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What’s Katharine hiding?

November 25, 2011
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According to Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, winter temperatures in Texas are increasing and this is a sign of “climate change”.

However, for some reason, Katharine is not keen to tell us the whole story.

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In an interview with Yale Environment 360 back in August, which was published in the UK by the Guardian as well as newspapers in the US, she was asked “have you seen sizeable increases in average temperatures that could be defined as climate change?”. She replied ““What we’ve actually seen, at least in West Texas, is an increase primarily in winter temperatures. Our very cold days are getting less frequent and our winter temperatures are increasing in nearly every station we look at across Texas and Oklahoma”.

Katharine did not offer any further detail about this statement and the interviewer apparently did not think to ask for any. And there matters would have rested – evidence of global warming in Texas! Unfortunately for Katharine, some of us know how to check out this type of information ourselves and a quick check on the NCDC website shows Texas winter temperatures in a declining trend over the last century.

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So how did Katharine come to the opposite conclusion? I contacted her to find out, and she kindly told me she had used 1965 as the starting point for her analysis. As the graph clearly shows, 1965 was in the middle of a much cooler interlude which lasted from about 1960 to 1985. Since 1985 temperatures have recovered to the sort of levels seen between 1920 and 1960. Indeed the average temperature during the last decade is very slightly lower than the average of the last 100 years and the last two winters have been much cooler than normal.

It is not surprising, then, that Katharine was able to find a warming trend. When I asked why she had chosen 1965 as the starting point, she explained that climatologists commonly work on a minimum of 30 year periods, so as to avoid short term fluctuations. This is, of course, perfectly correct and sensible, but the key word is minimum. Katharine actually chose a 55 year period, so why not an 80 or 100 year period, which would have shown a totally different outcome.

It could be that Katharine is right in saying that the rise in temperatures in the 1980’s and 1990’s is a symptom of global warming. However as nobody seems to know what caused the temperature drop in the first place, we surely cannot be confident that the rise since is not simply part of the same cycle. Certainly there is nothing on this graph to suggest that temperatures in the coming decade or two are going to be significantly higher than the 20th Century.

As an aside, this whole business highlights the abysmally low standard of journalism these days. Why did it not occur to the interviewer to ask a few challenging questions instead of the pat-a cake variety he did ask? Why did not the Guardian check out the facts themselves before they cut and pasted the interview?

Answers on a postcard please!

12 Comments
  1. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    November 27, 2011 1:27 pm

    It is now pretty obvious that there is a rough 60-year cycle of slight variation in temperatures. This shows up all around the world. You can see it easily here – the average temperature is low in the 1900s and climbs to the 1930s. It then drops to the 1960/70s. Then it climbs again to the 1990/2000s.

    Now it is starting to drop again. But according to the AGW crowd, that’s just weather.

    I predict a drop for the next 20 years, to 2030. Then it will start to rise again….

    • November 27, 2011 2:19 pm

      PDO and AMO cycles both last about 60-70 years, so it would seem logical to look at least that far back.

      I asked Katharine for her views on that, but she declined to reply.

      • December 5, 2011 12:19 am

        From an article in the Chicago tribune 12/04/2011:

        “Most climatologists refuse to answer skeptics, preferring to let the research speak for itself. Hayhoe is one of a small but growing number of scientists willing to engage climate change doubters face-to-face”.

        Bullcrap !!

        No online link to the story for a few days

      • December 5, 2011 11:12 am

        She has no intention of engaging. She simply wants to “talk at” people. It was clear that as soon as difficult questions appeared, she did not want to know.

  2. December 5, 2011 12:09 am

    Wow.
    Starting at 1965 instead of using all of the available data sounds just a little like “cherry picking”!!

  3. Terry Black permalink
    December 7, 2011 7:45 pm

    This aerticle does not address Katherine’s conclusions, which are scientifically sound.

    Among working climate scientists, the consensus for man-made climate change has been estimated at 97%. You can read about the support for this conclusion, including the National Academy of Sciences and every major scientific organization, here:

    http://www.logicalscience.com/consensus/consensusD1.htm

    • December 7, 2011 8:31 pm

      Your 97% is actually 75 out of 77 scientists, with thousands of others filtered out, as you can see here.

      http://appliedclimate.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/the-97-solution/

      But of course, that is not the point. Katharine has used misleading statistics to make her case. Is it too much to expect publically funded scientists to be honest and transparent with the public, and tell the whole truth?

    • justjoshin permalink
      December 9, 2011 1:17 am

      Every major scientific organisation … except the ones in countries that aren’t propping up the AGW industry with taxpayer dollars, like China, Poland, Venezuela …

      It’s the latest form of Neo-Lysenkoism and this is exactly what Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago in his farewell address.

    • December 11, 2011 4:23 pm

      lol, 97%….blather blather….. It wasn’t estimated, the 97% was polled….. 11,000 questionnaires were sent out…… 79 responded of the 79, 77 responded with the affirmative….. that’s where your 97% comes from. Your link says there are 20,000 climatologists…. (I doubt that number) but if there were 20,000 and 77 responds with an affirmative to the question, don’t you think its a bit disingenuous to try to portray a “consensus”? Go back to illogicalscience and tell them to quit misleading people.

  4. February 2, 2012 11:33 am

    Hayhoe claims that ““What we’ve actually seen, at least in West Texas, is an increase primarily in winter temperatures. Our very cold days are getting less frequent and our winter temperatures are increasing in nearly every station we look at across Texas and Oklahoma”.
    “Are increasing” implies “now and the recent past” IMHO. If “now and the recent past” is taken as 1990-2011, winter temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma, and almost all of the other 46 contiguous states are most certainly decreasing. I’ve checked (and posted) the results from all 48 states just yesterday.

    Turns out she’s been referring to trends from 1965 to present – hardly “now and the recent past”. Ignore the decline – sound familiar?

    • February 2, 2012 4:59 pm

      And not even to the present – just from 1965-2000!

      • February 2, 2012 5:15 pm

        I missed the 2000 bit – up to 2000 hardly qualifies as “winter temperatures ARE increasing” does it?

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