Continued Bias Reporting On The Climate System By Tom Karl and Peter Thorne

Update: June 30 2011 The complete BAMS paper is available from

Blunden, J., D. S. Arndt, and M. O. Baringer, Eds., 2011: State of the Climate in 2010. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 92 (6), S1-S266.

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Today (6/29/2011), there were news articles concerning the state of the climate system; e.g. see  the Associated Press news release in the Washington Post

Climate change study: More than 300 months since the planets temperature was below average

The news article refers to the 2010 climate summary that will be published in a Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society article. The article will undoubtedly include informative information on the climate. 

However, the news article itself erroneously reports on the actual state of the climate, as can easily be shown simply by extracting current analyses from the web.  Two of the prominent individuals quoted in the news report are Tom Karl and Peter Thorne. They make the following claims

“The indicators show unequivocally that the world continues to warm,” Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said in releasing the annual State of the Climate report for 2010.”

“There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” added Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina State University.”

“Carbon dioxide increased by 2.60 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2010, which is more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010, Karl added. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas accumulating in the air that atmospheric scientists blame for warming the climate.”

Karl is correct on the increase in carbon dioxide, but, otherwise,  he and Peter Thorne are not honestly presenting  the actual state of the climate system.  They focus on the surface temperature data, which as, we have reported on in peer-reviewed papers, has major unresolved uncertainties and includes a systematic warm bias; e.g. see

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

The climate system has not warmed since about 2003 either in the upper ocean or in the lower troposphere as shown in the three figures below.

Tom Karl is wrong in his first quote  – The indicators DO NOT show unequivocally that the world continues to warm. This warming has stalled, at least for now, since about 2003. Peter Thorne is misrepresenting the actual data when he erroneously reports that (assuming he means ‘unequivocal warming’)  “There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans”.

Global Ocean Heat Content 1955-present

Second, the lower troposphere (from both the RSS and UAH MSU data)  also do NOT SHOW unequivocally that the world continues to warm! Indeed, warming has also stalled since about 2002.

Channel TLT Trend Comparison

Figure caption: Global  average (70 south to 82.5 north) lower tropospheric temperatures (from RSS)

Figure caption: Global  average (70 south to 82.5 north) lower tropospheric temperatures (from UAH)

It should not be surprising that Tom Karl and Peter Thorne are not honestly reporting the actual state of the climate system, which involves a much more complex signal in response to human and natural climate forcings and feedbacks, than they report on; e.g. see

Christy, J.R., B. Herman, R. Pielke, Sr., P. Klotzbach, R.T. McNider, J.J. Hnilo, R.W. Spencer, T. Chase and D. Douglass, 2010: What do observational datasets say about modeled tropospheric temperature trends since 1979?  Remote Sensing, 2(9), 2148-2169.

Previous documentation of the biases and efforts to manage the information provided to policymakers by Tom Karl and Peter Thorne includes the following examples

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences“. 88 pp including appendices

The Selective Bias Of NOAA’s National Climate Data Center (NCDC) With Respect To The Analysis And Interpretation Of Multi-Decadal Land Surface Temperature Trends Under The Leadership Of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson

Erroneous Climate Science Statement By Tom Karl, Director Of The National Climate Data Center And President Of The American Meteorological Society

E-mail Documentation Of The Successful Attempt By Thomas Karl Director Of the U.S. National Climate Data Center To Suppress Biases and Uncertainties In the Assessment Of Surface Temperature Trends

Erroneous Statement By Peter A. Stott And Peter W. Thorne In Nature Titled “How Best To Log Local Temperatures?”

It is disappointing that the media do not properly question the claims made by Tom Karl and Peter Thorne. They are presenting a biased report on the actual state of the climate system.

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