William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Some Like It Hot: The Hottest Year Ever Inside A Global Warming “Pause”? The Stream. Updates

I rarely ask this, but I’d like you all to go The Stream and pass my article on to as many as you can. (Don’t link here, but link at The Stream.)

Strange New Climate Change Spin: The Hottest Year Ever Inside a Global Warming ‘Pause’?

I’ve been railing about these mistakes for years—here is a list of articles—but the criticisms never stick. Of course, any sane and correct criticism of global-warming-of-doom doesn’t stick, not in a climate where the government-funded want to criminalize critics’ opinions.

Incidentally, every scientist who signed that “Please, Mr President, Use The RICO Act To Silence Our Opposition” letter ought to have their name engraved on a plaque. I’d like them not to be forgotten. A lasting testament that scientists are not superior human beings and can’t be trusted more than anyone else.

Here’s the start of the article:

There are two stories floating around about the state of the earth’s atmosphere. Both are believed true by government-funded scientists and the environmentally minded. The situation is curious because the stories don’t mesh. Yet, as I said, both are believed. Worse, neither is true.

Story number one is that this year will be the hottest ever. And number two is that the reason it is not hot is because “natural variation” has masked or stalled man-caused global warming.

Which is it? Either it’s hotter than ever or it isn’t. If it is, then (it is implied) man-caused global warming has not “paused.” If it isn’t, if man-caused global warming has “paused,” then it is not growing hotter.

There are two things to keep straight: (1) why these divergent contentions are believed, and (2) why they are incompatible and individually false. The first point is easy. Climatology has become a branch of politics…

Go there to read the rest. And pass it on.

It is not the hottest year ever. “Natural variations” can’t cause a “pause.” And never say “pause” or “hiatus”—it admits global-warming-of-doom is true! Never adopt the language of your enemy.

The Editors at The Stream were particularly patient with me, since this is a long article and my enemies were inserting as many errors as they were removing.

Update So some guy at The Stream commented (all sic; I answer here because I’m not going to sign up for Disqus and be even more tracked all over the web):

You try to draw a distinction between Satellite “measurements” and other temperature measurements on the basis that one of them ( the older ones” ) are “proxies”

Perhaps you dont know that satellites do not measure temperature.

the sensor sits in space. It collects photons….

I want to cry sometimes. Whatever you don’t leave in, somebody points out as a mistake. OF COURSE satellites don’t measure temperature; they estimate it in an inverse problem. Not only do I know that, but I’ve written about it, and provided links in the Stream article to my many, many, many articles on dealing with temperature time series.

Goodness, I had no space to go into the inverse problem.

On the other hand, a True Believer at Twitter (I won’t link to him because links to the coward Greg Laden) claimed “WM Briggs @mattstat thinks dinosaurs read thermometers?” And that made my whole day.

Update “No, Briggs you fool, they said the hottest year on record. Ha!”

I despair sometimes, I really do. Hottest year on record is your argument? On record? Good grief!

I made the point in the article, but it was lost, that a “record” of only 40 to 50 years old is not very exciting. You agree, right? Right? And claims of “records” for the last 120 or so years must be, but are not, accompanied by predictive uncertainty, since anything before satellites is an estimate of disparate sources, places, and methods. Good grief!

And what makes the starting point of 1880, or whatever, so damn special? Only because that’s when the “modern record” begins? Good lord! How egotistical!

And even if considering the last 200 years—see how generous I am!—there was a genuine heat record now, what does that mean? Everybody without warrant assumes that if there was a record now, it must have been caused by man. I want to scream!

If we knew what was causing changes in the atmosphere—and I repeatedly emphasized this point in the article—then we would have made good, skillful predictions. We did not. Therefore we do not know all that is happening. Yes, we know some things. But not all. Sheesh! Not only is there no good evidence that man-caused global-warming-of-doom is so, there is terrific evidence because of model failure that the enhanced feedback of CO2 in the models is false. Why? Because they models can’t make good predictions and that is the most likely culprit for the failure! Why? Because the other physics, like the equations of motion, are found to work fine in, for instance, weather models.

And yesterday, on Twitter, I had an argument with a physicist that said the models predicted ice would melt as well as predicting it would get hotter. I wept!

Buy, say, did you notice something? In yesterday’s drama, nobody (that I noticed) defended that preposterous “natural variability” claim? Interesting, no?


