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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Too much heat: Anthony Watts is becoming a greenhouse effect denier

Sou | 7:27 PM Go to the first of 6 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts is protesting the record heat so much his brain must be hurting. He's been stuffing his blog with protests. I can't tell if it's because he's got nothing else to fill up his daily quota, or if it's that he's really disturbed by the record heat. In a very mixed up article (archived here), Anthony once again protests. He keeps mixing up USA surface temperatures with global. I wonder does he know the difference? He is also starting to show strong signs of denying the greenhouse effect, which up till recently he vowed he "believed" in.

Yesterday he posted another dumb article (archived here) protesting the record hot year, using a tweet from Andy Revkin about an article by Seth Borenstein as his excuse. He didn't post a link to either the tweet or the article. All he did was post an image of the tweet. So it's a fair bet that he didn't want his readers to read it.

Today he's made up two lies in his headline:

NOAA declares current El Niño stronger than 1997-98 event, then says record warm temperatures have little to do with it
First of all, NOAA didn't declare that the current El Nino was stronger than the 1997-98 event. Secondly, it didn't say that record warm temperatures had little to do with the El Nino (which I think was Anthony's meaning). On the contrary, the article he was referring to said that El Nino did contribute to the record warmth in the USA this winter.

Another ridiculously hot winter in the USA

This winter was the hottest in the US record, as NOAA reported, it was hotter than the previous hottest winter, which was in 1999/2000 (not an El Nino year, incidentally):
The December-February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 36.8°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 36.5°F set in 1999/2000. The record warm December boosted the contiguous U.S. winter temperature.
Anthony Watts doesn't like that. He's in denial. He complained about the following mild, factual statement, which he got from a news article at
Was El Niño solely responsible for the record warm winter for the contiguous United States? No, but for some areas, like the northern U.S., the El Niño likely played a role. We know that other factors including climate patterns in the north Atlantic, Pacific, and tropics also influenced our weather during winter. Longer-term climate change was also a player, similar to Alice, the Brady family’s housekeeper—an ever-present force influencing outcomes to varying degrees.
That short paragraph lists the following influences on North American winter weather:
  • El Niño
  • Climate patterns in the North Atlantic, Pacific and tropics
  • Longer term climate change.
Anthony thinks that statement is "ridiculous". He wants to blame all the record heat this winter onto the weather in the tropical Pacific. He's having none of climate patterns in the North Atlantic, the rest of the Pacific and other parts of the tropics. Anthony's pushing the Bob Tisdale meme that it's El Ninos, not greenhouse gases, that are heating up the USA and the planet. Anthony is turning into a greenhouse effect denier.

Atypical warming this winter

Anthony wrote, presumable with a straight face:
They say that with a straight face, while at the same time pushing this graph showing about 90% of the CONUS above normal:
I don't know if the heat is messing with Anthony's brain or if his brain never functioned as a brain should. Here's the chart that Anthony said was "pushed". It shows the temperature anomalies in this past winter:

Source: NOAA

Here's the chart that was shown as the contrast in the news article, which Anthony didn't mention except in his copy and paste. It shows the average winter pattern in previous strong El Nino years:

Source: NOAA

The above pattern is described in a 1998 report as typical of El Nino (Anthony referenced the report, but not this segment) . In the section on December 1997 highlights, the authors wrote:
December’s weather pattern featured a typical El-Nino configuration. A northern branch jet stream confined cold air to central Canada, and a strong southern branch of the jet stream brought cool wet weather across portions of the deep south.

The recent news article that Anthony seems to think is "ridiculous" compared this past winter with winters from previous strong El Ninos. I've put together a couple of charts to show the differences.

This first chart is an average of the winter months for the strong El Nino years from the 1950s:

Data source: NOAA

You can see the increasing warmth over time. Even though the years shown were all strong El Nino years, there is an underlying warming trend from the increase in greenhouse gases.

In this second chart, I've shown the winter months separately:

Data source: NOAA

The biggest difference in this latest winter was December 2015. January 1998 was hotter than January 2016, but December 2015 and February 2016 were both hotter than their counterparts in the 1997-98 El Nino season. The months in other El Nino years are all over the place, and most were much cooler than the three months of this past winter.

The USA is not global

Anthony once again put up the chart from Ryan Maue's tweet that he claims "proves" all the warming was from the El Nino. I've already said a few things about that, and so has Tamino. I can now add to the list:

  • Global temperature trends say little to nothing about the 1.5% of the planet that is the contiguous USA land surface.
  • Ryan Maue's chart doesn't show any zone except for the tropics. The high latitudes are warming more than the tropics.

Another point worth noting is that the data plotted is from a reanalysis product, the NCEP Climate Forecast System. The product combines recent observations and models and is used for short to medium term forecasting. It's not the most suitable product for historical assessment of long term trends.

