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« Dana's vested interest | Main | Neil responds to Nucc »

Science Media Centre spins the pause

The Science Media Centre is best known to readers here for its press release about the Oxburgh inquiry, in which they managed to quote only scientists implicated in wrongdoing over Climategate.

Today the centre has released a statement on the failure of global temperatures to rise in line with the models. It can be seen here.

It's spin of course, although perhaps not quite as blatant as we are used to from Fiona Fox et al. As one might expect there's a lot of emphasis on natural variability and not a lot on why the observations are on the cusp of falling out of the uncertainty bands. Lots of "our understanding is getting better" and not a lot of "nobody has a clue what's going on".

There's a complete misrepresentation of science's level of understanding of the reasons why this is happening:

It is becoming increasingly clear that absorption of heat in deep oceans is part of the explanation.

I think what they mean is that this is a somewhat implausible post-hoc rationalisation of the failure of the models to conform to reality; perhaps the copyeditor missed it.

As I said in Parliament, the inability of climate scientists to admit their ignorance is one of the reasons nobody trusts them. The Science Media Centre are just helping that process along in the wrong direction.

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Reader Comments (54)

Brilliant final paragraph Bish. May someone at the Science Media Centre read that and really get hold of it.

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:58 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

No professional scientist can accept this suggestion because the ocean isotherms are set by the melting of Antarctic and Arctic ice which being fresh water eventually mixes endothermically with equatorial water made saltier by evaporation.

To make the ocean deeps warmer you'd have to stop the thermohaline circulation! And this process would have had to start 700 years ago in the MWP when CO2 was constant.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Any of this lot going down the bookies to bet on whether the new royal baby will be a boy or a girl.

Certainly cant trust them to bet on the weather.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

- Bish did Shukman really say something sensible like that ?
"the scientists say, pauses in warming were always to be expected. This is new - at least to me."
- Did someone write that for him's just incredible after all his previous "on message" propaganda

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:33 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"It is becoming increasingly clear that absorption of heat in deep oceans is part of the explanation."

What evidence is there for this? It's just a face-saving effort and a naked lie. Show us the evidence. They have not got a clue. The ocean was there 20 years ago when it was 'warming', was it not? Yet now we're told 'missing heat' has uniquely, magically avoided landfall entirely and has instead jumped head-first into the ocean, and only the ocean. And to add insult to the stupidity, the 'missing heat' has duck-dived right down to the bottom of the ocean without leaving ANY sign of a warmer upper ocean?

That is 'science'? Do one. These cheating fools are going so close to serious misrepresentation that it now looks beyond any doubt that it's deliberate. The truth? Ha, don't make me laugh. There's NO 'missing heat' and their stupid pet theory is garbage. They can't handle the truth.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Whenever somebody tells me that something is "increasingly clear" -- it sets off all sorts of red flags.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterWillR

From - "Bishop in the commons"

"It seems that the government is looking to find a way to persuade everyone that the science of global warming is solid so that we accept the IPCC report without question."

It is just the start of the campaign

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:36 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

But I've never heard leading researchers mention the possibility before.

Ooh I love that :) Methinks that refrain will become more common ;)

I think there will many people who have taken the alarmist shilling who will start to despair that they may have rowed too far out to get back to credibility ;)

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

- By coincidence over on Unthreaded I just posted about the "Sc-Activist War On Reality" that the BBC news progs have been serving up today on all subjects not just climate.
- At one point I switched over from one news-story "UK will have Marseille Climate by 2050" to the middle of another propaganda piece about urgent need for seedbank on another prog

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Warming occurs when there is more energy going in to the climate system than going out. Observations confirm that this has been the case over the period 2000-2013.

Do we have really accurate empirical measurements of the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere going back to 2000? I has understood that CERES data for the top of the atmosphere do not extend back far enough to answer this question.

A pronounced solar minimum in 2008-9 [has] contributed to a slowing in temperature rise.

Is this the first admission that the solar cycle is likely to affect temperature?

Continued sea level rise shows that the oceans are continuing to absorb heat since the two are related.

