Why 2014 Won’t Be the Warmest Year on Record

Much is being made of the “global” surface thermometer data, which three-quarters the way through 2014 is now suggesting the global average this year will be the warmest in the modern instrumental record.

I claim 2014 won’t be the warmest global-average year on record.

..if for no other reason than this: thermometers cannot measure global averages — only satellites can. The satellite instruments measure nearly every cubic kilometer – hell, every cubic inch — of the lower atmosphere on a daily basis. You can travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers without finding a thermometer nearby.

(And even if 2014 or 2015 turns out to be the warmest, this is not a cause for concern…more about that later).

The two main research groups tracking global lower-tropospheric temperatures (ourDr_-Roy-Spencer UAH group, and the Remote Sensing Systems [RSS] group) show 2014 lagging significantly behind 2010 and especially 1998:

With only 3 months left in the year, there is no realistic way for 2014 to set a record in the satellite data.

Granted, the satellites are less good at sampling right near the poles, but compared to the very sparse data from the thermometer network we are in fat city coverage-wise with the satellite data.

In my opinion, though, a bigger problem than the spotty sampling of the thermometer data is the endless adjustment game applied to the thermometer data. The thermometer network is made up of a patchwork of non-research quality instruments that were never made to monitor long-term temperature changes to tenths or hundredths of a degree, and the huge data voids around the world are either ignored or in-filled with fictitious data.

Furthermore, land-based thermometers are placed where people live, and people build stuff, often replacing cooling vegetation with manmade structures that cause an artificial warming (urban heat island, UHI) effect right around the thermometer. The data adjustment processes in place cannot reliably remove the UHI effect because it can’t be distinguished from real global warming.

Satellite microwave radiometers, however, are equipped with laboratory-calibrated platinum resistance thermometers, which have demonstrated stability to thousandths of a degree over many years, and which are used to continuously calibrate the satellite instruments once every 8 seconds. The satellite measurements still have residual calibration effects that must be adjusted for, but these are usually on the order of hundredths of a degree, rather than tenths or whole degrees in the case of ground-based thermometers.

satelliteAnd, it is of continuing amusement to us that the global warming skeptic community now tracks the RSS satellite product rather than our UAH dataset. RSS was originally supposed to provide a quality check on our product (a worthy and necessary goal) and was heralded by the global warming alarmist community. But since RSS shows a slight cooling trend since the 1998 super El Nino, and the UAH dataset doesn’t, it is more referenced by the skeptic community now. Too funny.

In the meantime, the alarmists will continue to use the outdated, spotty, and heavily-massaged thermometer data to support their case. For a group that trumpets the high-tech climate modeling effort used to guide energy policy — models which have failed to forecast (or even hindcast!) the lack of warming in recent years — they sure do cling bitterly to whatever will support their case.

As British economist Ronald Coase once said, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”

So, why are the surface thermometer data used to the exclusion of our best technology — satellites — when tracking global temperatures? Because they better support the narrative of a dangerously warming planet.

Except, as the public can tell, the changes in global temperature aren’t even on their radar screen (sorry for the metaphor).

Of course, 2015 could still set a record if the current El Nino ever gets its act together. But I’m predicting it won’t.

Which brings me to my second point. If global temperatures were slowly rising at, say, a hundredth of a degree per year and we didn’t have cool La nina or warm El Nino years, then every year would be a new record warm year.

But so what?

It’s the amount of temperature rise that matters. And for a planet where all forms of life experience much wider swings in temperature than “global warming” is producing, which might be 1 deg. C so far, those life forms — including the ones who vote — really don’t care that much. We are arguing over the significance of hundredths of a degree, which no one can actually feel.

Not surprisingly, the effects on severe weather are also unmeasurable …despite what some creative-writing “journalists” are trying to get you to believe. Severe weather varies tremendously, especially on a local basis, and to worry that the average (whatever than means) might change slightly is a total misplacement of emphasis.

Besides, once you consider that there’s nothing substantial we can do about the global warming “problem” in the near term, short of plunging humanity into a new economic Dark Age and killing millions of people in the process, its a wonder that climate is even on the list of the public’s concerns, let alone at the bottom of the list.


About the Author: Dr. Roy Spencer

Roy W. Spencer is a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He received his Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1981. As Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Dr. Spencer previously directed research into the development and application of satellite passive microwave remote sensing techniques for measuring global temperature, water vapor, and precipitation. He is co-developer of the original satellite method for precision monitoring of global temperatures from Earth-orbiting satellites. Dr. Spencer also serves as U.S. Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) flying on NASA’s Terra satellite. He has authored numerous research articles in scientific journals, and has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.

  • Grokimal
    • Kate

      Were you on the Kelly File recently. I have been researching Global Warming Propaganda for several years, and you reaffirmed all my findings–all the way down to Al Gore’s poor grades (e.g., D) in the sciences and his college professor refuting Gore’s interpretation of his Professor’s statements at one of the first IPCC meetings. When Gore’s interpretation was refuted, he referred to his Professor as a “doddering old fool.” When you commented about this, Megan looked at you as though you were crazy, suggesting you should be fearful of government retribution. I know many who have been terminated by the government for opposing global warming. Megan was out-of-line. I congradulate you for your tenacity and standing on principle! You are rare.

      • Kate

        Opps, I thought I was addressing John Coleman, not Grokimal. But the statement still applies–to Coleman.

