Fox Falls For Tabloid “Science”

Fox News is promoting a report from a British tabloid to claim that new data shows “Global Warming [Is] Over.” But the agency that released the data explained that the tabloid report is “misleading” because it is based on a short-term period that obscures the long-term upward trend in global temperatures.

Fox And Other Conservative Media Pick Up Tabloid Story To Claim “Global Warming [Is] Over”

Daily Mail: “Global Warming Stopped 16 Years Ago, Reveals Met Office Report Quietly Released.” In the Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail reporter David Rose wrote that “new data” released by the Met Office, the UK's National Weather Service, reveal that “the world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago,” because there was “no discernable rise in aggregate global temperatures.” The Daily Mail and its Sunday sister paper the Mail on Sunday are British tabloids that have repeatedly misrepresented climate science. [Daily Mail, 10/13/12] [Media Matters2/1/12]

Fox News: “Global Warming Over.” The story was subsequently picked up by Fox Nation, which linked to it under the headline “Report: Global Warming Stopped 16 Years Ago,” and Fox & Friends, which featured the report with the chyron “Global Warming Over”:

BRIAN KILMEADE: And, it seems the White House is pushing their green energy agenda for nothing. Shocking news about global warming just in.


KILMEADE: Global warming ended 16 years ago. That's according to new data, which shows average temperatures have not gone up since 1997. Before that, temperatures were declining. But critics say 16 years is too short a time span to draw any final conclusions.

Other conservative media outlets, including Gateway Pundit and Watts Up With That, also promoted the misleading Daily Mail report. The National Review Online claimed that the Daily Mail report was based on a “new study,” rather than the tabloid's interpretation of a data set. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/15/12] [Fox Nation, 10/14/12] [National Review Online, 10/15/12] [Gateway Pundit, 10/14/12] [Watts Up With That, 10/13/12] [Climate Depot, 10/15/12] [Powerline, 10/14/12]

But A Short-Term Trend Does Not Contradict Long-Term Climate Change

Met Office: Daily Mail Article Is “Misleading” By Selecting A Short Time Period. According to the official news blog of the Met Office, the Daily Mail article “contains some misleading information.” First, the article claimed that the Met Office “quietly released” a report, but the Met Office “has not issued a report” -- it simply updated its global temperature dataset. Second, as the Met explained to the Daily Mail reporter David Rose it is misleading to choose “a starting or end point on short-term scales”:

As we've stressed before, choosing a starting or end point on short-term scales can be very misleading. Climate change can only be detected from multi-decadal timescales due to the inherent variability in the climate system. If you use a longer period from HadCRUT4 the trend looks very different. For example, 1979 to 2011 shows 0.16°C/decade (or 0.15°C/decade in the NCDC dataset, 0.16°C/decade in GISS). Looking at successive decades over this period, each decade was warmer than the previous - so the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s, and the 2000s were warmer than both. Eight of the top ten warmest years have occurred in the last decade.

Over the last 140 years global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.8ºC. However, within this record there have been several periods lasting a decade or more during which temperatures have risen very slowly or cooled. The current period of reduced warming is not unprecedented and 15 year long periods are not unusual.

The Met Office included the following graph illustrating their point that “Eight of the top ten warmest years have occurred in the last decade”:

[Met Office News Blog, 10/14/12]

Scientist Quoted In Daily Mail Article Said Article Misrepresented Her Views. Judith Curry, a climate scientist who frequently criticizes the IPCC, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that models used to predict future climate change are “deeply flawed.” She responded on her website that she did not tell the Daily Mail reporter Rose that the new data showed the models are “deeply flawed” and that she “agree[s] that 16 years is too short” a period to measure whether climate change is occurring:

I have no idea where the 'deeply flawed' came from, I did not use these words in any context that Rose should be quoted [sic] (perhaps I used them somewhere on my blog?)  Also, I agree that 16 years is too short, given the timescales of the PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is associated with La Niña] and AMO [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which is associated with El Niño], to separate out natural versus anthropogenic variability (but this cuts both ways: the warming period between 1980 and 1998 was arguably amped by the PDO and AMO). [, 10/14/12]

