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Northern hemisphere has another hot, hot summer

The 2012 northern hemisphere summer, like its two predecessors, has seen a wide range of climate extremes, many involving heat. In most recent summers there has been at least one part of the world with…

Over summer, the US has been dry and hot. It’s not alone. EPA/Larry W Smith

The 2012 northern hemisphere summer, like its two predecessors, has seen a wide range of climate extremes, many involving heat. In most recent summers there has been at least one part of the world with an “off the scale” heatwave, far beyond previous records: it was 2003 in central Europe and 2010 in Russia, while Australia had a sequence of extreme heatwaves in 2009.

In 2012, the United States has been a particular focus. But many other areas have also felt the impact of an abnormally hot summer. More than three-quarters of land areas north of the Tropic of Cancer had average summer temperatures at least 1°C above normal. Temperatures 2 to 4°C above normal were widespread through large parts of North America, and in a band stretching from the Balkans through southern European Russia into western and central Siberia.

Heat and drought have been a regular theme in the United States in recent months. The intense but relatively localised drought which affected Texas and northern Mexico in 2011 spread to cover large parts of the continental US in 2012. Only the west and east coasts remained largely unaffected. Moderate to exceptional drought now covers 63% of the continental US; the only other droughts of comparable or greater extent in the last 100 years were in the mid-1950s and the “Dust Bowl” years of the 1930s.

The only recent drought comparable to that afflicting the US now was in the ‘Dust Bowl’ 1930s. NOAA George E Marsh Album

The most intense drought is in the heart of America’s main wheat-growing areas, including most of Nebraska, Kansas and parts of Oklahoma and Missouri. Rains from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac in late August improved the situation somewhat in Arkansas and Missouri, but were more than offset by deteriorating conditions further north.

The effects of the drought and heat on agriculture have been substantial. The final impacts on crop yields will not be known until harvest, but it is already clear that losses will be many billions of dollars.

American temperatures have also been well above average since early 2012. Nationally averaged temperatures for 2012, to date, are running over 2°C above normal and more than half a degree ahead of previous records. This is a margin so large that even normal conditions for the rest of the year will be enough to give the US its hottest year on record. July 2012 was the US’s hottest month on record. A moderation in temperatures during August dropped the summer’s national ranking to third, but it remained the hottest summer on record for some inland areas, including Colorado and Wyoming.

Southern Europe, and most of the western half of Europe, also had a hot and rather dry summer. Russian temperatures, while not as extreme as those of the summer 2010, were still well above normal. Crop yields suffered despite intermittent rain. The summer ranked amongst the three hottest on record in many parts of southern Europe.

Prague beat its high-temperature record by nearly two degrees. Jane Rawson

The most significant heatwave took place in the third week of August, including national record high temperatures for the Czech Republic, Moldova and Montenegro. In Prague it reached 39.6°C, nearly two degrees above the previous record in more than 200 years of observations. In contrast, the northwestern fringe of Europe had a wet summer with near-normal temperatures. The United Kingdom had their second-wettest summer on record, abruptly marking an end to drought conditions which had affected central and southern England over the preceding year, and worrying Olympics organisers.

Another indicator of warm northern hemisphere conditions has been a new record low in Arctic sea ice extent. This dropped below the previous record low of 4.17 million square kilometres, set in 2007, in late August. It has now fallen well below 4 million square kilometres. There has also been extensive surface melting on the Greenland ice sheet, and on the higher peaks of the Alps in Europe, where some peaks are snow-free for the first time on record.

In the tropics and subtropics, the Indian monsoon season, which normally runs from June to early October, was late in getting under way. Rainfall up until the end of July was well below normal, especially in the western half of India. Conditions have improved since early August and rainfall for the season to date is now only 9% below normal.

India’s monsoon arrived late this year. Rajesh Pamnani

In contrast, the often drought-plagued Sahel region of Africa, on the southern fringe of the Sahara, has had generally above-normal rainfall. It is on track to have its most productive wet season, rainfall-wise, since the 1970s.

Global tropical cyclone activity has returned to more normal levels in 2012 after two below-average years in 2010 and 2011. The focus of activities has been the western North Pacific. No typhoon has yet reached the highest category of intensity in terms of winds, but several have been responsible for major flooding. The northern Philippines were especially hard hit in early August, when Manila received 852 millimetres of rain in three days. North Korea has also been badly affected.

Global temperatures for 2012 continue to be much warmer than the long-term average, though 2011’s La Niña had a cooling effect early in the year which makes it unlikely 2012 will approach 2010’s record high. This year is currently running 0.41°C above the 1961-1990 average and is on course to rank somewhere between 6th and 10th warmest year on record. However, with the Pacific currently approaching El Niño conditions, the potential for 2013 to approach or even set a new record high global temperature is high.

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69 Comments sorted by

  1. Comment removed by moderator.

  2. Grendelus Malleolus

    Senior Nerd

    The wealth of the United States provides a capacity to recover from significant events such as prolonged drought or natural disaster. I do not believe however that their economy can sustain repeated events. It must be substantiall harder for developing countries to recover from extremes of weather that possibly result from climate change.

