Weather is Temporary, Climate Permanent

People confuse weather with climate. Weather, like form, is temporary but climate like quality is permanent, or relatively so. When we say that there is climate change we are not speaking of changes in weather from day to day or even year to year or even decade to decade, but a process which has always happened. Until the industrial revolution that process was gentle and slow and mostly took hundreds of years but since the industrial revolution has moved much more quickly. If you measure this process as a trend over the centuries it can be seen more clearly.

Within every trend there are anomalies. Look at the rise of the price of gold since, say, Gordon Brown sold the United Kingdom’s reserves of gold in May 1999 at $250 an ounce then see that the same commodity now fetches about $1550 an ounce today; the trend has been upwards but within the years of gold steadily rising in price you will see that there have been months when the price fell. So it is with global warming: there are fluctuations from year to year but the trend is upwards.

Measuring this trend became statistically significant this year, after the 2010 figures were added.

Until last year the 15 years of accurate measurements showed that the earth’s surface temperature had a 90% probability that it was rising. The 2010 figures added to the previous 15 years now gives us a 95% probability, and for some reason 95% is the threshold which statisticians accept as significant.

When future years temperature measurements are added the significance will increase and eventually global warming will be proved, in all probability, when it is too late to change it.

There are three major recognised studies about temperature rises, and the 95% threshold has been passed by one of them, led by the UK Met Office and the University of  East Anglia. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2010 data has not yet been released. A fourth study is still in its infancy, at the University of Berkeley in California, which aims to use more data than the other three studies which they hope will iron out any flaws that may exist in present studies.

This Berkeley study has released preliminary information which supports the three major existing studies, but it is only at a preliminary stage and the people at Berkeley have not yet ironed out the flaws, and retain an open mind as to whether their work will agree with the existing scientific findings, that since the industrial revolution the climate has warmed by three quarters of a degree Celsius, which has been enough to change the climate in many places.

The flaws that need to be addressed in existing measures range from the old use of Fahrenheit thermometers to measurements taken at different times of the day, changes in local weather station conditions such as trees growing higher and shielding the station or trees being cut and exposing the station.

In another ten years as the warming trend inevitably continues as more and more people spew greenhouse gases into the air we will I suspect get back into the old “hockey stick graph” debate. There is a possibility not a probability that the pace of temperature rise will increase. Perhaps in ten years time that possibility may be a statistical probability.

So it may be colder than it usually is in June this week or this month, but that is weather, and there have always been weather changes. The climate is not weather and the fast changes in climate are becoming more and more obvious.

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