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New Santer Study Totally Debunked

March 4, 2019

By Paul Homewood


From Reuters:



“Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals,” the U.S.-led team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change of satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years.

They said confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming.

Such a “gold standard” was applied in 2012, for instance, to confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, a basic building block of the universe.

Benjamin Santer, lead author of Monday’s study at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said he hoped the findings would win over skeptics and spur action.

“The narrative out there that scientists don’t know the cause of climate change is wrong,” he told Reuters. “We do.”

Mainstream scientists say the burning of fossil fuels is causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Monday’s findings, by researchers in the United States, Canada and Scotland, said evidence for global warming reached the five sigma level by 2005 in two of three sets of satellite data widely used by researchers, and in 2016 in the third.

Professor John Christy, of the University of Alabama in Huntsville which runs the third set of data, said there were still many gaps in understanding climate change. His data show a slower pace of warming than the other two sets.

“You may see a certain fingerprint that indicates human influence, but that the actual intensity of the influence is minor (as our satellite data indicate),” he told Reuters. 


The study has already been dismissed as pretty much irrelevant by Roy Spencer and John Christy of UAH, who maintain one of the satellite series used:

 The new Santer et al. study merely shows that the satellite data have indeed detected warming (not saying how much) that the models can currently only explain with increasing CO2 (since they cannot yet reproduce natural climate variability on multi-decadal time scales).

And that’s all.

In the end, I believe the study is an attempt to exaggerate the level of agreement between satellite (even UAH) and model warming trends, providing supposed “proof” that the warming is due to increasing CO2, even though natural sources of temperature change (temporary El Nino warming, volcanic cooling early in the record, and who knows what else) can be misinterpreted by their method as human-caused warming.


 Ross McKitrick has also carried out a detailed statistical analysis, concluding:

They haven’t shown what they say they showed. In particular they have not identified a unique anthropogenic fingerprint, or provided a credible control for natural variability over the sample period. Their claim to have attained a “gold standard” of proof are unwarranted, in part because statistical modelling can never do that, and in part because of the specific problems in their model.

In layman’s terms, it is no more than statistical jiggery pokery.

But, let’s look at the study at a more basic level.

In 2014, the same Benjamin Santer co-authored a paper called “Volcanic contribution to decadal changes in tropospheric temperature”. which attempted to compare satellite derived temperature trends with model projections. They looked at temperatures for the mid troposphere, which we label as TMT. (The new study also uses TMT).

This was what they found:


Despite continued growth in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, global mean surface and tropospheric temperatures have shown slower warming since 1998 than previously. Possible explanations for the slow-down include internal climate variability, external cooling influences and observational errors. Several recent modelling studies have examined the contribution of early twenty-first-century volcanic eruptions to the muted surface warming. Here we present a detailed analysis of the impact of recent volcanic forcing on tropospheric temperature, based on observations as well as climate model simulations. We identify statistically significant correlations between observations of stratospheric aerosol optical depth and satellite-based estimates of both tropospheric temperature and short-wave fluxes at the top of the atmosphere. We show that climate model simulations without the effects of early twenty-first-century volcanic eruptions overestimate the tropospheric warming observed since 1998. In two simulations with more realistic volcanic influences following the 1991 Pinatubo eruption, differences between simulated and observed tropospheric temperature trends over the period 1998 to 2012 are up to 15% smaller, with large uncertainties in the magnitude of the effect. To reduce these uncertainties, better observations of eruption-specific properties of volcanic aerosols are needed, as well as improved representation of these eruption-specific properties in climate model simulations. 

In short, they found that tropospheric temperatures (and surface ones) were rising much more slowly than pre 1998, and more slowly than climate models predicted.

They attempted to model actual trends, without the effect of ENSO and volcanoes:


Once these were removed, it became clear that there has been little warming at all since the early 1990s. This was in stark contrast to the model projections.

Santer’s paper went on to consider other possible influences, without finding anything concrete.


Since 2014, little has changed in actual temperature trends, other than the record El Nino of 2015/16.


UAH anomalies for the mid troposphere are back to early 1990 levels, and of course 2014 levels as well.




RSS of course have massively tampered with their dataset, to show a warming trend which was not there before.

But, significantly, the third dataset used in the new Santer study is STAR, which comes from NOAA itself. This shows a very similar trend to UAH, with gain current anomalies close to those in the 1990s.



All that Santer et al have really found is what we already knew – that there was rise in temperatures between 1979 and 1998, but since then temperatures have effectively plateaued.

Climate models are still running way too hot, as Santer acknowledged in 2014. Far from proving man-made warming, as they now claim, they are still left with the same questions they raised in 2014.

Climate models still cannot explain the pause, nor account for natural variability.

All they are left with is a warming trend between 1979 and 1998.

But, according to HH Lamb, global temperatures plunged between the 1940s and 70s, (something which has steadily been adjusted out of existence on current datasets):



This global cooldown was indeed widely recognised at the time. If the cooling was due to natural factors, how much of the warming since 1979 has also been naturally caused?


Santer et al address none of these issues, and instead and their analysis is little more than a politically driven attempt to prove that the warming seen since 1979 is due to CO2.

  1. The Other Brad permalink
    March 4, 2019 8:47 pm

    He doesn’t think so. He replied on Judith Curry’s site.