  1. Nice. Can you ask Anthony Watts to repost at WUWT?

  2. Briggs

    September 23, 2015 at 9:00 am


    I sent it to him, but to repost he’d have to ask the Editors at the Stream. They now have the rights.

  3. Actually, you can have the hottest year ever and a pause if you ignore statistical significance. I have suggested that employers follow this example and give their employee a $1 a year raise, thus having the employee making more money every year and yet the employer never really sees much of a cost increase.

    Does anyone find it disturbing that the scientists predicted 2015 would be the hottest year clear back in February? How could they possibly know or even reasonable predict this? We’ve been told short term is too hard to predict and fluctuations do occur. Yet, there they were already saying “Hottest Ever” against their own rules.

    Lewandosky is playing with parameters again–tricking economists into believing climate data is world agricultural output and asking about the pause. There’s really no difference in the two ideas, right?

    Come on. When global warming scientists started loving on the Pope for agreeing with them, there’s no point to even pretending this about science. It’s most certainly not.

    Actually, global warming studies are now making up “new statistical techniques” to rid themselves of the pause. If the math doesn’t work, just make new math.
    Global warming is just like any good psychic prediction–never back down, keep moving the date of the occurrence forward in time and always find excuses for what did not happen.

  4. Wattsupwiththat does have this posted.

  5. This is a very good article. Thanks, Dr. Briggs.

  6. I shared it on DDP Facebook pages and on Linkedin

  7. I believe it was Ross Gelbspan that first published the canard that the global warming skeptics were shills paid by the oil and coal companies. He never presented any evidence that this was true but the slander has been repeated endlessly since then.

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels

  8. That was/is a great article…but one bit caught my attention:

    “Scientists … wrote a letter to the President and Attorney General asking these officials to criminally prosecute under the RICO Act scientists … they say, who have “knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.”

    RECALL: “Six scientists and a government official were sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter by an Italian court on Monday for failing to give adequate warning of an earthquake that killed more than 300 people in L’Aquila in 2009.” (quote from Reuters – http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/22/us-italy-earthquake-court-idUSBRE89L13V20121022)

    Those scientists were eventually acquitted.

    But, obviously, some here like that approach….

  9. Ray: Everyone knows (and repeats) the first line of that Goebbels quote, but far fewer people know it in its entirety. Thanks.

  10. The RICO shoe should be on the other foot—who are the true conspirators? Who is seeking personal gain at the expense of the taxpayer? Who works tirelessly to shut down debate? Who, in fact, is more likely to be the pocket in Big Oil?

  11. Ray, Katie,

    According to this and other websites Goebbels didn’t say that. See:


  12. On a related topic, for want of a better description, what is the CO2 saturation point/concentration relative to its effect on warming?

    Spreading understanding of that ought to go a long way to defusing the religion of AGW.

    We know that adding CO2 increases warming because it does absorb energy at certain wavelengths…however…at some point the addition of more CO2 has increasingly diminishing effects to the point where, for practical purposes, any marginal increase in CO2 has no perceptible marginal increase in warming. In the aggregate, CO2’s contribution ain’t much at all; trivial.

    Any idea what that limit is?

    Burt Rutan presents data one might interpret as indicating that at about 500 ppm, any added CO2 will have no perceptible impact (see chart 30 at: http://rps3.com/Files/AGW/EngrCritique.AGW-Science.v4.3.pdf). On warming anyway; the impact might be substantial in other ways, such as plant fertilizer….

    What seems curious to me is that many of the more informed alarmists seem to recognize this; they advertise a critical point of CO2 increase — the point where governments must take drastic, anti-capitalistic, action — at about the point where additions of CO2 cannot have a perceptible impact. Where it will apparent to everyone that as more CO2 keeps getting added…nothing more bad is observed to happen.

    Seems to me that if B. Rutan’s info is correct, that’s one of the top points to make well known — that CO2 increases cannot warm things up anymore, not enough to make any additional difference, no matter how much more we add to the air.

    Alarmists present the illusion (notice those with some credentials — the High Priests of the AGW religion — commonly stop short of asserting outright) that more CO2 invariably leads to a proportional increase in temperature ad infinitum…when the physics are unassailably known to be otherwise….though the “believing” public just laps that physics-defying apocalyptic scenario up…

    Or, as the saying goes, the more times you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets…until it’s as flat as it can get…then running over it more just wears out one’s tires.

