"World Heads for Warmest Year Yet" ? (3 Aug 02)
This was the dramatic headline from Reuters quoting British `weather experts'. They declared "The first six months of the year have been the second-warmest ever and average global temperatures in 2002 could be the highest ever recorded, British weather experts said." This claim is of course based on surface thermometers in cities, and in third world jurisdictions where meteorological exactness is not exactly high on their agendas.
So, it's cold shower time again.
Here is global mean temperature as measured by the only accurate way - from US satellites, giving the world an even spread without errors from heat islands and sub-standard records from non-OECD countries.
It shows the temperature of the lower atmosphere for the first 6 months of each year since satellite measurement began in 1979. As is clear from the graph, 1998 stands out loud and clear as the warmest, caused by the big El Niņo of that year. 2002 is way, way behind 1998 and is similar to 1991.
There would have to be a humungous global heatwave to overtake 1998 at this late stage in the year and the chances of that happening are almost zero. So the `British experts' are really just making a wild leap of wishful thinking.
And has 2002 been as warm as they claim? We have more sea ice than ever around the Antarctic, trapping several ships at times, and one of them now stuck for months. The Northwest Passage has not so far opened this year. Record-breaking low temperatures hit the US mid-west and eastern states in May this year, while south-eastern Australia had the coolest summer in decades. They even had snow in South Africa recently. Peru was hit by severe cold. Even Britain, where these self-styled `experts' reside, is having a rotten cold, wet summer this year. Some places were admittedly warmer than usual, such as the US southwest, but all that evens out on a global basis.
So it's stretching credulity to claim that 2002 has been especially warm so far, certainly nothing on the scale of 1998.
But then, all this is not about science - it's about politics and the Green offensive against governments still wavering over ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The European Union has done so already - turkeys voting for an early Christmas.
Postscript (10th Aug 02) - It seems these news reports globalised what was actually meant for the Northern Hemisphere only. I am informed by a Dutch correspondent that the Dutch Royal Meteorological Service (KNMI) quotes the UK Met-office which has put forward the message that - derived from preliminary data from surface stations found in the Northern Hemisphere, temperature has been +0.73°C above normal, which is more than the last record of +0.66°C set in 1998.
That of course is from surface stations, which as is now well known, are fraught with measurement errors from urbanisation and lack of quality control. Here is the satellite record for just the Northern Hemisphere, for the first 6 months of each year from 1979 to 2002. From this we can see that 2002 is only the third warmest half-year since 1979, behind 1998 and 1991. The 2002 anomaly figure is only one third of that claimed by the UK Met Office/KNMI. It is disturbing to find weather bureaus playing politics like this. What is so significant about 6-month bites anyway?