Update - see below - plus there's also an addendum with a map showing all the places which broke new heat records in 2014.
The record heat is causing much confusion at WUWT. Bob Tisdale in the comments invited me to write an article about his latest protest at the record hot 2014 (archived here). Well, not exactly invited, what he suggested was that rooter come here to make his points about Bob Tisdales article - twice - here and here. (Both times he finished in passive-aggressive fashion in the style of Willis Eschenbach, writing through gritted teeth "have a good day" after calling rooter a "troll".
When is an average an average?
So what did rooter write that got Bob so upset that he told him he wasn't welcome at WUWT? Well, he asked about this:
January 17, 2015 at 9:22 am
This is a gem:
“That is not so say that there were elevated sea surface temperatures in specific parts of other ocean basins, but in general, those elevated temperatures in basins outside of the North Pacific had no impact on the record highs.”
Just how is that mathematically possible? What happens when removing areas with temperatures above the global mean? The mean will be unaffected by that?
Tisdale did of course not plot the global mean with those other areas removed. And NE Pacific retained.
We all know why he is reluctant to do that.
Three non-objections to the record hot year
How about I backtrack. In his WUWT article, Bob Tisdale lists three and a bit objections to the NOAA announcement that 2014 is the hottest year on record. In particular, he takes issue with NOAA/NCDC's State of the Climate report of the Global Analysis - Annual 2014.
1. Confidence intervals should have been written higher up the pageConfidence intervals for globally averaged surface temperature are listed too low on the web page for Bob's liking. (Seriously)
Bob also didn't like it that some information, which was made available as supplemental information, was only linked to rather than included on the front page. (Although as you'll see it was part of the much publicised press conference.)
Bob wanted to see, on the front page, the probability factors associated with the ranking of 2014 in various categories (warmest year, one of five warmest years etc). (I think this is confusing to the layperson and I'm not surprised to see it befuddled Bob. See more below.)
2. They should have said it was an El Nino year, even though it wasn'tBob disagrees with NOAA (and NASA and BoM) that 2014 was not an El Nino year, and he thinks that NOAA should agree with him.
3. NOAA shouldn't have mentioned the other record hot areas of ocean, only Bob's north Pacific warm spotBob protested this passage in the NOAA report:
In 2014, the warmth was due to large regions of record warm and much warmer-than-average temperatures in parts of every major ocean basin. Record warmth for the year was particularly notable in the northeastern Pacific Ocean in and around the Gulf of Alaska, much of the western equatorial Pacific, parts of the western North Atlantic and western South Atlantic, and much of the Norwegian and Barents Seas. Nearly the entire Indian Ocean was much warmer than average with a broad swath between Madagascar and Australia record warm. Part of the Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and the Southern Ocean waters off the southern tip of South America were much cooler than average, with one localized area near Antarctica record cold.Bob complained that they only mentioned his favourite bit of warming "in passing". What I gather he really objects to is that they mentioned any other areas where there was record warmth for the year. He wrote:
An unusual weather event in the North Pacific (along with the El Niño conditions) was, in fact, the primary reason for the elevated sea surface temperatures in 2014. That is not so say that there were elevated sea surface temperatures in specific parts of other ocean basins, but in general, those elevated temperatures in basins outside of the North Pacific had no impact on the record highs.
You can read his words for yourself and decide whether or not rooter misrepresented him (see up top). And whether or not I'm misrepresenting him in quoting them as well. Let's do a little exercise and see if record numbers make a difference to an average. First I put in some numbers for five areas, then I averaged them. (Click to enlarge.)
Yep, it does make a difference if more areas are at record highs than if just one area is. One for rooter, zero for Bob. Arithmetic isn't something that deniers are known to excel at so don't think too badly of Bob Tisdale for not understanding how averages are calculated.
To "prove" the other record hot parts of the ocean didn't contribute to the record hot sea surface, Bob decided to plot all the rest of the ocean (minus the north Pacific) against all the areas of the ocean including the north Pacific. What he found was that without the North Pacific, the ocean as a whole would not have been a record hot year. What he didn't do was plot all areas of the ocean including the north Pacific but minus the other parts of the ocean that also had record hot temperatures. In other words, he added the record hot North Pacific to the record hot oceans elsewhere and then declared it was only the north Pacific that made it a record hot year.
Without doing that other exercise (plotting SSTs in all oceans including the north Pacific but excluding the other record hot areas), it is hard to say whether it would have been a record year for sea surface temperatures if the north Pacific hadn't got as hot as it did. However, whether or not the North Pacific added disproportionately to the global average is neither here nor there. What the NOAA reported was all the areas of ocean that recorded sea surface temperatures never before seen in the instrumental era. That's what Bob seems to have objected to the most. In my opinion, it would have been remiss of NOAA to only refer to one area and not the other areas that had record warmth.