  13. Briggs

    One problem with your post:

    There may be some acceptance of the hiatus…
    but there really isn’t … the “warmest year ever” meme is just one part of that non-acceptance:


  14. Examples from the above:

    We don’t see a hiatus in the new data.
    Russell Vose

    “You have a trend in the 21st century, and you have a trend in the second half of the 20th century. According to our data, those trends are the same. We don’t see a hiatus,” says co-author Russell Vose, chief of the climate science division at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

    The new findings refute an observation in the 2013 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC.) The IPCC used the term “hiatus,” noting that the rate of warming from 1998-2012 was one-third to one-half slower than the rate of warming from 1951-2012.

    NOAA’s new analysis suggests that faulty numbers led to that assumption, which triggered widespread repercussions in the science and politics of climate change

    We can try to put a nice face on it. We can try to soften it, but the reality is that there is no statistically significant hiatus, and there never has been.
    Naomi Oreskes
    Harvard University

    Oreskes and a colleague counted more than 80 papers seeking to explain the hiatus and published in peer-reviewed journals. The journal Nature devoted two special issues to the topic early in 2014.

    “A huge amount of scientific work and effort has gone into explaining a phenomenon which actually doesn’t exist,” Oreskes says.

    Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was not involved in the new study, says it is interesting that tiny changes in data could erase the hiatus entirely. He points out that any look at how temperatures change over time is an estimate, so as more measurements are taken, understanding of potential biases improves and corrections are to be expected.

    “The fact that such small changes to the analysis make the difference between a hiatus or not merely underlines how fragile a concept it was in the first place,” Schmidt says. [SEE Sheri’s comment about the $1 a year pay raise]

  15. Scotian, I would be wary of claims made by Weber published by the Institute of Historical Review.


  16. Ken: Good point on the earthquake scientists. It’s the product of overstating certainty in science. People have begun to believe scientists are gods and know everything, something which science cultivated.
    I have run into the question of the limit of CO2 influence. There is often outright denial of this, even thought it’s clearly in line with science. Love your cat analogy.

    Ray: There’s a website dedicated to addressing the claims of Ross Gelbspan. I ran across it on another blog. It is amazing what one person can do–especially when they are saying things that people find easy to believe. Lies are easier to sell because they tend to run on emotional responses and not thought.

    Katie: The Feds except themselves from those kinds of nasty little lawsuits. Those in charge are always exempt from the rules they impose on we peons.

    Scotian: Isn’t propaganda defined as one-sided, a lie of omission, at least? Telling the truth is not propaganda. Telling selected parts is. Is a lie of omission a lie or not? Was what the Nazis did propaganda? Or did they tell the truth in saying Jews were the scourge of the planet and needed exterminated?

  17. Dr. Briggs:

    Nice logic, but only those already aware of the absurdity involved will see it that way. Sadly, climate alarmism is heavily correlated with political leftism and that’s a mental disease blinding its sufferers to contradictions – just think of Mao, Castro, or Che posters emblazoned with the symbols for peace and love – or hippies coaxing Hitler’s Kraft durch Freude wagons to anti-war protests.

    However, I’ve been thinking about your book. Check out:
    https://osf.io/ezcuj/wiki/home/ with the link to “replicated studies”.

    There are pages for each of the 98 studies reported and each set gives you enough info about the original to form a conclusion about its reliance, or otherwise, on “wee p-values” and their unhappy relatives.

    Right now most of the rationalizations for the failure rate focus on sample size, population or scenario mis-matches, study (or replicate) cost, and/or respondent reliability. In effect, these clear the “scientists” (psychology, after all) mostly by blaming respondents or external factors like cost, local culture, or someone’s luck. (Really).

    In this context an article, preferably one written with colleagues inside academia, reviewing the 98 original analyses in terms of their misapprehension of correlation as causation would probably be immensely popular because it would provide an acceptable out for those involved – after all, this is what they were taught to believe worked and those who did the teaching are long dead, retired, or tenured.

    Basically, you’d call for a change in their way of thinking without holding them responsible for not thinking – and the book would then be such a natural follow through on the article that one or more of the major publishers supporting the pseudo-sciences would (I imagine) want to get its name on the thing.