I suspect that the interpretation of sea level rise is not nearly so straightforward since sea level rise is much greater for land ice melt compared to ocean expansion for a given amount of heat and it is even theoretically possible for temperatures to be going down and sea levels to be rising at the same time. Furthermore, there are wide discrepancies in different estimates of the trend in sea level rise.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:42 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Anyone who is really interested in the isotherms at the ocean deeps should do a few sums with the UNESCO Equation of State for water. it's on-line so you can get answers easily. The 1.8 deg C isotherm is set by the salinity and pressure, and varies like a bath-tun N-S in the Pacific.

I don't think anyone in climate science has incorporated the partial molar heat of mixing of water of different salinity. They have simply assumed that the thermal diffusivity is higher at constant salinity. That is not the case.

For fun, add some salt to some water in a glass in stir - you'll feel the cooling.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

stewgreen and cheshirered: So it's becoming increasingly clear that individuals in the mass media like David Shukman are saying sensible things. :) From time to time, in between the less sensible things, but increasingly. I think that's what a change in the intellectual climate looks like. Unsatisfyingly messy. But Shukman saying

On top of that, the scientists say, pauses in warming were always to be expected. This is new - at least to me.

is a great deal more honest and helpful than this pabulum from Nick Collins in the Telegraph:

Scientists have long been aware that climate change would not happen at a fixed rate and could include periods where temperatures remain stable for 10 to 20 years, but admitted they had failed to explain this to the public in the past.

No mention that a 20 years standstill blows almost all GCMs out of the water at 95% confidence level. Shukman also doesn't mention this but is at least independent-minded enough to chalk up a question mark. Andrew Neil of course is streets ahead of the rest at the moment but his example is surely already rubbing off:

Mr Davey said in his interview - and others echoed the point later - that we should not concentrate just on land temperatures, but look at what was happening to ocean temperatures and the polar ice melt for evidence that global warming was continuing unabated.

This is a reasonable point. But in a 15-minute interview we wanted to stick with the metric that most viewers would understand and which has been used most to judge the course of global warming in public debate i.e. surface temperatures, which are central to the science and, for viewers, the principle point of interest.

At the Sunday Politics we are also used to public figures who try to change the metric when the one they've put their faith in does not behave as expected. We try not to let that happen.

Dragging warming globaloney into just another place politicians 'try to change the metric' is not only right but a titanic effort, the first time you really achieve it. Others are following. Messy but brilliant.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:53 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

If it is dawning even on David Shukman that they are making it up as they go along, the end can't be that many years away.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"It is common sense that climate change would not happen in a neat, linear away but instead in fits and starts."
Please can David Shukman explain this "common sense fits and starts model"?

What exactly is the CSFSM model of climate change, when was it first proposed, who is using it and how was it tested?

Any PRL references?

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

What on earth are they HARKing on about now?

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

After reading that statement I just don't know anymore.

For example, by the principles of "climate science" as espoused by such statements the LHC should not have been built because enough "basic physics" was in place for the Higgs Boson to "exist" without need for actual measurement.

Of course, unlike climate science, physicists also allowed for the fact that maybe it didn't exist and they were wrong so they went and tested it.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

The best thing about 'deep oceans' is that given very little is know about them, because there deep, you can claim things are hidden in them. Space ships, cities, or heat, makes for a good book or a conspiracy theory but a nonesense that as nothing to do with science.
So perfect for climate 'science '

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Shukman's admission that he had never come across someone saying that global warming was an average that might be greater or lesser, is an admission that he wasn't in command of his brief. That was common knowledge, except to dim Shukman.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCeed

Ceed: no, not a standstill for 15-20 years. Shukman gets that absolutely right.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

..the scientists say, pauses in warming were always to be expected.

I've often read that if it isn't peer reviewed and published it doesn't mean anything. Perhaps the scientists making this claim can point to the pre-2000 peer-reviewed papers that say anything about a 10-20 year hiatus in warming.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Ha, TerryS, I wish I'd spotted that. Pass that one on to the Bish for Andrew Neil and David Shukman on Twitter right away.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Credit to David Shukman where credit is due.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

Ceed, David Shukman does say the idea of plateaus is new "to me at least". Sounds like he's perfectly open to being corrected - with chapter and verse, of course.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

<h1 align="center">" I think what they mean is that this is a somewhat implausible post-hoc rationalisation of the failure of the models to conform to reality"</h1>

For my money, straight forward ad hoc straw grasping.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Sounds like Shukman is taking his first baby steps towards "denialism".

