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A new paper in a prestigious journal proves a 15-year hiatus in global warming. Why it it being ignored?

26 February 2016

6:32 PM

26 February 2016

6:32 PM

This article, in Nature magazine, ought to have been front page news – and might have been, had it suggested that global warming was worse than we had thought.  Instead, it underlines the sound science behind an inconvenient truth: that there has been a 15-year hiatus in global warming. To those of us who have been following the debate, this is no surprise.

In 2007 I pointed out that it was curious that in recent years the global annual average temperature had not increased at a time when greenhouse gasses were increasing rapidly and when the media was full of claims that the earth’s temperature was getting higher and higher. I proposed no explanation but said that it was a curious observation that would probably change in the near future. I was lambasted for being a denier and liar. Yet in the following years the global temperature did not increase.

Some vocal scientists spent more time saying it was wrong than actually looking at the data. While many in the media portrayed the phenomenon as a desperate weapon used by sceptics to undermine climate science, real scientists took notice and began to study the warming pause. It was not long before it was being discussed at conferences and in scientific journals. Something was clearly different about the nature of global temperature change since 1997 than it had been in the previous two decades. It was not only slower, but not increasing at all for many years. Indeed it was said in the prestigious scientific journal Nature that the “pause” or “hiatus” is the biggest problem in climate science.

The study of the warming hiatus is cutting-edge climate science not the “settled science” of the greenhouse effect and mankind’s input of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It is not complicated. The three main global temperature datasets are freely available to anyone and there are many, not just professional climate scientists, who have the scientific and statistical skills to analyse what is after all not a great deal of data.

It is curious, and somewhat depressing, that the hiatus seemed to become an icon in the “battle” between those scientists who felt the need to defend science against sceptics who they fear are out to destroy it. Most of the media saw it that way and whenever a paper, or just a comment, came out saying the hiatus didn’t exist they were onto it. Environmental journalists seemed obsessed with bashing sceptics instead of reporting the science and, as for the many papers taking the hiatus seriously they seemed to be deliberately looking the other way. In doing so they were missing the biggest story in climate science.

A handful of scientists believe there is no hiatus. Analyse the data this way, they say, and you can argue it’s not there. Others reply that if you look at the data another way, it is obvious.

One problem the media have in reporting science is what I have called the “last paper effect.” How many times have you read or heard that this or that particular piece of research settles the debate or is the last word? The science on say bacon and cancer, on butter, on sugar, or the hiatus is settled by this latest paper. The problem is there is always another paper coming along later.

Last summer the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a paper in the Journal Science that said the hiatus did not exist. They had “refreshed” some of the data and the hiatus had gone away. It was a very interesting paper, full of questions though many did not think it was the final word on the matter. However the media did. For a science story it got blanket coverage. Many who believed in the hiatus were asked if they would now admit they were wrong. The hiatus was over. It never existed. Official.

But as I said, it was inevitable that another paper would come along.

In the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Science eleven distinguished scientists published new findings on surface temperature measurements and ocean heat content analysis. It is titled “making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown.” The carefully constructed very first sentence summarizes the diversity of opinion.

“It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.”

The evidence they present – a straightforward analysis of the global temperature – is not new. It’s been done before in numerous peer-reviewed papers and over many years in climate sceptical blogs.

“In all three observational datasets the most recent 15-year trend (ending in 2014) is lower than both the latest 30-year and 50-year trends. This divergence occurs at a time of rapid increase in greenhouse gasses (GHGs). A warming slowdown is thus clear in observations; it is also clear that it has been a ‘slowdown’ and not a stop.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.33.18

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.25.47

Whether the hiatus is a slowdown, a pause or a stop is debatable. It depends on how you analyse it. But it has clearly not gone away.

One would have thought that this would have been a great story for the world’s news media who were so enthusiastic to bury the hiatus. But no. They are looking the other way again. Almost none of the outlets who trumpeted the end of the hiatus has mentioned this latest research.

The hiatus is good for science. It tells us about natural climate variability of which our knowledge is still very limited. It holds valuable scientific information and in climate science, with it huge political and economic implications, we need all the information we can get. There are over 40 explanations for the warming hiatus proposed by scientists from small volcanoes, ocean movements, effects in the stratosphere, data gathering problems and many more. They can’t all be right they are all a valuable contribution to a scientific mystery. It shows us that the real science is not settled.

And another thing. About those sceptics who are seeking to deny and undermine climate science. It was the sceptics, not the scientists, who discovered the hiatus, this so-called biggest problem in climate science.

Dr David Whitehouse is the Science Editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum and a former BBC Science Correspondent.

