No, Global Warming Hasn’t ‘Stopped’

No, Global Warming Hasn’t ‘Stopped’

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A recent article, in the London tabloid Daily Mail, reports: “The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week. The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures … The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued quietly on the internet, without any media fanfare, and, until today, it has not been reported.”

So what’s the story? It should first of all be pointed out that, contrary to the story’s claims, data wasn’t “quietly released,” the Met Office simply updated its ongoing temperature data set. It should also be pointed out that a scientist whom the story’s author quoted as saying that the news showed climate models are ‘deeply flawed’ in fact insists she said no such thing. The key point here is in the arbitrary starting point. Climate scientists note that while the underlying long-term trend is unmistakable, it can be masked by short-term natural variations. And 1998 was an exceptionally hot year as a result of a very strong El Niño that created a lot of atmospheric warming. (In fact, it currently occupies the bronze medal position, behind 2005 and the race-leading 2010.) Move the starting point to 1999, and the picture changes considerably.

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