Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: El Niño and Global Warming
The Monday New York Times carried a front page story about the record-setting global temperatures in the first five months of 1998. Wow! Global Warming!! Don’t get excited. Here is the response of the SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY PROJECT, Fairfax, Virginia, headed by Dr. S. Fred Singer. You can keep up with the hot air by taking an occasional look at the project’s website: www.sepp.org
Vice President Gore gave Bill Stevens at the NYT an exclusive on today's El Niño briefing on and the warmer temperatures for the first half of 1998 -- here is the story.
Stevens' intellectual dishonesty on a number of points is rather breathtaking, especially when he reaches back to the depths of the last ice age for a baseline temperature. Following his piece is a summary of Richard Groves's technical comment from the current issue of Nature, which bears repeating. Dr. Singer's comments are in the body of the NYT piece in all caps.
The New York Times
June 8, 1998
"El Niño Accelerates Global Warming Trend, New Analysis Shows"
By WILLIAM K. STEVENS
The White House will announce on Monday that according to an analysis by government scientists, El Niño joined the Earth's continuing overall warming trend to break global temperature records in each of the first five months of 1998.
Last year, the average surface temperature of the Earth was the highest recorded since people began measuring it with thermometers in the mid-19th century. The new information not only extended the record-breaking pattern, it did so to a degree that the scientists described as unprecedented.
SINGER: AS TOM KARL OF NOAA HAS ADMITTED, LAND TEMPERATURES WERE ACTUALLY LOWER; OCEAN TEMPERATURES BOOSTED THE OVERALL RECORD BECAUSE OF EL NIÑO.
Moreover, said the scientists, global warming appears to be exacerbating the effects of El Niño, which have included droughts in some places and heavy rains in others.
SINGER: THIS IS WISHFUL THINKING. THERE'S NO WAY THEY COULD TELL THIS.
"We set temperature records in every month since January, and it appears that this general warming trend is making the effects of El Niño worse," Vice President Al Gore said in a written statement issued by the White House. "This is a reminder once again that global warming is real and that unless we act we can expect more extreme weather in the years ahead."
SINGER: SATELLITES STILL SHOW A COOLING TREND, EVEN THE WARMING SHOWN BY SURFACE-BASED INSTRUMENTS (AND CONSIDERED TAINTED BY THE HEAT ISLAND EFFECT) IS BUT A FRACTION OF WHAT MODELS HAVE PREDICTED.
Gore was to present the findings at the White House on Monday morning, with the scientists who performed the climatic analysis. A Clinton administration official said Gore was trying to send a message to Congress that it is urgent to enact a $6.3 billion, five-year program of financial incentives and technological research aimed at cutting emissions of heat-trapping industrial-waste gases like carbon dioxide, which is produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The measure is facing slow going on Capitol Hill, partly because of resistance on the issue from some parts of the fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress.
SINGER: ALTHOUGH STEVENS OMITS THIS, NATURAL GAS IS ALSO A FOSSIL FUEL, AND THE PIPELINES LEAK METHANE, A GREENHOUSE GAS 60 TIMES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN CO2. THE ONLY EMISSION-FREE POWER SOURCES ARE NUCLEAR AND HYDROELECTRIC, BOTH OF WHICH ARE BLOCKED BY GREEN ACTIVISTS. WIND POWER AND SOLAR POWER CANNOT MEET EVEN A FRACTION OF CURRENT NEEDS.
In one sense, the temperature findings are not new. Surface temperature records have been set several times in the 1990s, and mainstream scientists have been saying for some time that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are probably at least partly responsible. But the year-to-year changes until now have been tiny, measured in increments of hundredths of a degree.
This time, the global average for January through May jumped half a degree from the same period a year earlier. In the last months of 1997 and the first months of 1998, the natural warming of the Pacific Ocean known as El Niño was responsible for much of the increase in temperature, scientists have said all along.
SINGER: SCIENTISTS HAVE ALSO SAID THAT THE NEXT 6 MONTHS WILL BE COLDER, BECAUSE THE EL NIÑO HAS DISSIPATED.
El Niño has faded, drastically so in the last three weeks, so it is questionable whether the records will hold up for the rest of 1998. The second half of the year "is not likely to be as warm as the first part," said Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who studies El Niño and global warming but did not participate in the new analysis. Still, he said, 1998 "could turn out to be a record year, easily."