  • Capnmikey

    Before the jet plane, diesel semis, huge farm tractors, (mostly horses), the Interstate highway system, (and millions of cars), before air conditioning in our homes and offices, before central heating systems, the 1930’s were the hottest decade in the 20th century. Go figure! CO2 is plant food. Obama is a communist. The United Nations wants to shut down the USA. China, Russia, and India are the biggest producers of CO2. The EPA is full of crap, their mission is anti-American, not pro enviroment. Controlling our water is their next objective. Eliminating Irrigation in farming is their next goal to destroy agriculture.

  • Bill Sekerak

    The Druids will never give up their religion. Facts do not matter to religious zealots . It would be funny if they had not caused so much damage and are on track to produce more pain for all of us.

  • Rayorb

    I am so sick of the fact that the media hasn’t done a better job in getting the facts out. I for one would like to thank Dr. Spencer is shining a bright light on a dark spot in our lives.

  • Donna Smith

    If I remember correctly, Al Gore predicted that 2014 would be the year when the polar ice cap would have completely melted. The “near extinct” polar bear were to be stranded because of being isolated on ice floes. The Alaska Dept of Wildlife reports Polar Bears to be growing in number. They are powerful swimmers and are not about to be isolated on anything. They can survive on land as well as ice. This specie is NOT in danger, despite what the media says and what has been taught to millions of schoolchildren.

  • Mervyn

    Despite the world’s technological advancements, including the development of the internet and the ‘information superhighway’, this period in our history (the global warming hysteria period) will go down in history as the “Age of Climate Change Propaganda and Disinformation” … the age when the scientific method was abandoned in favour of ‘consensus pseudo science’ used to formulate costly policies to resolve a non-problem!

    • Arationofreason

      Sociologists should have a field day with this one. It should dominate their textbooks for century. Or on the other hand maybe it is a fundamental human failing and just emphasizes the inherent danger of letting a political class control the media.

  • Peter Alexander

    Dr. Spencer please edit…”in the meantime” to MEAN TIME….

  • Arationofreason

    “…nothing substantial we can do about the global warming “problem” in the near term, short of plunging humanity into a new economic Dark Age…”

    An interesting talk on this subject by a GE engineer who has been in the electric power business all his life.

    Why It Is Virtually Impossible to Cut CO2 Emissions by 80 Percent


  • Arationofreason

    Dr. Spencer has anyone made a serious study of the numbers on the ‘real greenhouse’ effect of CO2 at the top of the Troposphere and into the Tropopause? The Trenberth models do not represent the bulk of the atmosphere at all which is a conductive / convective medium. The CO2 effect (if any) is actually doubled above the water vapor and cloud level where there may be so little temperature gradient that the double CO2 is virtually irrelevant. One ref. to what I am convinced it the true situation:

    one ref. http://objectivistindividualist.blogspot.com/2013/02/co2-increases-lag-temperature-since-1982.html

  • climatruth

    I am a weather observer for a major metropolitan airport. I have been studying the climate debate for over 20 years and there is far too much disinformation. The only thing in more abundance is political agendas on both sides. I have no use for anyone who skews or misreports data and climate news to fit their particular beliefs. If everyone would just stick to the facts the whole truth would be quite clear.

    The earth is experiencing climate change, just as it has been for the previous 14 BILLION years. Most AGW disciples are under the impression that about 100 years ago, suddenly, miraculously, all the change in the temperature of the atmosphere abruptly switched and is now being driven solely by human activities. The blind belief in this hypothesis just looks almost hilariously stupid when viewed in that historical light.

    What deserves some more discussion and scrutiny is the different methods used for measuring the temperature of the earth. The oldest quantifiable records that we have are the surface temperature records that date back to about 1870 or so. (keep in mind that the number of data points was quite meager until the 1920’s, and only got really going globally after WWII) This is the data set that is being used by the warmists to put forth the theory of apocalyptic warming that is almost entirely due to burning fossil fuels. However, another data set has emerged. Starting in 1979, scientists began measuring the atmospheric temperature using satellite data. So we now have a 35 year record of the temperature as accurately measured over the entire globe and through the entire depth of the troposphere. That there is even a person on earth that would debate which of these methods of measuring the temperature is more accurate is amazing to me.

    Let me just talk about the surface temperature data. The problem with this data is that the vast majority of reporting stations that contribute to the temperature record are in major metropolitan areas, suburban areas, or at the nations airports. All of these places have something in common- they are subject to the microclimate phenomenon called Urban Heat Islands. This is not primarily the result of pollution (although that is a factor in some areas), but it is due in large part to the human development and the types of surfaces that are prevalent in these metro areas. These surfaces absorb more heat than ‘natural’ surfaces, but the main effect is that the temperatures do not go as low at night which raises the average temp for the day. That is why the surface temp record is rising while the satellite data have been in an 18 year ‘pause’.

    Anyway, I feel that this surface temperature data has not been talked about enough, if at all. And it makes a big difference when the data you are using to come to a conclusion that is costing the world trillions of dollars is in large part worthless. Why is this not being talked about?

    One more thing, CO2 is essential, it is NOT causing the global temps to change, and the higher levels are a great benefit to plant life and animal life on earth. Climate change is driven by many factors but it is becoming clear in recent years that sunspot activity seems to be the most important factor in determining the earth’s temperature.

    • Barbara

      Beautifully expressed. You cover all the points!