  2. March 4, 2019 8:59 pm

    There is a good critique by Ken Haapala at WUWT

  3. David Kendrick permalink
    March 4, 2019 9:03 pm

    The higgs bosun was found at entirely the wrong preditcted energy level using historical data obtained with operating code found to have over errors on a single experiment which is only repeatable on the same apparatus at a time of a funding crisis in 2011. Not found the higgs is more accurate. Needed in fact a second collider which the Earth itself provides since particles of far higher energies frequently hit the atmosphere, and as it turns out the detectors for that are fractionally cheaper chorine tanks at various mines and balloon instruments which do not need multi billion euro super colliders. CERNS claim to fame is Tim Berners lee whos specification for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and Hypertext Markup Language allowed web pages to be universally displayed across platforms on what became internet browsers, he could have stayed at Cambridge and still would have come up with the same concept.

    • David Kendrick permalink
      March 4, 2019 9:04 pm

      Oops ” have errors”, nothing new in programming.

  4. CheshireRed permalink
    March 4, 2019 9:37 pm

    Santer has been at the heart of this racket since the first IPCC AR back in the early 90’s. Entirely consistent then and still consistent now; a scientific activist producing textbook climate propaganda.

  5. March 4, 2019 10:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  6. avro607 permalink
    March 4, 2019 10:38 pm

    At CheshireRed. You refer I assume to the 2nd IPPC report,where the Science Report stated that there was no evidence of a CO2 connection to temps.
    The Govt representatives who concoct the Summary Report for the politicians did not like that result,and therefore stated the opposite in the Summary Report.The Science Report was then altered to reflect the politicians wishes.
    And The Greatest Lie Ever Told gathered speed,

  7. March 5, 2019 4:14 am

    Reblogged this on Roald J. Larsen.

  8. March 5, 2019 6:01 am

    If Santer were right theory and observations would have matched. But they don’t.

  9. Malcolm Bell permalink
    March 5, 2019 9:04 am

    Paul, The system as running on
    my new iPhone still does not add in my name etc. However:-

    In my world of manufacturing Engineering five sigma is not a “gold standard”. It means all results fall inside a boundary of five times the average (RMS) error properly called “one standard devistion” or “sigma” as shorthand assuming a Gauss curve of error distribution. Six sigma is the gold standard we work to achieve as a measure of whether results are “good enough”. To make the high risk political decisions like thise being made to change to “sustainable” energy the data had to exceed Six Sigma.

    To make the claim they are at five sigma they must show the data they have is a Gauss curve (or “normal distribution”) and what exactly that data is. They make no apparent effort to illustrate any such thing but simply make the wild statement “it meets the gold standard of five sigma” meaning to blind us with what they are pretending is too arcane for us simple folk to understand. Just as few are now convinced by the Higgs Boson “proof” (and by his body language I don’t think Prof Higgs was at the time) I have to cling firmly to my profound doubts about AGW.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      March 5, 2019 10:19 am

      Their entire claim is bogus. They have simply not shown that the Null Hypothesis can be rejected. Instead they have assumed it is and then that means what is left is what they claim. The whole thing is circular.

  10. March 5, 2019 9:33 am

    Their gold standard is fool’s gold. Who said warming started in 1979?

    Droughts and heat waves were common in the 1930s. The 1930s (the Dust Bowl years) are remembered as the driest and warmest decade for the United States, and the summer of 1936 featured the most widespread and destructive heat wave to occur in the Americas in centuries.

    • Hivemind permalink
      March 5, 2019 11:44 am

      It’s a lot easier to prove something if you cherry-pick the start and end dates. Then you can let people assume the proof applies to all the other dates as well.

  11. March 5, 2019 9:50 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  12. Stonyground permalink
    March 5, 2019 10:12 am

    Sorry to be OT but I think that this is quite interesting:

  13. jack broughton permalink
    March 5, 2019 12:36 pm

    I followed the discussions of the paper and found them limited by the poor quality of the paper. A significant issue in these publications is the sheer number of journals now publishing so-called “peer reviewed” papers, which are in-fact “pal-reviewed”. Back in the 1970s/ 80s when I acted as a referee for some serious journals there were only a small number of journals and getting published was very difficult, we passed few papers first time and rejected many (there was only one publication called Nature for example). The “gold standard” for any proof should be highly, independently tested not presented as an author’s opinion with pal-review.

    The press, of course, search for any doom-forecast that can be stated as “scientists say” or “experts say”.

    • March 5, 2019 1:31 pm

      It is no longer about the “quality of the paper,” but about the adherence to the agenda. For the most part, science as a discipline is dead.

      When the government is removed as the major funding instrument for “studies,” things might begin to get better. When universities count the teaching of students as their major duty rather than getting research dollars, things might get better.

  14. manicbeancounter permalink
    March 5, 2019 1:42 pm

    The mid-century cooling has not completely disappeared from the dataset. It is still present in the Arctic temperature anomalies.
    Gistemp has data for 8 bands of latitude. This is my graph.

    When I did a similar exercise with the HADCRUT4 data last year, a similar result.

  15. yonason permalink
    March 6, 2019 12:33 am


    Watch here, where Carl Mears tells us that surface temp data are much more precise than satellite data. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to t = 2:11 to 2:12, where Mears claims of far greater error in the satellite data (to justify his adjustments to agree with warmist claims) clearly put the lie to the 5 sigma nonsense.

    Tony Heller’s comments are also helpful in understanding the criminal malfeasance that is being perpetrated here.

    (haven’t read all comments to this article, so must apologize if anyone has already drawn attention to these things)

    NOTE – If Mears believed his data were so riddled with uncertainty, he should opt out of committing to either side.

    • yonason permalink
      March 6, 2019 12:37 am

      Oops, here is Tony Heller’s take on it

      Also, testing to see if this will place the video where I wanted it.


      If that doesn’t work, then sorry for the repeat of the Mears b.s. Just ignore that part of this post. Thank you.

  16. yonason permalink
    March 6, 2019 1:03 am

    But there is a very “high probability of fraud” by warmist climate scientists activists.

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