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Global Lukewarming: Another Good Intellectual Year (2012 Edition)

February 4, 2013 in Politics & Elections

By Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger

“While we await global temperatures to start rising again, there
are signs that the overall rise won’t be as fast as we have once
been led to believe…. [A] future characterized by modest rather
than extreme climate change elevates the role of
adaptation relative to mitigation in most
discussions.”

As global temperatures in 2012 further cement a modest warming
rate in response to anthropogenic climate influences, the light
burns ever brighter for the “lukewarmers”—those intrepid
souls who accept that human activities are impacting the character
of the world’s climate, but hold the opinion that, when taken
together, these influences are-and will be-relatively modest.

While lukewarmers’ individual opinions of whether or how to do
“something” about anthropogenic climate change vary, a future
characterized by modest rather than extreme climate change elevates
the role of adaptation relative to mitigation in
most discussions.

A year ago, in this space, I highlighted some positive lukewarmer developments in
2011. These included findings that the observed temperature trends
over (and within) the past 3 decades are lower than climate model
projections and that the climate sensitivity—that is, how
much the average global temperature will rise under conditions of a
doubled atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide—has
likely been overestimated.

Here, I review some significant events from 2012. Many continue
these same themes. I am sure that there are others that did not
make my list. If your favorite is not here, please feel free to
include a brief description of it in the Comments section
below.

Temperatures in 2012

First, let’s have a look at the global average temperature for
2012. I am sure that most readers are already aware that in the
U.S. the annual average temperature was the highest ever recorded (since 1895). But the U.S. makes
up only about 2% of the globe and such small areas, especially
located in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics, are subject to
large regional variations.

Figure 1 shows the pattern of annual average
temperature anomalies across the globe in 2012. Notice that the
contiguous U.S. happens to be in the bulls-eye of higher than
average temperatures. If you spent 2012 in Alaska, you’d probably
be wondering what all the fuss was about, because there the state
experienced its 11th coldest year on record (since
1918).

Fig. 1. The pattern of annual average temperature anomalies for
2012 (figure from the National Climate Data Center, details
available here).

But, rather than regional temperature anomalies, what I want to
look at is the global temperature.

Figure 2 shows the global temperatures as
compiled for the earth’s surface as well as for the lower
atmosphere from 1979-2012. I show just a …read more
Source: OP-EDS  

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