  18. Katie, thanks. I should have checked more carefully.

  19. This is a great article. The only thing I would have tried to squeeze in, was to preempt a criticism that alarmists are “obviously” talking about recent history and not deep time, when they make their “hottest year ever” claim. It would have been useful to address that argument and then deconstruct it. Although if there is a word count limit, there is only so much you can fit in.

  20. ”the warmest year” doesn’t have anything to do with the real temperature, BUT: is the warmest, because they consider the Paris Conference as very important, to put the last nail on the Skeptic’s coffin! b] Marxism and freedom of speech don’t mix. Skeptics are treating it as a football game; if the Warmist win this year, we’ll win next… WRONG! Even some skeptics learned to silence freedom of expression… = democracy R.I.P.

    THE TRUTH: nobody knows what’s the ”global temperature” to save his / her life, because nobody is monitoring on 99,99999999999999% of the planet! ”Trend” cannot be taken from few thousand thermometers, because temp changes INDIVIDUALLY on every km every 15 minutes! Skeptics avoiding my proofs, are condemning next 5-6 generations to Red dictatorship, under green camouflage…. Warmist are using even the Pope, even though they are all atheist! Warmist don’t have any legitimate proof, cannot have a proof of something that doesn’t exist::

  21. Can Dr. Briggs or anyone else cite an article in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal where a climate scientist claims that this year will be the hottest in the history of the planet? Or is that just an absurd red herring? Obviously, all climate researchers know about the Earth’s past tropical eras.

    I can understand, in the face of the RICO threats, the urge to sink to the level of these people. But really, one should try to resist. In the long run, it’s more effective to be consistently rational and honest. If you squander your reputation, you ultimately abandon the power to persuade anyone who counts.

  22. You could have googled NOAA or NASA and “warmest year ever” which would have taken 5 seconds and saved you from making a fool of yourself.

  23. Dr. Biggs —

    Very fine article. Upon reading all of the comments, I see that you have a thoughtful readership, as well.

    Here is the thing, and I believe you said it in your piece: climate science has become an extension of politics. Ergo, NO logic will ever break through the mantra of “anthropogenic global warming”.

    I am not a “climate scientist” by background, but was trained in fluid mechanics and aerodynamics prior to going back to school and focusing on medical informatics. I always thought “glo-bull” warming was nonsense (just did not make sense to me). But, what finally put the “nail in the coffin”, as it were, on my opinion was the very rigorous technical briefings of Professor Murry Salby, in which he derived from basic principals the differential relationship between CO2 and temperature, and then showed, based on measurements, that the integral of temperature fairly soundly followed the observed CO2 levels. This, combined with the balance of his presentation, was extremely convincing to me because it (1) derived from both ice proxies and satellite-era data; (2) it made no assumptions about “feedbacks” — merely looked at the observations; and, (3) mathematically, I could easily follow his development and could detect no errors in the derivation.

    Yet, realizing that most individuals are not trained in the development nor the mathematics, it is understandable that this type of presentation would be overlooked or dismissed. Even so, it is very distressing and frustrating to me that logic and facts are neglected or even ignored.

  24. Well, I tried Googling as recommended by Will and though I got some “hottest year ever” headlines the main text always said “hottest year recorded” or similar, even on NASA’s site. Did anyone actually say this other than in a headline?

  25. The dirty little secret it thermometers don’t measure temperature either, the only measure the aggregate of the temperature of the molecules around them. That measurement cannot tell you anything about the temperature of the atmosphere ten feet from them, let alone 1500 miles. It is only a measurement of that point in that time. Trying to extrapolate anything beyond that is a fools errand, the unfortunately part is due to our education system we have far to many fools.

  26. Even the link text says, “warmest year in modern record”. Does anyone actually assert that it’s the warmest year ever.

  27. Rich,
    I don’t think you will find a “peer reviewed” claim that 2015 will be the hottest year ever because such a claim based on 2015 data would have to have been made somewhere around or after the middle of 2015. Most journals I am familiar with take some months between original submission and publication. I checked the current issue of Nature Climate Change, in the letters section, and the submission dates were generally October – December of last year. So I think the only claims of that one will find will be from agencies that monitor real time datasets and from time to time make pronouncements.