Show comments
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  • Jojje 3000

    Journalists do not understand science, they picture it as some sort of democracy which it is not.

  • Larry Super

    No one seems to take into account that the earths orbit is not exactly the same each time it orbits the sun

  • rtj1211

    Studies on global warming are rapidly becoming like Government-funded opinion polls. They give you the answer you want, in other words……

    As Sir Humphrey said, if an opinion polls says something you don’t like, simply commission another one that says the opposite….. tells you how it is done…..

  • r.l.newsom

    This is the equivalent of bringing a snowball indoors in winter and claiming it proves something.

  • Mnestheus

    It’s easy to see why Lord Lawson found room for this parrot after the Beeb chased him out of the coop, but why must Dominic’s successor provide him with an echo chamber?

    We demand fact-based propaganda !

  • Robert Doell

    Science is supposed to be UnBiased not prejudging the end from the beginning. ALL of my Life they have been saying “the glaciers are melting” . Well yes they are. We are in an Earth Warming Period as opposed to the much more frequent Earth Cooling periods when the Earth was nearly a block of ice.
    Another major Scientific mistake is that science assumes a linear or constant warming or cooling period. The evidence does not support a linear relationship but periods of either rapid cooling or warming periods. Scientists fudge the data so often they can not in good conscience if they have a conscience at all any more, rely on such corrupted data sets. Yes we are living in a warmer climate but although I recognize we may contribute to some warming, I do not recognize the legitimacy of C02 to that fact. As the Ice sheets have receded they expose greater and greater areas of the Black Earth and Ocean which Absorbs More and More of the SUN’s Power rather than reflecting that power back into space when Earth was covered with larger Ice Sheets and Glaciers. This is the real cause for an ever faster warming Earth.

  • Arthur Sparknottle

    The important thing about interpreting these graphs is to look very carefully at the vertical scale on them. A quick quick glance shows a fairly steeply rising trend, but when you think about the vertical scale for a moment, you can see that the disastrous rise in temperature amounts to half a degree in fifty years. In fact, it is also pertinent to look at the longer trend. If you go back 160 years, you will be struck by the fact that this global ‘problem’ amounts to no more than 0.8 of one degree centigrade rise in mean global temperature. Less than a single degree C in one and a half centuries.

    I’m quite happy to believe that this may be due to human activity. The question is for me not how can we abandon our fossil fuelled power systems and machines, but has the sum total of human well-being been enhanced by the machine age, with its exhaust gasses and is that advance worth it in terms of the scale of actual problems which can be laid at the door of that temperature rise. I think the answer to that is unequivocal.

  • 5MMs

    Simply, I’ll believe climate change is a problem when those who claim it to be a problem actually behave as though it is a problem.

  • Nicholas Tesdorf

    The Hiatus is ignored by the MSN, Warmists, and IPCC, as it is so devastating to the CO2 theory that they have no other choice. Apart from continuing to corrupt the temperature data, they have no answer to the Hiatus. CO2 is continuing to rise and their theory says that temperature must follow, but it is not. There is no evidence whatsoever that humans caused the past warmings. The models
    of the Warmist scientists are the descendants of Michael Mann’s notorious hybrid hockey
    stick graph.

  • renkentom

    How pompous it is to think we, mere man, can actually affect the God made planet Earth. Of course we should do all we can to maintain a healthy environment for those who will come after us, but to think our actions could trigger wholesale climate change or cause global warming is absurd. If you want to start feeling pretty big about yourself as a human being, just remember how small we really are. The great state of Texas could actually hold every man women, and child in the USA and still have room to drill for that black gold buried beneath the rich soils of the Lone Star State. So all the Al Gores and all the other screamers crying wolf should start looking in the mirror and going to confession for all the lies and innuendos they have spun to the populous. Fellas, some days it is going to be cold and some days it is going to be hot. It is called weather and there is nothing you can do about it.

