Addressing “Global Cooling”

Give people a little winter weather and they cry out that global climate change is a myth.

Well, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Before we get too excited about the cold weather, here are a few things to look at, including the fact that the scientist who said we were entering “global cooling” doesn’t really say so at all.


2nd Hottest Year on Record, at End of Hottest Decade (So Far)

Throughout the year, as I was keeping up with the climate change news, I also saw several articles talking about how we were actually entering a cooling phase. As the year comes to a close, we can see clearly that it hasn’t started yet!

2009 was the hottest year on record in the southern hemisphere and tied for 2nd hottest ever globally. This is coming at the end of the hottest decade on record, too. As part of that, we did see record lows, but (in the US, at least), there were more than twice as many record highs.

And, despite recent cold weather in some places — much of the US and Europe — you can see in one of my recent articles on our sister site CleanTechnica that other areas of the world are seeing much warmer temperatures and the global average has been higher than normal.

This is all despite a huge drop in sunspots in recent years and despite the fact that it was only a medium-strength El Niño year. With a stronger El Niño expected in 2010, some (Hansen and the UK Met Office) are predicting that 2010 might be the new hottest year on record.

‘Global Cooling’ Scientist Sets the Record Straight

It is largely the work of Dr. Mojib Latif (one piece of work, actually) that has had headlines on some mainstream news sources saying that we are entering a period of global cooling. However, as Climate Progress reports, “Anyone who thought Latif, head of the Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics Division at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, was not a firm believer in human-caused global warming and the threat it poses, missed his 2009 book, Climate Change: The Point of No Return (The Sustainability Project). And they missed the NPR interview where he said, ‘If my name was not Mojib Latif, my name would be global warming. So I really believe in global warming.'”

In an effort to clear up the misunderstandings or misinterpretations of his work (which many media sites don’t seem too eager to clear up), Dr. Latif has this to say:

Given all the warnings about and plans to forestall global warming, people may be surprised to find, over the next several years that, over parts of the Northern hemisphere, summers are no warmer than before, maybe even a bit cooler–and that winters are as cold, or a bit colder, than they have been in the past couple of decades.

This is because the climate may go through a temporary halt in warming. It’s nothing unusual, just a natural fluctuation. It doesn’t mean that global warming is not still at work, or that we no longer need to worry about global temperatures rising by as much as 6°C by the end of the century — an unprecedented warming in the history of mankind if no measures are taken to cut global carbon dioxide emissions.

Furthermore, he writes that none of these findings are surprising to a climate scientists and they say nothing about the long term climate change or global warming trend:

The past record of globally averaged surface air temperature illustrates how gradual warming and short-term fluctuations can operate side by side. The temperature ups and downs superimposed on the 20th century warming trend reflect the natural variability. To some extent, we need to ignore these fluctuations, if we want to detect the human influence on climate.

Consider, for instance, the mid-century warming that was observed from 1930 to 1940. Had forecasters extrapolated into the future, they would have predicted far more warming than actually occurred. Likewise, a brief cooling trend, if used as the basis for a long-range forecast could erroneously support the idea of a rapidly approaching ice age.

Natural climate variations may be produced by the climate system itself. A well-known example is El Niño, a warming of the Equatorial Pacific occurring on average about every 4 years. The record El Niño 1997/1998 helped to make 1998 the warmest year to date. The last year happened to be a moderate El Niño year, one reason, for instance, for the weak hurricane season in 2009. Volcanic eruptions and fluctuations in solar output can also bring temporary climate change. The Philippine volcano Mt. Pinatubo caused a temperature drop in 1991. And an increase of the solar radiation reaching the earth contributed to the mid-century warming.

We predict the coming years may see two natural oscillations, the Pacific Decadal and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, swinging into their negative phase, leading to a cooling of sea surface temperatures in large parts of both the Pacific and Atlantic. A temporary halt in the global warming trend may be the consequence — nothing surprising to a climate scientist.

