Have you heard? The climatistas are popping the champagne (thereby releasing more CO2) over the “official” news that 2015 was the hottest year ever, and by no small margin. (2014’s “record temperature” was a mere 0.03 degrees hotter than the previous all-time record, which NASA sheepishly admitted in subsequent fine print was so far within the margin of statistical error as to be effectively meaningless, but not until the ink on the headlines had, uh, cooled and hardened.) 2015 clocks in at 0.29 degrees F above the previous record. (See the Wall Street Journal’s chart nearby.) You can almost hear the whoops of joy from every federally funded climate science lab: We’re back in business!
Keeping up with the climatistas is starting to require that you dust off your old skills at Kremlinology. The old saying about the Politburo applies to what might be called the “Climate Politburo”: Never mind predicting the future: they can’t even predict the past! This is true in two relevant senses. It is ironic that global warming is expressed as an “anomaly” against the average temperature of the last 150 years or so, given how many “anomalies” have been observed in the handling of the raw temperature data by the climate science community. Anthony Watts notes how the new temperature claim does not square at all with the assessments of the late 1990s. There’s been a fair bit of recent controversy about whether “adjustments” to the data that appear to make the temperature “pause” of the last 15 years simply go away are legitimate or not. (For an explanation of why the adjustments were made and are correct, see this Ars Technica piece; the case against it can be found in several pieces that have appeared at WattsUpWithThat; also here at RealClimateScience.) Regardless of how this question is resolved (if ever), the all-important qualifier that we’re in the warmest period since record-keeping began in 1880 is always going to be shoved aside.
One of the notable aspects of this temperature spike is that the last great temperature spike occurred in 1998—the last really large El Nino year. It has been understood and acknowledged ever since 1998 that high El Nino years will correspond to high temperature years, and as far as I know the link between greenhouse gas levels and El Ninos is still one of the larger uncertainties of climate models. Yet the climatistas can’t help themselves: despite the fact that this year’s El Nino is the strongest on record (a “record” of decent data that only goes back about 40 years), the government scientists stamped their feet and proclaimed that El Nino has nothing to do with this—it’s all greenhouse gases! So hand over your car keys. The Politburo has spoken.
One has to admire the certainty with which scientists jump from evidence for warming to asserting that it is proof that the extreme forecasts of future warming are surely true. And then they wonder why they are so widely distrusted.
Well, at least we know now that climate change killed aliens, so there’s that.