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    1. Michael Brown

      Professional, academic, company director

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      Given the lack of melting in the Himalayas and the Antarctic, tropical storm activity at 30 year lows and the rate of sea level rise slowing, it would seem that "possibly' is quite strong enough.

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    2. Leslie Graham

      none

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "Four lies in a single sentence"

      Quite.
      I used to find these tired old lists of denier-blog nonsense wearismome but nowadays they are simply insulting to the intelligence.
      Do they genuinely believe we are too stupid to check the facts for ourselves or what?

      The "sea levels are falling" (plus all the variations thereof) meme is particularly ridiculous given that the latest satellite technology can nail sea level to within a millimetre every day and the results are available for free online 24/7 to anyway who isn't too lazy to check them.

      Interestingly enough the latest measurements show sea level at a new record high (surprise surprise) now that the 2010/2011 record floods of Australia and South America have drained back into the oceans.
      See for yourself here:

      As you can see it's right up there with "It's the sun!" and "The climate's changed before".
      How long before we get "Climategate proves the sea ice is recovering"?

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    3. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      I agree that 'probably' is more accurate given the collective data and the congregation of "hottest year" records in the last decade or so. Not being a climate scientist however I add an extra level of "qualifier" to my comments.

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    4. Ken Winter

      Consultant

      In reply to Michael Brown

      "Given the lack of melting in the Himalayas and the Antarctic,"

      Absolutely brilliant Michael!!

      Maybe you should look at the Arctic??

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    5. Lennert Veerman
      Lennert Veerman is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Senior Research Fellow, School of Population Health at University of Queensland

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      I sometimes wish I had more of your cautious approach, but in the case of climate change I think the overall picture is now so clear that too many hedging words are only obscuring the basic underlying truth that global warming and climate change are really happening and that there is no realistic prospect of that genie going back into its box.

      We've done it. Now we'll have to deal with the consequences.

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    6. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Ken Winter

      Under the "Cook Criteria" cherry picking tick tick

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    7. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Michael Brown

      You probably are correct Michael Brown. During our current Holocene situation, the surplus of positive energy transferred from landmasses in NH will advect in a northerly direction, largely escaping to space during the summer and partly exported to SH via the monsoon systems. The corresponding process in the SH with a production of negative energy will occur from a larger area and will over time scales of more than annual cause the eccentricity of positive energy in the NH to be nullified.

      This…

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    8. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      Mr Veerman

      I deny that humans have a large impact on the earth's climate. I imagine you will call me a ' denier'.

      But, did you know there is another type of denier, as recently described by John Cook, (Climate Communication Fellow (Climate Communication Fellow at University of Queensland) in his recent article, 'How do people reject climate science' on The Conversation. He said, "Then there's implicitary denial where people's behaviour does not align with their beliefs."

      An "Implicit Denier" is someone who believes that humans affect the earth's climate and that we should reduce the burning of fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases. Then, they choose to burn JetA1 fuel on an overseas trip.

      I might be a 'denier', but are you an 'implicit denier'?

      Over to you Mr Veerman

      Gerard Dean

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    9. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Leslie Graham

      Mr Hansen

      You might want to check out my comment above about the new species, the 'Implicit Denier"

      Makes for thought provoking reading.

      Must away to work now.

      Gerard Dean

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    10. Lennert Veerman
      Lennert Veerman is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Senior Research Fellow, School of Population Health at University of Queensland

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Ad hominem, Mr Dean. Yes, although less than I could and would like to, I fly to get to places. Almost all of it work-related and never for holidays only. Especially in a country like Australia and a profession like mine, it's hard to avoid flying altogether. If that makes me a hypocrit, so be it.

      There, I am down to your level. Feel better? The facts around global warming remain the same. Let's at least agree on those. Then we can work out what we collectively might have to give up to reduce our fossil fuel use.

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    11. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Hans Jelbring "wind controlled climate" 1998

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    12. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      Really shallow answer Lennert. Extrapolating the coloured areas you will discover that global sea surface temperature anomalies warmed (+0.037 deg C) as one would expect in response to the naturally developing El Niño. The hemispheres responded differently. The Northern Hemisphere warmed since July, while the Southern Hemisphere was basically unchanged. The South Pacific and the South Atlantic were the two ocean basins that cooled in August.

      Now back to logic if you will. What has the natural warming of the NH oceans and landmasses got to do with AGW, when the natural cooling or natural stability of T in all other ocean basins has not?

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    13. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Gawd, I wish there was some intelligence in there that I could respond to. Or is it all just Ra Ra Ra for you Mike Hansen.

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    14. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      Lennert, (and Blair)

      Some of the "facts" also include that against all of the model's predictions, the earth has not warmed significantly for 17 years (since 1995) asccording to CRU, GISS and NASA.

      The crowning evidence some years ago that carbon dioxide caused warming was the false "Hockey stick" thing of Michael Manne, but also the accepted every real increase in global temperatures from 1979 till 1995 - actually 16 years - which did correlate closely with increases in atmospheric carbon…

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    15. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to John Nicol

      More John Nicol statements that run in the face of the facts. His selective wording and obfuscation shows mendacious intent to distort the discussion of science.