It is also possible that the current El Niño, combined with the long-term warming trend, takes us to record temperatures this year — again, nothing surprising to a climate scientist.

Climate Gate?

And if you thought the Hadley/CRU data that many predictions use were making global climate change seem bigger than it is likely to actually be, think again. More accurate data actually show even more disturbing trends.

If that doesn’t calm your excitement about the possibility that we are entering “global cooling”, I don’t know what will.

Related Stories:
1) Not Cold Everywhere
2) CIA (Yes, the Spies) to Coordinate with Climate Scientists
3) Oceans Absorbing CO2, Preventing Climate Change — Good, Right? No
4) Fear’s Role in Climate Change Issues

Image Credit 1: jaxxon via flickr under a CC license
Image Credit 2: nattu via flickr under a CC license
Image Credit 3: Dr. Mojib Latif via Climate Progress

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  • Steve

    Very informative important site! Thanks for all the hard work on such an important issue.

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  • datadon

    I remembered it snowed in NY this summer and in Florida this past week. I remember that the IPCC downplayed natural occurrences…the sun is of no influence. I remember NEVER hearing of a predicted cooling trend from any GW scientist but the opposite prediction was always on their lips on in the headlines. “Increased CO2 emissions will cause record temperatures in the near future…we may have past the point of no return…famine, starvation, Glacier meltdowns, ocean risings, all of this just around the corner..the point of no return…etc.”

    Now they say that they expected a cooling trend AND this while they report CO2 emissions are reported as increasing even faster than they expected which ws suppose to cause immediate devastation which is why we need to act now!

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t lie to us to get what you want and then expect us to believe you when you change the lie to match what the weather does in opposition to your predictions. Your predictions were wrong and that is there is to it. Even in this report you are saying that there are record temperatures but cooling is expected. Yet everyone remembers that summer that wasn’t and the winter that is. You can’t even report the current situation with soundness. It sounds like CYA to me. Climate will always change so don’t be afraid of it. I also remember reading that the people of the past were afraid to set sailing in an ocean because they would fall off the FLAT earth. Clean things up but without all the fear of doomsday around the corner.

    • Zachary Shahan

      so much disinformation here.

      climate will always change, but not at the rate it is now.

      2010 was the hottest year on record — even with a strong La Nina at the end of the year.

      no climate scientist is claiming we are going into a cooling trend that adequately counteracts accelerated global warming.

      regional cooling may result from regional warming in other places, though.

      yes, most people once believed the Earth was flat. and most people once believed there was no such thing as global warming. but with adequate science and decent (or semi-decent) communication and coverage of that science, both things have changed.

  • Hank

    If you had submitted this as a paper, it would fail. Shame on you and your unrepentant mediocrity.

  • Donna

    Foolish humans. We’ve lived on the planet such a short time and we attribute the planets cycles to us and what we’ve done. How typically egotistical. It would do this on it’s own whether we were here or not.

  • krissy

    Yeah despite the cold snap, 2010 is poised to be one of the hottest on record. Overall the climate is still warming. Thats why were losing our ice caps and glaciers and many of them are already gone. Hopefully the global cooling folks will snap out of their delusion when they finally notice the sea level rise.

    • Zachary Shahan

      yes, and it ended up being the hottest year on record.

  • Al

    I live in the UK, i’m 45. This is my experience of the weather. When growing up winters were winters (cold, snow), summers were summers (hot, clear skys) and spring and autumn were distinct seasons between summer and winter, Now spring and autumn dont exist. Summers are wet and cold, winters are wet and warm. This winter has been cold compared to recent winters, BUT so far its been an average winter compared to the winters of my youth.

    For me, this winter proves nothing.

  • Jasper

    The freeze-up here in the UK (now over, fortunately), caused delays to SolarUK’s solar hot water installations (it’s unsafe to ask an installer to get up on someone’s roof when it’s snowy and icy), but let’s hope everything is back on track now. It would be ironic if this snowy weather deterred someone from taking a step that reduces the emissions of CO2, a gas contributing to the warming of the planet!

