stored heat matters, with the majority of ‘available’ heat being stored in the oceans, it’s so hard to track the small changes in that huge constantly shifting volume, that they mostly just give up and measure air temperature instead. That strikes me as the rough equivalent of tracking the tail movements of a slow-moving dog because the measured signal is so much bigger. One could ask: if the change in total heat content of the ocean is so hard to measure, how can that tiny change have such a big impact on climate? There must be some sort of huge amplification factor at work, but I am not aware of any claims of such an effect.

    Perhaps a more sinister reason for the emphasis on air temperature is that there is necessarily such a large number of corrections involved that it’s much easier to hide the (conscious or unconscious) manipulations that guide the measurements toward the desired results.

  14. As Gareth said, intrinsic parameters do not average. The calculation of global average temperature is physical nonsense. I’ll explain. Suppose you have two tanks and one can hold 100 gallons and the other 200 gallons. What is the average capacity? Obviously 150 gallons, but that answer is nonsense. A 100-gallon tank can’t hold 150 gallons and a 200-gallon tank doesn’t on the average hold 150 gallons.

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