I probably should have included this chart from the outset, but I was a bit pushed for time. Anyway, here you can see all the areas where there were records set in 2014, compared to the only bit that Bob Tisdale sees. Click to enlarge.
How likely was it that 2014 was a record hot year?
Which leads me on to the confusion surrounding the likelihood of 2014 being a record hot year. The answer is that it is much more likely that 2014 was a record hot year than that any particular previous year was the record hot year.
From what I gather, the likelihood numbers below are based on a Monte Carlo analysis. Here is how it was presented at the press shindig:
NOAA and NASA use different methodologies. Both indicate that the likelihood of 2014 being the hottest year on record as considerably higher than any other year. However as Bob Tisdale found, the table on the NOAA website raises questions. Here is the table from the supplementary info page:
You can see how Bob got confused. Applying the scale to the "probability of warmest year" indicates that it is "more unlikely than likely" that 2014 was the warmest. However I think that what the scale shows is a comparison of 2014 to any other year, not to a particular other year. In other words, if you look at all the warmest years, it is much more likely that 2014 was the warmest on record than that any other individual specified year was the warmest on record. But if you take all years, then it is almost equally likely that there was another year (any year, not a specific year) that was the warmest on record.
Do you follow? What I think it shows is that 2014 was much, much more likely to be the warmest on record than that the next hottest year, 2010, was the warmest on record. However it's almost a 50/50 chance that *any* year (say from the past ten years or so) that *one* of them (not a specific year) was actually warmer.
I'm happy for a statistician to chip in here, but that's my take on it. It's a shame that NOAA doesn't allow for denier misinterpretations and explain their tables more clearly.
See David Sanger's comment below which makes more sense than my interpretation. David wrote:
The way I see it, using NOAA figures they say there are five primary years that are the highest recorded global temperature (2014, 2010,
12005, 2013 and 1998). It is 90% certain that one of these is the hottest. The chance that is is 2014 is 48%, The chance that it is 2010 is 18%. The chance that it is 2005 is 13%. The chance that it is 2013 is 6% and the chance that it is 1998 is 5%. In other words, of all the years considered in the historical record, it is MOST likely that it was 2014 that has been the hottest so far.
The upshot of all this is that Bob Tisdale is being either mischievous or ignorant when he writes:
Therefore, NOAA has biased the “Global Highlights” of their State of the Climate report by failing to note the likelihood, actually unlikelihood, that 2014 had the highest global surface temperatures on record.Given his confusion with averages, I'm happy to put it down to ignorance on his part.
On greenhouse warming and the oceans
I'll just make one more observation. Bob doesn't understand that the water in the oceans moves around and so does air and moisture in the atmosphere, which is surprising for someone who's constantly writing about Kelvin Waves etc. In other words, different places will get hotter at different times. He wrote:
It’s unrealistic to assume the warming of the surfaces of the North Pacific in 2013 and 2014 were caused by manmade greenhouse gases, when they hadn’t warmed in at least 23 years before then.That's what is known as a strawman. It would take quite a bit of research to determine the extent to which elevated greenhouse gases contributed to a particular event such as the warming of the north Pacific.
In other words, Bob misses the point (or is being deliberately misleading). The point being that averaged globally, sea surfaces have never been hotter in the instrumental record. It's not that any one little part of the ocean got warm, it's that averaged over the whole lot of the oceans, the sea surface has never been hotter. That's because of greenhouse warming. If it were not for greenhouse warming, then one part of the ocean could be warm and another part compensatingly cool (simplistically applying the conservation of energy). This is why Bob likes to focus on only one bit of the ocean at a time. He is a greenhouse effect denier after all.
From the WUWT comments
Most of the comments were about how "it can't be happening" because it's "impossible" to get a globally averaged surface temperature (which is why analyses are based on anomalies). Or that records are adjusted (referring to homogenisation and corrections). That way the deniers can deny. It's a logical fallacy of personal incredulity.
Others write about money, which is a common subject at WUWT. In the comments, Bob takes irrational objection to people who point out the fallacies and errors in his article. He ends up name-calling and telling them they aren't welcome at WUWT.
Just the same, from this article and from other protest articles at WUWT, one can see that deniers are getting a bit anxious that the ice age that WUWT keeps promising isn't to be seen anywhere on the horizon.
Gotta go so no time to add some comments. You can read them here if you've nothing better to do.