  • Wildgulo

    It will continue to dribble out in glips and globs. Eventually there will be the full scale retraction of the AGW aspect and it will fall back into..”well…we need to keep an eye on it”. Which is where it should have been all along. Not a vehicle for global policy and taxation. Skepticism is critical to the scientific process. It starts the discussion. The zealots have made this about WINNING…this is why I recoil at the term debate. Debates have winners and losers…as a natural resource scientist for over 30 years I don’t remember “winning” being part of the scientific process…other than winning grants. Science is about discovery and the continued pursuit of discovery. That seems to have been lost in the halls of academia and in current professional climate. I am thrilled every time I hear an honest scientist say “what we currently know to be true” or “what we understand as accurate today”. What is true today may not be true 50-100 years from now as our ability to measure and analyze improves. That has been proven over and over. And my head would explode every time I heard the word consensus. Consensus has absolutely no business in science, it should forever remain the bastion of politicians, referees, salesmen, and prostitutes. Consensus provides a major obstacle to challenging convention through intimidation. It’s group think and group think does not yield good science. That nimrod in NJ or wherever saying people who challenge the current polemic should be jailed. WTH??!! Pull that guy’s scientist card. Long ago we left the dark corridors and backrooms of Copernicus and Galileo conducting work in secret and these AGW people are dragging us back there. There should be ZERO fear in putting out good honest data and we should be HAPPY when we find contradictions or exceptions. That should create excitement not condemnation and accusations. That’s part of the learning process. IMHO they have done incalculable damage to the scientific profession. I don’t know if any of you follow Dr. John Christy’s work. One of a handful climate guys that just does SCIENCE and stays out of the prognostication business.

  • astrojohn

    And they’ve even taken to changing the way sunspots are enumerated to discount the Maunder Minimum theory of global cooling…

  • A.

    Skeptics are important to any society and any science, and yes, there is a distinction between “skeptic” and “denier.” A denier refutes claims despite evidence. A skeptic questions whether the evidence truly says what the general consensus thinks it says. It was the skeptics who proved that Ptolemy was wrong in his analysis of the earth’s revolutions. It was the skeptics who initially proved in the 1970s that the earth was warming, and not cooling, and that there would be no new ice age. Those original skeptics, unfortunately, have become so enamored of current climate change theory that they now seek to destroy new skeptics instead of engaging with them.

    Climate change skeptics don’t deny that the climate is changing OR that man is generally responsible. They do sometimes question the extent of this warming, or the extent of man’s effect on said warning, or the ways in which the climate has not followed many of the IPCC models. Now, the models can be wrong and there can STILL be global warming. The one does not disprove the other. But it is vital, if we are to understand the climate and take APPROPRIATE (not just convenient) steps not just today but in the future to deal with climactic changes, both consensus changes and possible changes that the consensus has not foreseen.

  • talljohn777

    Climate change is all about power and control…

  • Scottar

    Good grief. What the big deal about computers?

    Basic definition: Computer
    Programmable machine that can store, retrieve, and process data.

    Modern definition:

    A machine that can be programmed to manipulate symbols. Computers can perform complex and repetitive procedures quickly, precisely and reliably and can quickly
    store and retrieve large amounts of data.

    If it was intelligent then it would be- artificial intelligent machine.

    If it becomes organic would we call it a synthetic organism?

    • JabbaPapa

      What the big deal about computers?

      It’s just a pretext to attack me.

      Basic definition: Computer
      Programmable machine that can store, retrieve, and process data.


  • toboot

    The prime cause of the end of the ice age was the rise of gas guzzling Chelsea tractors, and also the excessive use of central heating by neanderthal man. All these undeniable facts are the results of scientific surveys, funded by the purveyors of the whirleygigs that deface our countryside.These findings have been further verified by luvvies and celebs, despite their excessive use of those new fangled flying machines, who assure us that whilst we should not use these machines, apparently they have a footprint, it is perfectly justified for them to do so.

  • Squatter

    Actually, it’s closer to 19 years and has just been broken by a massive uptick in the satellite data temp anomaly.

    Otherwise, a good article.

  • FiFi

    Climate Change is a tool used by socialist leaders to weaken strong countries and transfer the wealth along with the industry to 3rd world countries.

    • DennisHorne

      Of course it is. Obvious, isn’t it.

      The Royal Society, US National Academy of Sciences and every scientific society on the planet … all part of the grand conspiracy.

      Or maybe, just maybe, you’re imagining it.

      • FiFi

        It is, actually, when science becomes politics it becomes a moneymaker and a weapon. Who will they wage carbon tax war on next?

        Fortunately, facts are difficult to hide. I especially like the ones where the ocean is rising forcing poor Leonardo to sell his beachside digs, but he is late on the scene and trying to create hype for his movie. I’m afraid Gore was the trendsetter there.
        More fun:

        Here’s a nice link and a sample letter from that site for your enjoyment.

        “Oliver K. Manuel on July 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

        Perhaps my vision continues to be distorted by eternal optimism, but I see encouraging signs that NASA employees, editors of and some politicians are beginning to see the connection between:

        a.) Hiding and manipulating data on the Sun – Earth’s heat source,
        b.) The world-wide fable of CO2-induced global warming,
        c.) Disintegration of the USA space program,
        d.) Disintegrating world’s economy, and
        e.) Loss of our national sovereignty

        Those are not a mere coincidence!