I think a visit by the "Climate Inquisition" may ensue.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

"...the scientists say, pauses in warming were always to be expected."

Now, as others have said many times before, watch the pea!

Stating the obvious about natural fluctuations is NOT the same as very specifically stating.... "there will be a pause in warming of between 10-20 years in the early 21st century. Yes, we know that would appear to contradict AGW theory but bear with us - our models are unanimous! Further, this pause will occur at high rates of atmospheric CO2, possibly around the 400ppm level. Trust us and our models - it will happen, then warming will resume".

See the difference? Don't allow them to invoke and hide behind - off all things, natural variation. They are royally stumped by this and are wriggling like a guilty man giving evidence at his own trial....and this juror ain't buying the excuse.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Tweeted this earlier -

Is the temp standstill climate scientists forgot to warn us about the same one they told us wasn't happening?

Jul 22, 2013 at 9:38 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Well put.

Jul 22, 2013 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"pauses in warming were always to be expected", and "temperatures remain stable for 10 to 20 years"

How is it that none of these scientists who were "always aware" picked up the phone to UEA and told Phil Jones and his chums this knowledge? - they've been publicly tearing their hair out for years trying to explain it

Jul 22, 2013 at 9:47 PM | Registered CommentermikemUK

There are other factors in that document that people seem to have missed:

A pronounced solar minimum in 2008-9 and a series of small volcanic eruptions since 2000 – which eject reflective particles into the atmosphere - have both contributed to a slowing in temperature rise.

Solar minimum? Is there a consensus on the sun affecting earth's climate? The Total Solar Irradiance was lower in 1986 between cycles 21 and 22 than it was in 2009 between cycles 23 and 24.

A series of small volcanic eruptions since 2000 - there were 11 eruptions since 2000 with a VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) of >=4.

There were 9 eruptions between 1986 an 1999 with a VEI >=4.

There were no volcanic eruptions after 2000 with a VEI >4.

There were two in 1991 with a VEI >4, Cerro Hudson (VEI 5) and Pinatubo (VEI 6).

I see little difference between the 13 years leading up to 2000 and the 13 years after 2000 for both TSI and volcanism. It is a rather pathetic basis on which to claim cause.

Jul 22, 2013 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Good that Shukman might finally be doing his job properly. He's only been in it for over a decade!

Jul 22, 2013 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCeed

The comments lower down in Shukman's article are even more sceptical. Under the heading "Bad maths" he considers the possibility that climate scientists have got it wrong and exaggerated the effects of CO2. He adds that many people will take a lot of convincing that global warming is still on.

Jul 22, 2013 at 10:25 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Pause foreseen? not according to a Met office press release 2009.

We can place this apparent lack of warming in the context of natural climate fluctuations other than ENSO using twenty-first century simulations with the HadCM3 climate model (Gordon et al. 2000), which is typical of those used in the recent IPCC report (AR4; Solomon et al. 2007). Ensembles with different modifications to the physical parameters of the model (within known uncertainties) (Collins et al. 2006) are performed for several of the IPCC SRES emissions scenarios

Near-zero and even negative trends are common for intervals of a decade or less in the simulations, due to the model’s internal climate variability. The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the expected present-day warming rate.
The 10 model simulations (a total of 700 years of simulation) possess 17 nonoverlapping decades with trends in ENSO-adjusted global mean temperature within the uncertainty range of the observed 1999–2008 trend (−0.05° to 0.05°C decade–1). Over most of the globe, local surface temperature trends for 1999–2008 are statistically consistent with those in the 17 simulated decades


Smith et al 2007 paper (abstract quoted below)

Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model

1. Doug M. Smith*,
2. Stephen Cusack,
3. Andrew W. Colman,
4. Chris K. Folland,
5. Glen R. Harris and
6. James M. Murphy


Previous climate model projections of climate change accounted for external forcing from natural and anthropogenic sources but did not attempt to predict internally generated natural variability. We present a new modeling system that predicts both internal variability and externally forced changes and hence forecasts surface temperature with substantially improved skill throughout a decade, both globally and in many regions. Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.

Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model

Jul 22, 2013 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterIarmuid

Yes the Smith et al 2007 paper is a nice example. It predicted (yes, not projected) 0.3C warming between 2004 and 2014, and there was a Met Office press release and a Vicky Pope talk saying the same thing. Rephrasing Andrew's comment, they need to admit that they got it wrong and don't really know what is going on if they are to regain credibility as scientists.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:02 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

If the models foresaw the pause, surely the models must be able to tell us where the missing heat is hiding. I mean, if the models really did predict this, and those predictions are based on a genuine understanding of the climate system (as opposed to the models just spewing out random numbers some of which match any eventuality) then why don't the modelers just tell us where the heat is?

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

"As one might expect there's a lot of emphasis on natural variability ....".

If this is now the "consensus" view, it is an admission by the consensus that the magnitudes of man made global warming and natural variability are the same. It does not appear that they know what they are saying.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

The missing heat is to be found in the deep oceans - or so they say.

Actually its a great cop out .

The mass of the Oceans and their heat content dwarfs that of the atmosphere.

Any measurement has a plus and a minus uncertainty.

The uncertainty will dwarf any change in the atmospheres temperature.

But the argument cuts both ways.
You could equally argue that the rise in atmospheric temperatures between 1980 and 2000 was caused by an tiny almost unmeasurable cooling of the deep Oceans.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:39 PM | stewgreen

People misunderstand the conjectured future warming.

I am in southern Spain. As I write (just after midnight) the temperature is probably over 28deg C. The other night when I came back home, at about midnight, it was 30degC. Southern Spain is a little warmer than Marseille, and is at least 10 if not 12degC warmer than southern England. In December, rarely below 15degC and usually several days that month above 22degC. At the beginning of January this year it reached high twenties, may be even 30degC. That said, it was like most of Northern Europe having a very cold spring (I normally go swimming at easter but this year, even early June was rather too cold for me).

If the UK warms, it means that Scotland will become more like the Midlands, the Midlands more like the South, the South more like the Channel Islands and the Channel Islands more like Brittany. In fact, the Uk will not warm dramatically since it is surrounded by oceans and these dampen response. Of course jet stream locations may alter which may at times bring up warm continental air (as is presently being experienced this summer in the UK), or in winter the blocking high may result in Antarctic/Siberian air being brought down over the UK. But subject to those temporary parameters which are weather, the oceans surrounding the UK will be the main influencing driver of UK climate and since they will not warm by 2 degC, the UK will not significantly warm.

The effect for the UK is very much over hyped. No doubt many would like the change to be more drastic so that they will no longer feel motivated to up sticks and retire to a warmer climate. However, it is not going to happen. The UK will very probably only warm slightly and there will probably be a corresponding increase in rain. If it warms, one can probably expect to see more thunderstorms due to the cool and warm air mix which will surround the UK. Thunderstorms appear to be negative feedbacks cooling the local atmosphere.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

"It is becoming increasingly clear that absorption of heat in deep oceans is part of the explanation."


Even if that would be the case, it would not be much different from heat going back to space.

Firstly, if the body of water to be heated is much larger than previously assumed, sensitivity must be much smaller.

Secondly, warming of deep ocean since the little ice age has been of the order of few hundreths of a degree if at all. Entropy cannot be reduced, so that heat will never recombine and heat the sea surface by a higher amount than just that few hundreths of a degree at most.

Jul 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

It is becoming increasingly clear that absorption of heat in deep oceans is part of the explanation.

There is no doubt that the Deep Ocean is increasingly part of the "explanation."
What is doubtful is whether the explanation has any relation to the facts of the matter.

The Deep Ocean: the last refuge of these scoundrels.

