Climate Change vs. The Data


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The data used to explain and interpret climate change have certain statistical variabilities based on the accuracy of measurements and various other causes of change to the parameters being measured. In addition, when measuring change, it is important to remember that change is relative, to a point in time where there is assumed to be no change, or a change that is neither increasing nor decreasing.

See additional references at end of post.

Take ice core (Click Here) data for example. The data show swings in temperature, CO2, and dust concentrations over 400,000 years. For a general description of the data, Click Here.

What’s most worthy of closer inspection is the amount of variability shown in the data both over time and between parameters. Temperature data shows a great amount of variability over the most recent measurements compared to that measured during previous warm periods in history.

This is due to more accurate measurements and easier calibration of the more recent temperature data. Also, the recent (10,000 year) variability is on the order of approximately 2 to -2 degrees C (or 36 to 28 degrees F).

Comparison

Temperature variability 300 to 350 thousand years ago and in the last 50 thousand years, along with the concentrations of CO2 and dust.

Note that the greatest variability in temperature and dust begins approximately 10,000 years ago, coinciding with and (probably) preceding the dominance of man, and particularly his use of combustion and an increase in his carbon footprint. CO2 levels apparently increase with less variability during the same time.

From this, while the more accurate measurements show CO2 levels to be increasing, the temperature and dust data do not have a similarly linear relationship as CO2.

The geologic temperature record (Click Here) shows a variability of 0 to -8 degrees C (or 32 to 18 degrees F) over approximately 500,000 years.

The geologic temperature record.

The 40k and 100k cycles in (variability in) cooling and warming are associated with variations in Earth orbit known as Milankovitch Cycles. However, the overall historical trend is downwards, or colder. Apparently, the current period of warming shown by the ice core data is at the warm end of a 100,000 year cycle.

Tree ring data (Click Here)  shows temperatures to vary between -1 degrees C and 1.5 degrees C (or 30 to 35 degrees F). Note that while the frequency of warm events has decreased, the frequency of cold events has increased, and that the magnitudes of recent warm events and cold events are about equal.

The tree ring temperature record.

A swing in the direction of temperature change from 35 degrees F to 30 degrees F appears to take place roughly every 400 to 600 years.  According to the tree ring data, we are due for a cold swing.

The variability in temperature over the past 10,000 years should correspond to man’s dominance as a species over the same time period. Rather the variability does not show an increase but may even show a decrease in temperature over that time. Also, the variability appears to be dominated by the other forces that cause climate change, such as variability in Earth orbit.

There does not appear to be a relationship between increasing CO2 levels and temperatures. Right now, temperatures are at the top of previously recorded temperature extremes based on ice core, geologic, and tree ring data. Based on the observed variability, there is as much of a chance that temperatures will decrease in the future and by as much as 18 to 35 degrees F.

Compare this to measured temperatures collected since 1960, which represent the most accurate, and which are characterized by their own variability.


In order to measure the change in temperature, the graph is zeroed on the average temperature from 1981-2010. This assumes that 1981-2010 was neither warming nor cooling. Albeit, the temperature variability is on the order of -0.5 to 0.5 degrees C (or 31 to 33 degrees F). This is within the range of minimum and maximum temperatures observed in the historical data from ice, rock, and trees.

References:

Temperature History

Temperature Measurement

Tree-ring proxies and the divergence problem

Sources of Uncertainty in Ice Core Data

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