        It is all follows from a 1972 decision by world leaders to use “Global Climate Change” as the common enemy to unite nations, end nationalism, and avoid mutual destruction by nuclear annihilation.

        Many skeptics endorse those noble goals, but not the abuse of scientific information as a propaganda tool that could lead us to a tyrannical world government.

        NASA scientists and the editors of are starting to see the connection [1].

        1. “Dark fireworks on the sun,” by NASA’s own
        Dr. Tony Phiilips [ 12 July 2011]

        With kind regards,
        Oliver K. Manuel
        Former NASA Principal
        Investigator for Apollo”

        Of course there are plenty of articles about: Bill Gates… only Socialism can save us from Global Climate Change! But then… you read them and he sort of admits the numbers are a problem. Lol

        • DennisHorne

          Yep, you’re imagining it.

          Unless the world’s climate scientists and thousands of other informed scientists are abducted and reprogrammed – by aliens I suppose.

          Or is it just a communist plot? Better look under the bed.

  • Arclight101

    Why the obsession with 1997? Well we know why. It was an unusually warm year. So if you cherry pick that as your year zero you can claim a global warming ‘hiatus’. However that’s a bit like picking one rogue peak year on a investment chart and then claiming a stock which has risen 50% has actually been flat.

    The reality is if you look at global temperatures over the 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 70 or 100 year period, there is a pattern on consistent temperature gains. The sole exception is if you pick a period starting in 1997. This article isn’t just voodoo science. It’s old voodoo science.

    • m0b1us

      This is also true in the periods since the LIA when man was not emitting CO2 – e.g ~1910 –
      1940 shows a similar warming rate to what we have experienced in recent history – despite
      the recent efforts by NOAA scientists to detrend that part of the profile. At the moment, I’m
      not convinced that the null hypothesis that warming can be explained by natural variation
      (ENSO, AMO, PMO, TSI etc.) has been falsified.

      Look at what they are measuring – temperature anomalies to a fraction of a degree – do we
      really believe there is sufficient accuracy and precision to be so definitive?

      • DennisHorne

        You’re not convinced?

        The scientists are. Every scientific institution and society in the world accepts the science.

        Science may not be done by consensus but the validity and importance of it is.

        You are just a denier disguised as a sceptic arguing from ignorance.

      • Drewski

        Why not? We can measure the number of vibrations PER SECOND of a Cesium atom, how many CENTIMETERS per year the moon is moving away form the earth, how many millimeters the ocean is rising from space and how large a planet is thousands of lights years away. Man’s instrumentation is becoming pretty sophisticated.

      • JabbaPapa

        I’m not convinced that the null hypothesis that warming can be explained by natural variation (ENSO, AMO, PMO, TSI etc.) has been falsified

        It hasn’t — and so what ?

        when man was not emitting CO2 – e.g ~1910 – 1940


        Did we use to have some magic industrial coal furnaces that emitted no CO2 ?

  • jmac

    As Fyfe himself says – the study shows there was NO slowdown in global warming.

    Global warming – which includes oceans and ice melt latent heat continued to accelerate. There is a measurable energy imbalance at the top of atmosphere. That means the globe is warming.

    Just for starters. That paper was for only a 14 year period that did not include the total energy retained by the planet, such as in the oceans? No? And it did not include 2015. No?

    World’s oceans warming at increasingly faster rate.

    More than 90% of the heat energy accumulation in the climate system between 1971 and the present has been in the ocean. Thus, the ocean plays a crucial role in determining the climate of the planet. (and the amount of energy retained by the planet)

    • Terry Field

      Yes, the idiots seem not to understand the capacity of oceans to absorb heat.

    • m0b1us

      I don’t think the Ocean data prior to the proliferation of ARGO buoys is sufficient to say
      much at all about OHC. ARGO buoys essentially show no warming until ‘adjusted’. In common
      with a lot of skeptics, I don’t think there is enough raw data or understanding of the planetary
      climate system to be so definitive as a lot of climate scientists are. The ‘97%’ thing has been
      rebutted time and time again but is still prevalent – not that it is even relevant as science is
      not a consensus subject.

      The only thing I agree with is your statement that the Oceans play a crucial role in
      determining the climate of the planet. 71% of the planet is covered by water – which is
      not heated by LWIR.

      • jmac

        #facepalm I shall alert the scientists of what you think. 🙂

        • m0b1us

          Any superficial investigation from yourself and applying some critical
          thinking is all that’s required.

