Open Mind

The Latest from GISS

January 11, 2007 · 9 Comments

The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has recently updated their temperature time series to include data for 2006. I thought I’d share the latest data with you.

First of all, here’s the global average (land+sea) temperature time series from 1880 to 2006:


Most of you have seen something very similar before; this is only different in including data up to 2006. During the modern global warming era (1975 - present), the rate of warming for the globe as a whole is 1.8oC/century. It’s also worth noting that the 7 hottest years on record all occur in the last 9 years. Because of the combination of global warming with the current el Nino condition, it is not unlikely that 2007 will break the record, becoming the hottest year ever recorded.

GISS also provides zonal averages. One of them is for the northern hemisphere (note that the scale, on the left, is not the same as for the global graph):


It turns out the northern hemisphere is warming faster than the global average; from 1975 to the present, the rate is 2.7oC/century. The southern hemisphere, however, is not warming as fast as the global average (for easier comparison of the hemispheres, I’ve plotted it on the same scale as the northern hemisphere graph):


During the modern global warming era, the southern hemisphere has only warmed at a rate of 1.0oC/century.

Many of you may be aware that one of the patterns of modern global warming is polar amplification; the far north has been warming much more rapidly than the planet as a whole. GISS provides a zonal average for the arctic region (latitudes 64oN to 90oN). Here’s the arctic zonal average (in red), plotted together with the global average (in black) in order to facilitate coparison:


Well! The arctic has been warming so much faster than the rest of the world that on this graph, it’s off the scale! I’ll plot the same data again, but change the scale so the arctic data are all visible:


From this, it’s abundantly clear that the arctic is warming at an alarming rate. In fact, from 1975 to the present, the warming rate in the arctic zone is 5.0oC/century.

This region, and its extreme warming, will be the subject of intense study, as 2007 has been chosen as the “year of the arctic,” in order to study its climate and ecosystems intensely. The studies should reveal a great deal about the region, and shed light on the climate change that the far north is experiencing. I look forward to seeing the results.

Categories: Global Warming

9 responses so far ↓

  • Darmok // January 11, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Alarming is right. I wonder what future generations will think of our inaction?

  • george h. // January 15, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Future generations will think the alarmism a bit silly. It’s supposed to warm up in between ice ages on this planet, yeah about this much, and for a very short geologic period of about 15 thousand years before the ice comes back.

    A recent paper from Environmental Geology Khilyuk, L. F., and G. V. Chilingar (2006) puts it in perspective:

    …the global warming observed during the latest 150 years is just a short
    episode in the geologic history. The current global warming is most likely a
    combined effect of increased solar and tectonic activities and cannot be attributed
    to the increased anthropogenic impact on the atmosphere. Humans may be responsible
    for less than 0.01°C (of approximately 0.56°C total average atmospheric
    heating during the last century).

  • guthrie // January 15, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    That wouldnt be the paper from this Khilyuk and Chilingar:

    In which they erroniously claim that warming is correlated to solar cycles, that the energy currently generated by humans is not enough to warm the atmosphere, (Nobody is seriously suggesting that is a problem, so why do these folk seem to think it might be?) and apparently dismiss the CO2 put out by humans by comparing it to all the CO2 we think was outgassed and put into the atmosphere over the past 4.5 billion years.

    Or in other words, the paper is worthless.

  • Darmok // January 16, 2007 at 12:32 am

    George H., your conjecture is not consistent with the available scientific data; the amount of warming is atypical compared to the cycles you mention.

  • Eli Rabett // January 16, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Might be interesting to show the amount of warming in the tropics.

  • George H. // January 20, 2007 at 3:11 am

    I disagree. Your view that current warming is atypical is inconsistent with the geologic record. In the last 2 million years, the earth has gone through about 17 Ice Ages. It is scientifically illogical to assume these repetitive periods of major climate and temperature change have now stopped and now driven by greenhouse gases. Atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations lag warming due to the temperature dependent ability of water to bind these gases. because increase lChanges in the earth’s topography, the sun’s electromagnetic output, ocean currents, salinity, jet streams, water vapor, the earths tilt, orbital mechanics and plate tectonics all have major effects over geologic time. Ice ages have a normal period of development of 90,000 to 100,000 years. A normal range between the ice ages and warm interglacial periods is 5°F to 10°F . The Holocene is now about 11,000 years old and the recent temperature record nearly matches the determined temperatures from the Pleistocene 100,000 years ago. We are near the end of the Holocene and another period of cooling can be expected if geologic history and the climate record during the past 2 million years means anything.

  • Chris O'Neill // January 20, 2007 at 7:48 am

    The thing that is atypical about the current warming is that it is happening in the middle of a warm period. There have been plenty of warmings in the past but none of them have suddenly started in a stable warm period. Until now, suddenly starting and sustained warming only begins during ice-ages.

  • Doug Watts // January 20, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    The Holocene is now about 11,000 years old and the recent temperature record nearly matches the determined temperatures from the Pleistocene 100,000 years ago. We are near the end of the Holocene and another period of cooling can be expected if geologic history and the climate record during the past 2 million years means anything.

    This is also my understanding of the temporal rhythm of the Pleistocene glacial/interglacial cycle. At the same time, I am not sure I understand its direct relevance to the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions except in the most obvious sense that we now have “two things going on at once” — ie. a physical response to human influences to the climate system and a physical response to the various factors which have driven the Pleistocene Ice Age cycle for many many millennia.

  • Doug Watts // January 20, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Having read the refs. cited upthread more thoroughly, I wish to amplify my comment above. I hope George H. does not mean to imply that the existence of the observed Pleistocene glacial/interglacial in and of itself negates the possibility of a climate response to human GHG emissions. If so, he should explain how this could be the case.

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