2016 is Earth’s hottest year on record: A glimpse behind the Washington Post story

Jason Samenow of the Washington Post wrote to me asking for some comments for a story he was doing on the announcement of year 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Here is what he used:

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Reaction: 2016 ‘should tip the balance’ for those unconvinced about human-caused warming

If there are still any people out there who remain unpersuaded by past science and data of climate change, the record high temperatures of 2016 should tip the balance.

With the high temperatures of 2016, the evidence for human-induced global warming is now so strong that no sensible person can deny a human role in these temperature increases.

We can argue about what we should or should not do with this knowledge, but the argument is over: Greenhouse gas emissions cause our climate to get hotter.

Ken Caldeira, climate scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science

Here is the full text of what I provided him:


Jason,

I don’t have time to say anything long and thoughtful but here it is …

—–

Weather naturally varies over time periods ranging from minutes and hours to days and centuries and longer.  Climate is the statistical properties of this weather. As the saying goes: “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”

Because weather is naturally variable, it is not easy to know whether weird weather is just a product of natural variability, or whether it is a consequence of human interference in the climate system.

Scientists try to estimate the amount of ‘weather noise’ to see whether a climate signal remains in temperature data. I remember when I was a graduate student in the late 1980’s, discussing that the human imprint on the climate system would become statistically significant sometime in the 1990’s. Indeed, in 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested there was a ‘discernible influence human influence on global climate’ and by 2001 they stated that most of the warming of the past 50 years was likely due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Then, in the early 2000’s, global warming seemed to pause in its increase. To most climate scientists, this was an indicator that decade-scale trends could be strongly influenced by natural variability. To others (pseudo-scientists and so-called ‘climate skeptics’), this hottest (at that time) decade on record was interpreted as evidence that human-induced climate change was a fiction.

If there are still any people out there who remain unpersuaded by past science and data of climate change, the record high temperatures of 2016 should tip the balance.

With the high temperatures of 2016, the evidence for human-induced global warming is now so strong that no sensible person can deny a human role in these temperature increases.

We can argue about what we should or should not do with this knowledge, but the argument is over: greenhouse gas emissions cause our climate to get hotter.

Happy for you to edit or copy-edit etc. If you think you may be changing meaning, please ask.

Best,
Ken


I thought he did a good job of editing for the pithy parts.

Full story is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/01/18/scientists-react-to-earths-warmest-year-we-are-heading-into-a-new-unknown

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