          • jmac


            There are multiple lines of evidence of man made climate change. You can start learning here.

            • m0b1us

              You can facepalm all you like mate, it doesn’t make the data these
              conclusions are based on any less shonky or prove that any
              warming signal is significantly anthropogenic in nature.

              • jmac

                Conspiracy nuts like you have it easy. They can say whatever they want without having to back it up with silly things like “scientific evidence” or “facts”.

  • bengeo
    • Terry Field


  • bengeo


    • Terry Field

      Duncombe? Maybe?

  • DennisHorne

    It was the sceptics, not the scientists, who discovered the hiatus

    Of course it was, just as it’s the practitioners of acupuncture, chiropractic and homoeopathy who discovered real medicine…

    Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere increases the energy retained by Earth. It takes an awful lot of energy to increase the temperature of a very large mass and it’s very hard to measure it.

    The Global Warming Policy Forum versus the Royal Society and every scientific society on the planet.


  • Davedeparis

    “Global warmingism” is simply Marxism by other means. Like Marxism it claims the status of science but bucks against its discipline.

  • Pater Tenebrarum

    Not over 40 – as of November 2014 there were already 66 different explanations for the “pause” – which at that time had lasted between 18 and 20 years, depending on “how one looks at the data”.

  • Dean Jackson

    The Nature article says, “It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations.”

    A slowdown (or even hiatus) is expected when more Carbon Dioxide, a cooling molecule in the atmosphere, is thrown onto the atmosphere thereby compensating for the massive amounts of soot thrown into the atmosphere by China, soot contributing to warming by (1) absorbing sunlight in the atmosphere; and (2) melting ice, thereby lessening the amount of sunlight ice/snow reflects back into space. Carbon Dioxide slows or cancels the warming affects of soot.

    See my article on this subject for more…

    • LG

      “See my article on this subject for more”


      • Dean Jackson


        What advantage do you think you gain by advertising a low IQ reply?

        • DennisHorne

          “Carbon Dioxide, a cooling molecule in the atmosphere …”

          You are joking, aren’t you?

          • m0b1us

            I’ve seen convincing arguments from experts in radiative physics,
            material scientists and IR astronomers making this claim – just not from
            climate scientists. The Earth is a radiatively cooled planet, 71% of it’s surface
            is effectively opaque to LWIR (the stuff radiated by GHG and clouds) but
            absorbs SW.

            The maths and physics of this are way beyond me but a little digging shows
            the science isn’t so settled after all.

            • DennisHorne

              Earth is a radiatively cooled planet

              How much cooler would it be without greenhouse gases?

              Would it be warmer without CO2?

            • LG

              No doubt you’ll be able to provide a link to the published work of these experts?

  • Democracy1st

    The Nature article simply states a slowdown in the rate of temperature increase. Not a pause, not a stop.

    Meanwhile our CO2 emissions continue to acidify the oceans, with the Great Barrier Reef dissolving before our eyes.
    I went to COP21 and my inside-COP 21 professionally produced documentary looks at the pros & cons of COP 21’s achievements. It ends with a proven mobilization strategy:

    • CheshireRed

      OA is as big a lie as we’ve ever been fed. Strangely, it’s inception coincided with the Pause in surface temps. Amazing! File alongside ‘extreme’ weather as a deliberate diversion away from failing temp / model predictions.

  • Cav

    There is a lot of money in going green.

  • Terry Field

    Yes, global surface temperature is covered in the article, but reference to ocean heating and energy absorbtion is not surface temperature;only a fool cannot differentiate between the two.

  • Bill
  • Ingmar Blessing

    I’m sure the hiatus will end this year again .. oh no, wait, It’s snowing right now – in on of the warmest places in Germany..

    • sidor

      An academic question: are you discussing weather or climate?

      • Ingmar Blessing

        I tried to ironically point to the fact that the very most of the media coverage about climate changes is not much worth. When connecting weather phenomenons like hurricanes and el Nino to the allegedly human altered climate it makes as much sense to point out an unusual weather condition outside a random persons window. Therefore it is no wonder when there is no reporting on disputable things that might not fit into the preferred general narrative.

        And since it is Sunday, I left as many gaps as possible to the imagination;-)

        • sidor

          And I ironically questioned your weather report. Just to keep the discussion.

          However, the discussions of scientific issues in media appealing to the general public aren’t funny: it is a dangerous demagoguery that must be criminally prosecuted. Any journalist attempting to address an issue beyond his/her comprehension should be tried for deliberate lying.

          • JabbaPapa

            oh shut up