Anthony Watts is blinded by delusion

Anthony wrote:
It seems blindingly obvious to me (and to Dr. Ryan Maue) that ENSO is the main driver of these warmer and record temperature, but NOAA would never show the public a graph like this that clearly demonstrates global temperature tracks the tropical temperature increase from the 2015-2016 ENSO event very, very, well:
That's the problem with being blinded by what you want to see. Anthony is blind to the following facts:
  1. the Arctic has been warming up very quickly
  2. Ryan Maue's chart is comparing the tropics to the globe and doesn't show USA only
  3. Ryan Maue's chart only shows one zone, not temperature changes in other latitudes
  4. global warming is happening because of human activity
  5. in the NOAA article, Jake Crouch said that the following question has yet to be answered: "How much of the record warm winter was due to the El Niño, and how much was due to other climate patterns, including climate change?"
Regarding the last point, Anthony Watts is trying to convince his readers that a record hot winter, something that by definition hasn't ever happened since records began, isn't "unusual" and that it is solely because of El Nino. Anthony has not done an attribution study. He wouldn't know what it is, let alone how to do one. He ignores the fact that Jake Crouch did say that the record heat was in part influenced by El Nino. He ignores the fact that the weather pattern over the USA was different this winter to the average for El Nino years. 

Wrong unprecedented

You can see how Anthony's brain has stopped working if you try to follow his cherry-picks and logical fallacies. What Anthony seems to be trying to argue is that because El Nino years are often associated with new heat records, that means that global warming is caused by El Nino's not greenhouse gases. Of course that doesn't make sense. There is no physical mechanism to explain how El Ninos can cause long term warming. Within a fairly short time, the extra heat released from the oceans would be radiated to space if greenhouse gases were held constant. There is a physical mechanism to explain how adding greenhouse gases will cause long term warming.  

Anthony pulled up some quotes from a report of the 1997/98 winter in the USA, which at the time was the second hottest winter on record. He also quoted from a press release about the NOAA global analysis for 1998:
"The persistent 1997-1998 El Niño, which lingered into the first half of the year, and the unprecedented warmth of the Indian Ocean contributed to this record warm year,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. D. James Baker
Anthony got his unprecedenteds wrong, and wrote:
So while no two El Niños are the same, this one in 1998 had quite an effect on global temperatures, calling them “unprecedented”. 
No Anthony. What was said to be unprecedented was the warmth in the Indian Ocean. The El Nino was in the Pacific Ocean.

Long term trends

Anthony is so biased. If a news item does mention AGW then it's wrong, if it doesn't it's terrific. He praised the press release from January 1999 saying:
In fact, in the press release about 1998, they make no attribution to “climate change” at all. The phrase “Longer-term climate change”, “climate change”, or even any close variation does not appear in the 1999 press release document.
He must have missed the very first sentence and paragraph of the press release:
Global temperatures in 1998 were the warmest in the past 119 years, since reliable instrument records began, since reliable instrument records began, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today. The previous record high surface temperature was set last 1997. The global mean temperature in 1998 was 1.20 °F (0.66°C) above the long-term average value of 56.9°F (13.8°C). This was the 20th consecutive year with an annual global mean surface temperature exceeding the long-term average.
In fact, the word "long-term" appeared not once, not twice, but five times in the press release. And the first paragraph of the report that the press release was about also put the then hottest year on record in the context of long term warming:
The above time series shows the combined global land and ocean temperature anomalies from 1880 to 1998 with respect to an 1880-1997 base period. The largest anomaly occurred in 1998, making it the warmest year since widespread instrument records began in the late Nineteenth Century. The second warmest year was 1997, and seven of the ten warmest years have occurred in the 1990s.

The strongest El Nino?

Another oddity is that Anthony Watts is claiming that this current El Nino is the strongest. I don't know of anyone else arguing that. It's among the strongest since 1950, but I've not seen any formal overall rankings from scientists. (Feel free to let me know if any research organisation or scientist has formally ranked El Nino's including this current one. I can't imagine it, because it hasn't yet run its full course.) At WUWT Bob Tisdale has written numerous articles arguing that it wasn't the strongest. Yet Anthony Watts wrote:
It seems odd that they’d place the slightly smaller 1998 El Niño event as the cause of record breaking temperatures, but then try to dilute it when an even bigger event comes along in 2015.

Greenhouse warming is personal

Anthony Watts is taking the US weather personally. Whether that's because what's happening is in stark contrast to his view of the world, or whether he sees the writing on the wall that spells doom and gloom for his climate conspiracy blog, I'm not in a position to say. Probably a bit of both. He's clearly sinking into a deluded state of denial and wants to drag down as many of the deluded with him as he can.

From the WUWT comments

The dim deniers at WUWT include those who follow Anthony Watts' false allegations of fraud, those who, like Anthony Watts, deny the greenhouse effect, and those who think we are about to enter an ice age - despite the fact that there hasn't been a "coldest year on record" since the early twentieth century. The mods are asleep, because a few comments querying Anthony's article slipped through the WUWT net:

Tom Halla might or might not have understood a word that was written but had this to say:
March 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm
Good post!