SINGER: THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STATEMENT. THAT THE SECOND PART OF THE YEAR "IS NOT LIKELY TO BE AS WARM" IS WHY THIS BRIEFING WAS HELD TODAY. THE REST OF TRENBERTH'S COMMENT IS HEDGING.
The January-through-May temperature jump was described as "really rather spectacular" by Thomas Karl, senior scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., who was in charge of the analysis. "To see every month breaking the record is rather significant."
The first reaction of most meteorologists to a graph of the trend, he said, would probably be "scratching the head and saying something must be wrong with the data."
But he said that surface readings and those taken by different instruments aboard two Earth satellites all show the trend, "so we're very confident that 1998 far exceeds anything we've seen before."
SINGER: THIS IS AN INTERESTING STATEMENT. SATELLITE TEMPERATURES BUMPED UP BRIEFLY BECAUSE OF THE EL NIÑO, BUT UNTIL NOW THE GOVERNMENT HAS IGNORED THE SATELLITE DATA BECAUSE THE OVERALL TREND HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY DOWN. ONE MONTH WHEN IT APPEARS TO SUPPORT THEIR CASE, AND SUDDENLY SATELLITES ARE CREDIBLE.
For the five months as a whole, according to the federal analysis, the average global surface temperature was 1.76 degrees above an average of 61.7 degrees for the bench mark period of 1961 to 1990. The picture is partly explained and partly muddied by El Niño. On one hand, the exceptionally warm sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that are characteristic of El Niño are said by scientists to warm the globe generally. On the other hand, it is difficult to know to what extent El Niño is responsible for the 1997-98 acceleration of the global warming
SINGER: ONE YEAR OF EL NIÑO DOESNT MAKE A TREND.
But Karl noted that in 1997-98, the average global temperature was nearly a degree higher than the 1961 to 1990 average. This is twice as much above the bench mark as in 1982-83, when an equally strong edition of El Niño dominated the climate. If global warming is responsible for the extra heat, Karl said, then it is probably exacerbating the regional climatic effects that El Niño brought home so clearly over the last fall and winter: Wild fires, droughts and heavy rains. These "are going to become more frequent in the future" if global temperatures continue to increase as
predicted, Karl said.
SINGER: THIS IS CONJECTURE.
A panel of scientists advising the United Nations has predicted that the average surface temperature of the Earth will rise by 2 to 6 degrees by the end of the next century, with a best estimate of 3.5 degrees, if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. This, they said, will disrupt the Earth's climate, causing climatic and agricultural zones to shift, increasing precipitation, making droughts more severe and forcing the sea level to rise.
SINGER: EVEN THE MODEL FORECASTS HAVE STEADILY DROPPED OVER THE YEARS. THE REST OF THIS IS OLD BUNK.
By comparison with the projected 3.5-degree increase, the Earth is 5 to 9 degrees warmer now than it was in the depths of the last Ice Age some 20,000 years ago.
Last December, in Kyoto, Japan, more than 150 nations agreed to a diplomatic protocol under which industrialized countries were to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by about 5 percent from 1990 levels by about 2010. The Kyoto Protocol, as it is called, is widely viewed as a first step in cutting the emissions. Delegates are meeting in Bonn, Germany, in preliminary talks on details of the protocol.
Trenberth said that the temperature increase in the first five months of 1998 is all the more remarkable because the warmth is well above an average that was already high because it included the effects of a global warming of about 1 degree over the preceding century.
SINGER: [AN INCREASE OF 1 DEGREE] WHICH TOOK PLACE BEFORE 1940.
As for El Niño, its fading in recent weeks portends a more active hurricane season in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, several scientists have said. One of El Niño's effects is to suppress the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and, consequently, last year as a year of relatively little hurricane activity.
In Nature, May 28, 1998, page 319: "Global Warming Intensifying El Niño?"
Technical comment by Richard H. Grove, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
It has been suggested that "global warming" has caused El Niño to become more frequent and more intense. But Dr. Grove points to several El Niño events occurring before 1880 that "had effects at least as intense and wide-ranging as those associated with the current event," including the years 1685-88, 1789-93, and 1877-79.