Jul 23, 2013 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Rasey


This story has been picked up by Fiona Harvey who has decided to steal the word "realists". [see charts]

How “skeptics” View Global Warming
How Realists View Global Warming

I think we should also reclaim the word "jungle" [which fell out of use c.1970s] being replaced by the "rainforest."

Jul 23, 2013 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterFay Tuncay

There is something fundamentally dishonest going on here. When these earnest scientists compare the models to observations, they say that, well, the models do have pauses too, and they are not completely inconsistent with observations.

But look at the models that they are using in that SMC presentation. There is only one degree of warming in them per 50 years.

These are not the models or the numbers that they are presenting to politicians. When Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a carbon tax, the warming figure she used as justification was 5 degrees C by 2070. She specifically quoted this number, which was produced by models at CSIRO, Australian's leading science organisation. No one at CSIRO demurred when Gillard made the claim.

There is "pea and thimble" trickery, as Steve McIntyre might say, going on here. On one hand the modellers are using one set of models to try to mollify the scientifically literate, and another much more scary and alarmist set of models to drive public policy. Don't fall for it.

Jul 23, 2013 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterBraddles

Fay, somewhat surreal of Ms Harvey to claim the word 'realists' whilst wheeling out the most disgraced piece of imagery in the sordid history of climate science to support her claim.

Piltdown's Mann's shame. You couldn't make it up.

Jul 23, 2013 at 1:43 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

[Apologies -I deleted this in error while trying to remove a duplicate comment. Reposted here. Today's Moderator.]

Any of this lot going down the bookies to bet on whether the new royal baby will be a boy or a girl. Certainly can't trust them to bet on the weather. Jul 22, 2013 at 6:32 PM | ... michael hart

Jul 23, 2013 at 7:50 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Not so long ago anyone who put forward either natural variation or solar activity as possible explanations for observed warming were scoffed at by warmists. In fact, in their eyes, such people were (crackpot) denialists, denying in effect that increased CO2 caused the warming. Now the warmists are putting forward those very possibilities as explanations for the non-warming of late. Rum. Decidedly rum.
Their hole gets bigger by the moment. As increasingly they are reduced to admitting "we don't know what the f*** is going on", and having to bluster through Trenberthian fantasies about heat in the deep ocean, so they can hardly claim 'the science is settled'. With 'the science' so evidently in chaos, how can it be used as a platform for policy? Even limited persons like Mr Ed Davey will eventually get the point.

Jul 23, 2013 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Models can and do simulate periods of slower warming, and even temporary cooling.

Well, that rules out the use of the Precautionary Principle then.

If we expect the warming to be slow or even reverse over timescales that are significant when compared with the upgrading of infrastructure... then there's no need to panic.

Let's just sit back and see what happens. We can afford to wait and find out exactly where the heat is actually going and what the effects of the missing heat really are.

No need for a Cabinet Post for Climate Change yet, either. Let's wait a couple of decades.

Jul 23, 2013 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterM Courtney

Models can and do simulate periods of slower warming, and even temporary cooling.

Well, that rules out the use of the Precautionary Principle then.

If we expect the warming to be slow or even reverse over timescales that are significant when compared with the upgrading of infrastructure... then there's no need to panic.

Let's just sit back and see what happens. We can afford to wait and find out exactly where the heat is actually going and what the effects of the missing heat really are.

No need for a Cabinet Post for Climate Change yet, either. Let's wait a couple of decades.

Jul 23, 2013 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterM Courtney

Wow. Shukman is starting to see sense.

I'm gonna cut him a bit of slack now. He's possibly been thinking heretical thoughts for a while now - just think how hard it is to come out and publish this kind of thing.

Jul 23, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

It is good to see Shukman finally beginning to question the bollocks he has lapped up from the consensus scientists, but I can't cut him much slack; his coverage of the Catlin Expedition was appalling and blatant propaganda for the alarmist cause, and unforgivable.

Jul 23, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

David Shukman, you and your colleagues have done immense damage over the past decade. You have influenced public opinion in the direction of climate alarmism, and this has influenced government policy.

Congratulations on your move to the reporting of facts at last. Assuming that your BBC bosses don't fire you for your audacity, could you maybe propose that your colleagues follow your example?

Jul 23, 2013 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

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