Robert doesn't understand what the "37%" related to - and he got "this agency" and the percentage wrong. NOAA was apportioning probabilities (out of 100%) over the then hottest years and showed that it was most likely that 2014 was the hottest. It was not saying that there was only 37% chance that 2014 was the hottest year.
March 18, 2016 at 1:18 pm
I do not believe and will not believe anything this agency make up anymore ,they have shown too many times to be very loose with the truth .
Wasn’t it 2014 warmest evvvva with 37 percent confidence level what a joke .

Out of 100%, NOAA estimated that 2014 was most probably the hottest year on record to that date. It was 48% in favour of 2014 as the hottest, only 18% in favour of the next hottest 2010, and only 13% in favour of 2005 being the hottest (see here).

Many of the comments were of this calibre and type, from Resourceguy, who wrote:
March 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm
Graduates of the Kool Aid policy boot camp, along with EPA

Wagen picked up on Anthony's newfound greenhouse effect denial and wrote:
March 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm
So, are you going the bob tisdale argument? Yes, we get warmer, but has nothing to with CO2, it’ only El Ninos? Really?

There was more than one person who pointed out that the NOAA attributed warming to both El Nino and the long term trend. For example, matthewrmarler wrote:
March 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm
Without the warming since the end of WWII, would the 1997-1998 and 2015-2016 El Ninos have pushed the temperatures above the ca. 1944 local maximum? From the graphs, the NOAA summary that BOTH the global warming AND the 2015-2016 El Nino produced the recent (local?) maximum is quite reasonable.

Windchaser did the same:
March 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Global warming provides the underlying trend that’s boosting temperatures. But El Nino / La Nina is the biggest source of year-to-year variability in temperature.
Most record hot years are El Nino years for that reason. But they keep getting hotter and hotter, because of global warming. Overall, a pretty simple concept.
So what NOAA said is true: El Nino is not solely responsible for the record warming. But it played a role. 

I don't know if 601nan is referring to Anthony's article, or if he or she is in denial. The capitalisation suggests the latter:
March 18, 2016 at 5:42 pm
Bull Shit is one thing.
But this is even worst than Bull Shit!

Chad Jessup has a foolish incomprehensible thought:
March 18, 2016 at 6:03 pm
The CAGW proponents are proud of their CO2/temperature statistical correlations; however, when Mother Nature jumps into the picture, their agenda certainly prevails causing the math to fly out the window.

Pamela Gray has rocks in her head and thinks an ice age is comething.
March 18, 2016 at 6:21 pm
At the height of net discharge, we would continue to see El Nino’s predominate. However, net discharge is a sign of oceanic depletion. While normal, it is not a good thing for continued prosperity. Eventually the oceans will discharge to the point that there is no more to give, skies will clear, winds pick up, and we get very very cold. 

References and further reading

Beyond record hot, February was 'astronomical' and 'strange' - article by Seth Borenstein for Associated Press.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia - article by Jake Crouch at NOAA

National Overview - February 2016 - NOAA, March 2016

1998 Warmest Year on Record, NOAA Announces - NOAA press release 11 January 1999

Global Analysis - Annual 1998 - NOAA, January 1999

Tom Ross, Neal Lott, Sam McCown, Duncan Quinn (2008) "The El Nino Winter of '97-'98". National Climatic Data Center Technical Report No. 98-02 (pdf here)

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. It is comforting to see that some of them are still fondly clinging to their ice age. You know where you are when there's a imaginary ice age thrown in.

    1. A couple of years ago Pamela Gray used to pretend to be semi-literate in science. Then she disappeared for a while and has come back a full blown ice age comether. Could be someone else is posting as Pamela Gray I suppose. Who'd know?

    2. I suppose the rational of the "ice age cometh" story is it leads nicely to the "AGW is necessary to counter it"

      so why all the fuss!!!

  2. At a certain point Sou may want to shift focus and highlight any quotes from WUWT commenters that aren't batshit crazy. It would certainly save her time.

    I don't look at it that often, but I had the impression that comments at Curry's blog are where WUWT may have been several years ago in terms of the proportionate number of 'skeptics' to cranks to raving loonies.

  3. Anthony Watts wrote: "It seems blindingly obvious to me (and to Dr. Ryan Maue) that ENSO is the main driver of these warmer and record temperature, but NOAA would never show the public a graph like this ..."

    Either he follows in Tim Balls footsteps and sees science as a conspiracy or he admits here that unlike WUWT NOAA prefers not to show the graph of Ryan Maue because it is misleading.

    What Anthony seems to be trying to argue is that because El Nino years are often associated with new heat records, that means that global warming is caused by El Nino's not greenhouse gases.

    Heat records in the absolute temperature are associated with summer weather. Does that mean that global warming is caused by the seasons?


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