Thursday, November 1, 2012

Silly climate alarm -- Where is the trend?

Climate Skeptic reiterates what should be an obvious concept -- a single point does not make a trend.  This is a quote from his longer article at Forbes:

With a tedious inevitability, certain quarters of the climate advocacy world are rushing to blame Hurricane Sandy on global warming and man’s fossil fuel consumption (one example).  I simply can’t believe that, as a skeptic, I have to constantly endure self-righteous lectures on my being “anti-science” from folks who attempt to prove multi-decadal trends from a single data point.
This is all the more frustrating because it is amazingly simple to provide historic context for hurricane activity.  It takes about a tenth of the time to find the relevant data as it does to put hairspray on Brian Williams. 

Positing a trend from a single database without any supporting historical information has become a common media practice in discussing climate.  As I wrote several months ago, the media did the same thing with the hot summer, arguing frequently that this recent hot dry summer proved a trend for extreme temperatures, drought, and forest fires.  In fact, none of these are the case — this summer was not unprecedented on any of these dimensions and no upward trend is detectable in long-term drought or fire data.   Despite a pretty clear history of warming over the last century, it is even hard to establish any trend in high temperature extremes  (in large part because much of the warming has been in warmer night-time lows rather than in daytime highs).  See here for the data.
As I said in that earlier article, when the media posits a trend, demand a trendline, not just a single data point.

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