  28. Rich, you are still missing the point about why your straw man argument is so foolish. You have no problem with Scientific American publishing an article titled “2014 to Be Hottest Year Ever Measured” when that is patent nonsense. The justification here is that if one digs deeper, no credible scientist would agree with that statement, at least if we’re talking about the entire history of the planet. (And what one might mean by ‘measurement.’) The debate is entirely about the modern era. But leave that aside. You are, however, highly critical of Dr Brigg’s suggestion that we are talking about the hottest year ever, when if you dig into his article, he raises issues with both recent instrumental measurements, and contrasts this with natural variability over deep time. So he does address the issue you criticism him over. But I agree with you in the sense that because Dr Brigg’s did not repeatedly add the wording ‘hottest in modern era’ or some such phrasing, he would be subject to exactly your style of attack. Which was what my original criticism was all about, and like clockwork, someone like you jumped in to prove my point.

  29. Rich:

    You get the idea. Dr. Briggs’ article seems to be designed to manipulate the opinions of people (Will Nitschke types) who are only capable of reading headlines, and can actually be convinced that the climate orthodoxy doesn’t know about Earth’s history. Note the predictable move to insulting me without providing a single reference that would prove me wrong.

  30. Dear me, Mr Will, your civility evaporated quite quickly. I’ve no idea what Scientific American said nor do I care.
    Briggs provided two sources to demonstrate that the Earth has been warmer, both covering its entire history. For me this sets the context for “ever”. I haven’t been highly critical nor have I attacked him. I like William and read this blog as a routine. I just don’t feel the need to treat his words as gospel.

  31. Lee and Rich: Most say “on record” in the fine print. I consider that to be a deliberately misleading tactic used in car sales, warranties and any where else it’s used, including hottest year ever. It means these people have sunk to the level of car salesmen in an attempt to get one to buy the global warming theory.

    Again, the scientists make no effort to correct the error in headlines so I have to believe they are okay with the lie. Letting the news media lie for you does not make you innocent of pushing the lie. The fact that you two apparently agree with the tactic is disturbing. What else can one lie about through headlines?

    Also, if we go by “temperatures on record” and disregard all proxy data (which is exactly what you are advocating here—only recorded temperatures count), then a lot of global warming science gets tossed out the window. If the “recorded” is all that counts, no more proxies.

    Mark: Agreed.

  32. Good grief! Here’s me thinking I’m just asking a simple question and now I’m attacking Briggs and saying it’s OK to lie in a headline. I think I’ll skip the rest of this conversation.

  33. Not really Rich, you are the one being disingenuous here. Dr Brigg’s makes it perfectly clear in his article — this is his claim anyway — that there are two groups who believe this year or every recent year is the ‘hottest year ever’. Climate activists. I don’t think you will dispute that one. And government funded climate scientists — and he also makes it clear in the article they ‘believe’ what they believe for political/financial gain. In other words, they promote and encourage a certain narrative. In fact, they create and feed the narrative.

    This is entirely separate from what you are claiming, which is what scientists believe based on evidence. I agree there is some ambiguity here towards that distinction in Dr Brigg’s article, which is why I pointed that out. I made that observation, well before you jumped in with your misrepresentation. Because I fully expected people like you would attempt that misrepresentation.

    Now, as someone who has been around for a while, following this nonsense topic for 30 or so years, I can tell you I have abandoned all hope that these ‘scientists’ will behave rationally or honestly. I’ve listened to 30 years of nonsense, with these individuals being serially wrong on all their claims and arguments. At some stage you need to give up pandering to them. Good solid arguments are important, but at the end of the day, critics will be attacked on imaginary talking points if they can’t find real ones. If you say certain scientists ‘believe’ that it’s the warmest year ever, it doesn’t help to qualify the time period or point to the headlines in the science journals and magazines. The excuse will be that they didn’t say that, or meant something else. If you point to their press releases or their media interviews, they will claim their press releases and interviews misrepresented their positions. (James Hansen argued in the 80’s that we would all be under water now, but his defenders argue that the media misrepresented what he claimed. He was just extraordinarily unlucky that 20 different reports in 20 different newspapers all misrepresented him in exactly the same way.) And then of course you can point to journal papers where some extraordinary and ridiculous claim is made, or 50 such papers, and defenders will argue that all these scientists represent only some tiny fraction of The Consensus, so all the nonsense they have written can be safely ignored and the credibility of climate science remains perfectly intact.

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