Met Office And NASA: 2000s Were Warmest Decade on Record. According to the Met Office and NASA, 2000 to 2009 was the warmest decade on record, in keeping with a trend that saw surface temperatures rising by about 0.2°C (0.36°F) in each of the preceding two decades. The Met Office posted this graph to demonstrate the trend:

[NASA, 1/21/10] [Met Office, 12/8/09]

Short-Term “Cooling” Doesn't Undermine Long-Term Trend. According to SkepticalScience, though “short-term effects are acting in the cooling direction,” the data still shows a long-term upward trend:

Right now we're in the  midst of a period where most short-term effects are acting in the cooling direction, dampening global warming.  Many climate “skeptics” are trying to capitalize on this dampening, trying to argue that this time global warming has stopped, even though it didn't stop after the global warming “pauses” in 1973 to 1980, 1980 to 1988, 1988 to 1995, 1995 to 2001, or 1998 to 2005 (Figure 1). 

[SkepticalScience, 11/5/11]

In A Blind Test Conducted By AP, Statisticians “Found No True Temperature Declines Over Time.” The Associated Press reported:

Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book.

Only one problem: It's not true, according to several independent statisticians who analyzed temperature data for The Associated Press.

The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It's been a while since the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather's normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina. [The Associated Press, 12/1/09]

Daily Mail Chart Started At Time Period That Was Hotter Due To El Niño. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1997-98 El Niño event exerted considerable influence on the climate:  

El Niño-Southern Oscillation events involve large exchanges of heat between the ocean and atmosphere and affect global mean temperatures. The 1997-1998 event was the largest on record in terms of SST anomalies and the global mean temperature in 1998 was the highest on record (at least until 2005). Trenberth et al. (2002b) estimated that global mean surface air temperatures were 0.17°C higher for the year centred on March 1998 owing to the El Niño.

The Daily Mail uses 1997-1998 as a starting point, which obscures the global warming signal with natural variability noise. [IPCC, 2007]

Claim That Global Warming Has Stopped Ignores Huge Warming Of The Oceans. The Carbon Brief noted in rebutting the Daily Mail report that it also ignores huge oceanic warming:

Another problem with Rose's analysis is that looking solely at atmospheric temperatures ignores a number of other indicators that global warming is happening. Most of the heat in the earth's atmosphere actually enters the ocean, as this fantastically simple infographic from Skeptical science shows:

As the graph below shows, the global ocean has been warming considerably during the time that atmospheric temperatures appear to have stalled, which is causing sea level to risesubstantially. The fact that ice sheets are melting in both the Arctic and the Antarctic is another stark indicator of global warming that Rose chooses to ignore. [The Carbon Brief, 10/15/12]

Met Office Temperature Data Is Lower Than Other Data Sets. The Carbon Brief also noted, in debunking this common argument previously, that the Met Office “may underestimate temperature rise in the Arctic” because it “leaves areas of the Arctic ocean out of their calculations”:

There has been a slow-down in the rate of warming over the last decade. Whilst the average temperature rose at about 0.16-0.17 degrees per decade since the late 1970s, the temperature rise through the 2000s has been between 0.05-0.13 degrees per decade. This slow-down has been attributed to natural variability.

The lower end of this estimates comes from the Met Office. The other main datasets which use surface temperature measurements (held by NASA and the NCDC) show greater temperature rise over the last ten years.

The difference may be because the Met Office leaves areas of the Arctic ocean out of their calculations, whilst the other two datasets do not. The rate of Arctic sea ice loss indicates that the Arctic climate is changing rapidly, and would support suggestions that the Met Office method may underestimate temperature rise in the Arctic. Climate skeptics usually ignore the data from the other datasets. [The Carbon Brief, accessed 10/15/12]