    Meanwhile the SolarUK weblog features a preview of 2010, starting with the prediction of a warm year –

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  • Matt

    Humans have a TINY effect on speeding up global warming. So tiny it’s not even worth mentioning. Global warming and cooling is a cycle, not something we created or some new problem that has arisen because we create more CO2 than ever before. The Earth is a global ecosystem and like any other system it has a way of maintaining it’s balance. I can’t believe people are still talking about this and still think it’s a “serious” problem.

  • gene

    Climate cycles will occur and always have. Cycles may be extreme and often have changed the other direction due to tiny occurances.
    It blows my mind that someone could look at the earth from the moon, see the tiny layer of atmosphere that supports life and believe that man has no affect. Mankind is doomed, even if warming or cooling occur. We cannot survive the extremes mother nature can deliver without great sacrafice as to what we do on this planet. I have little faith in manking to solve this problem for future generations. Plans on how we deal with need to start now, not by our grandchildren.
    Us old f—-s have it made because we will be gone before anything happens and we don’t want anything to rock our boats or our comforts.

  • Adam

    The trouble with “hottest on record” is that:

    1. it is a very short record
    2. it began at the time when we were coming out of the Little ice Age.

    So thankfully yes it is a bit warmer now that it was in the 1800’s.

    I recommend you look back over a longer period to get a better perspective on this.

  • Calendar Is basic knowledge

    It is not going to get hotter. It is going to get colder. On the calendar of the Great Year in astronomy it shows that winter is coming, an ice age.
    It is easy enough for a child to figure out. A child looks at a calendar and is told that all calendars are made to predict weather. Then the child is asked if it snowed in January of this year, what weather should you expect in January of 2011?
    It is the same with the calendar of the Great Year which spans 26,000 years. It is for weather. If the beginning of the Great Year marked the starting era of an ice age that lasted 17,000 years, what weather should the planet expect after the beginning of the new Great Year that begins as 2012 ends?

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  • jim

    if you are using IPCC data you do know that they manipulated data and not just some small fry but at least the top two in the IPCC?
    I wouldn’t touch there data with a six foot pool.

    • Zachary Shahan

      jim, it has been proven through numerous independent reviews, including by the leading scientific bodies in the world, that they didn’t manipulate data. the media told you otherwise, but it’s not true. sorry

  • caldera

    AGW is unprovable.
    The temperature always fluctuates…
    Stop wasting our time and money.

    AGW is unprovable, so go away, please.

    • Zachary Shahan

      caldera, 97% of the leading climate scientists who have been studying this for decades clearly disagree with you, as well as the world’s leading overarching scientific bodies, which have reviewed their work and findings. unfortunately, your claim is just that, a claim with no scientific backing. unfortunately…

  • Roxane Cerney

    I love checking over all the divers styles of Dec 21st 2012 mayan prophecy, I imagine one superb idea that has come of all of this, even if nothing comes about is that it has opened our minds to the possibility that we may not be here forever and that we need to hold dear the lifetime we have.

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  • Joy @ Diy Solar Panels

    For many years I thought that although the evidence of global warming was undeniable, the role of man in the process was not established.

    I consider myself to be and unbiased and even a skeptical observer with regard to anthropomorphic global warming. I don’t buy into rhetoric from either side.

    From my perch, what I have seen is a concerted effort to distort the truth by political conservatives who deny that warming is even occurring or claim we are cooling or that the scientific community was all screaming about an ice age back in the 70s. What I see is a concerted disinformation campaign funded by the oil and coal industry.

    • Zachary Shahan

      Thank You, Joy. I think you’re spot on. I have approached this pretty conservatively and tried to understand what the science is clear on as well. However, doing so and then seeing the absurd claims politicians (mostly Republicans) and their funders make regarding the issue can get very frustrating. They want to skirt science and repeatedly come up with ridiculous claims as to why decades of scientific, conservative, climate research is wrong. It can get very frustrating.

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