Was 2014 Really the Warmest Year Ever?

The New York Times features one of the most misleading headlines ever: “2014 Was the Warmest Year Ever Recorded on Earth.” The first paragraph drives the hysteria home:

Last year was the hottest in earth’s recorded history, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring scientific warnings about the risks of runaway emissions and undermining claims by climate-change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

It would be hard to pack more misinformation into a single sentence. First, the Times headline, and countless others like it, convey the impression that 2014 was the hottest year ever! But note the paper’s reference to “recorded history.” If you keep reading, you see that “recorded history” goes back only to 1880. But in 1880, the Little Ice Age had just ended, and the Earth was beginning to warm after several hundred years in the deep freeze. So, yes, temperatures are a little warmer now than they were then–happily. Indeed, the Earth may still be recovering to more average temperature levels after the Little Ice Age.

The Times and other news outlets deliberately try to create the impression that today’s temperatures are unprecedented. But that is simply false. In fact, the Earth was warmer than it is now for about 90% of the time since the end of the last Ice Age approximately 12,000 years ago. This graph is based on Greenland ice cores. Note that over the last 12,000 years, there is zero correlation between temperature and CO2 levels:


So 2014 was far from the warmest year ever. On the contrary, we are living during a relatively cool period.

Moreover, contrary to the activists’ claims, 2014 wasn’t even the warmest recent year. The “warmest ever” designation came from NASA and NOAA, which are run by global warming activists. They have distorted surface temperature records by surreptitiously “adjusting” historical records to make the past (e.g., the 1930s) look cooler and the present warmer. This is one of the great scandals in the history of science, which we have written about repeatedly. Since the activists won’t say what changes they have made and why they have made them, their records must be considered hopelessly corrupt. On the other hand, they haven’t made the one obvious adjustment that should be made, by accounting for the urban heat island effect, which obviously exists. Most temperature recording stations are in urban areas, and they have gotten warmer in recent decades as a result of economic development and population growth, not carbon dioxide.

The only global temperature records that are fully transparent are satellite records in the lower atmosphere. These go back only to 1979. They show no warming during the last 18 years. The satellite records, interpreted by two different groups, find 2014 to be either the third warmest or the sixth warmest since 1979. But the real point is that the differences are infinitesimal. The uncorrupted atmospheric data show that no significant warming is going on.

Even if one looks at the surface temperature data, the suggestion that 2014 represents some kind of extreme is wrong. As Bob Tisdale points out:

According to GISS, global surface temperature anomalies were an astounding +0.02 deg C higher in 2014 than they were in 2010, making the 2014 results the highest in the history of GISS. … If you’re not familiar with numbers that remarkable, they’re read two one-hundredths of a deg C, which is equal to less than four one-hundredths of a deg F. According to the NCDC, their global surface temperature results were +0.04 deg C higher in 2014 than they were in 2005 and 2010, their two previous best years. The warmest years are within the margin of uncertainty for the data, making it impossible to determine which year was actually warmest.

Does this somehow refute, as the Times suggests, the claim that “global warming ha[s] somehow stopped”? Of course not. The atmospheric data show that the Earth is not getting warmer, but even if one looks solely at the compromised surface data, one can see that the models–the sole basis for global warming hysteria–are wrong. This chart plots 30-year temperature trends as actually reported by GISS (blue line) against 30-year trends as generated by the mean of the numerous global warming models (red line). As you can see, there has never been a very good fit. It is quite easy to produce a model that does a better job of hindcasting global temperatures, but you have to downgrade the importance of CO2 to get better accuracy. But look at the last 20 years. The models predict significantly rising temperatures, based on their false assumption that tiny amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere are the chief determinant of the Earth’s climate. But reality refuses to cooperate:


The Earth’s actual temperatures over the last two decades, even as measured by NOAA and NASA, have been well outside the bounds of the models’ predictions. This is why IPCC, the United Nations’ organization of global warming lobbyists, downgraded its temperature predictions in its most recent report. The models have failed.

The bottom line is, don’t buy the hype. The real scientists are not the politically-motivated hysterics.

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