Temperature Anomalies Quiz

Quiz question: Give three reasons why the following temperature anomaly figure is less worrisome than it seems:


  1. OK, I’ll bite, as long as this is a quiz and not a debate:
    1. 1971-2000 is not very long, in the scheme of things, and includes a chunk of time when there were empirical data-driven concerns about the earth cooling, as I recall.
    2. 3 months worth of data (Dec-Jan) is not a significantly long period of time to get worried about.
    3. Hmm, no third reason, but are the units degrees C or F?

  2. One Way Stox says:

    1. global temps rose during that period due to lower global Co2 counts as well as a drop in sea levels around the planet
    2. Global temps rose b/c there is an ‘inconvenient’ link b/t the recent spike in intensity of The Solar Sunspot Cycle since 1960

  3. One Way Stox says:

    more sunspots stuff
    (…ya know, I think Gore even referenced the sunspot data in his book…)

  4. Andy Imboden says:

    1) Bias in the sample — most of the samples come from the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere could be below normal and make this less worrisome.
    2) A different bias in the sample is that most of the earth is water, but most of the samples are on land. If the temperatures over land masses are warmer than usual, and the temperature over oceans are cooler than usual, then the overall earth is cooler, which makes this less worrisome.
    3) The Mercator Projection uses distorts the polar areas, which appear in the northern hemisphere to be warmer than usual. Correcting for the unequal representation of the real earth’s area, the overall picture would be less worrisome.
    4) Color scale used to depict warmer temperatures is more dramatic (yellow to orange to red), whereas the cooler temperatures are all soothing shades of blue. We’re being fooled by the assymetry in the color palatte, which, once identified, makes this less worrisome.

  5. Great comments. Without getting into the debate, I always think it’s important to be able to stand back from these kind of disturbing figures and understand just how they might be flawed.
    So … my favorite issues:
    1) The period is too short
    2) The land/water skew
    3) The Mercator projection
    I’m sure there are plenty of others.

  6. Brent Buckner says:

    Given the number of measurements being collected in the number of places and their lack of perfect correlation, I suspect that it is normal to have “anomalies”.
    100 urns, each with 19 white marbles and 1 black marble. Pull one marble from each; you may well get 5 “anomalous” draws of a black marble, but the situation of having 5 such draws is quite normal.

  7. How do you go from “Global Significant Events” to “Temperature Anomalies”?
    An anomaly is “an odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality, etc”. What is odd, peculiar or strange about any of these “significant events”?
    My personal experience will only allow me to comment on the U.S. Winter Storm on right coast, and the tornadoes in the South East, neither of which seem particularly “peculiar”. Calling a winter storm in February an “anomaly” seems especially silly.

  8. Dennis Miller had a rant about this issue with temperature rises since the industrial revolution that was hysterical, I believe on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show several months back (probably find it on Youtube,if Viacom’s billion dollar threat hasn’t forced its removal). One of his lines: “a hundred years ago most of us were still sh–‘in in outhouses, yet we’re supposed to believe that somehow we had a stranglehold on the temperature of the earth’s magma to the 10th of a degree all over the world?”

  9. looks like your chart “extremes-rotating.gif” rotated to a different image and no longer shows temperatures.

  10. a rotating image would certainly explain my confusion over the post.
    Was this the original image?
    Taken from here.

  11. 1. All weather observers are safely far away from Iraq
    2. It’s still 72 F and sunny in La Jolla
    3. America is still read, white and blue.

  12. Richard Schweitzer says:

    1. Because no temperatures are shown.
    2. The delineations (depictions)are not anomalies.
    3. The events depicted are not necessarily temperature related