      At first I though John was in denial, but it is quite clear his efforts at misinformation are far too erudite to be anything other than deliberate.
      Proof that the IPCC predictions are on track with actual observations: http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics/FAR_Projection_1024.jpg
      I won't address the rest of his points as these points have already been discussed recently and shown John to be wrong.

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    16. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Nicol

      John, I could be wrong but I suspect you are making things up. Little of what you say matches reality.

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    17. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Mostly I think he's just ignoring things that don't fit. Sometimes the funniest thing about these deniers is the inconsistencies. Often we hear that the warming is "natural variability" but they will ignore natural variability in their own analyses along with other known forcings. Scientists know about the most important ones, and when we take these into account the signal gets stronger - http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044022 but then they'd have to admit that scientists know about these natural variations, and we can't have scientists knowing things that we should be ignoring.

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    18. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Hello Hello Hello, that sentinel of maturity and deep thought Mathew Albrecht has entered the fray. Nothing like watching a spinner make holes in the dust. Give it ya best shot spinner as you fuzzily wind up upon your tail.....

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    19. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Care to explain this then? "Co2 forcing didn't sit well with conservation so Arrhenius came up with GHG back radiation."
      And your related comment whereby (I hope sarcastically) you indicated that a photon knew where it was going "By its length."

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    20. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      I have yet to hear a denialist come up with an original argument or excuse that has not been accounted for by climate modellers. Denialists are just that, no amount of evidence will sway them. They are not skeptical, they are not really honest and they are certainly not objective.

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    21. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Let me explain it this way so the punters can relate to it. Thus far, the science of atmosphere has rested on the paradigm of Greenhouse.

      It is a misinterpretation of the observations of the french scientist Baron Fourier by Arrhenius in 1896. It is that misconception, of previous known physical laws , that has polluted our perceptions of the earths atmosphere into the modern ages.

      To shift that invalid principal one has to offer a different perception born of observations and proved in the…

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    22. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      You haven't said why back radiation is invalid. Back radiation is only invalid if photons can both "know" where they're going and can "choose" which way to go. You have not demonstrated either.
      You write in an interesting style, but there is a lack of substance to what you write.

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    23. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Not sure why but every time I see the word "paradigm" used, particularly more than once during an incontinent rant, my BS meter craps out…

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    24. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Mathew, it is not just that photons do not decide where they are going they also cannot know that their length will not be absorbed into matter that is saturated with photon quota of equal spectrum.

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    25. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Is there a "cut-and-paste" fallacy. There ought to be...

      Markus has posted the exact same comment in so many places - genuinely I feel he has nothing new to add. This is trolling at its most trollish, using cut an paste points over months!

      For evidence see his identical comments at:

      http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3809362.html

      and here:

      http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/tips_for_tuesday_january_31

      and again here:

      http://joannenova.com.au/2012/01/dr-david-evans-the-skeptics-case/

      also:

      http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/baron-fourier-on-the-temperature-of-the-globeand-the-planetary-spaces/

      and even:

      http://judithcurry.com/2012/02/24/why-target-heartland/

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    26. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      That is the way to deal with it Grendelus, use a you beaut search engine to attack the man. Ya got anything remotely scientific to add to this conversation?

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    27. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      german-academy-of-sciences-and-engineering-calls-off-climate-catastrophe-coping-will-not-be-a-problem

      Do your google thingy check this out, and speak to me.

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    28. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      "Not sure why but every time I see the word "paradigm" used, particularly more than once during an incontinent rant, my BS meter craps out…"

      Who cares?

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    29. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Sure. Hmmm fascinating.

      I am not sure what you are trying to prove here - googling that phrase takes you too numerous denier websites, all of whom are citing the same Der Speigel News story, and none of which appear to have bothered to go to the Source - the National Academy of Science and Engineering.

      From the Der Speigel report you get the sense that in Academy report they have stated that Germany will get warmer as a result of climate change, and that for Germany this will not be so bad…

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    30. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      You haven't given me evidence, you've just misapplied Planck's law. You do realise that if heating from radiation worked the way you think it does, CO2 lasers (in fact any laser) would not be able to heat materials up as well as they do. Saturation of wavelengths indeed.

      Also, you can see my research interests by clicking on my profile. However, I'm not the one trying to overturn accepted models of physics.

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    31. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      I have not misapplied Planks law at all, but you certainly have misapplied how lasers work. Excited molecules in a unrestrained atmosphere are not amplified in the way that laser mechanisms work. You don't realise that if radiation worked the way you think it does the universe would not exist, the forcing of DWLR on Venus doesn't disintegrate the planet does it?

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    32. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      You have said that radiation from CO2 does not get absorbed by the Earth because the Earth is "saturated" at that wavelength; this is apparently because of Planck's law.
      1. I've still yet to see you show *evidence* for the saturation.
      2. You seem to be forgetting about collisions.
      3. If it's the saturation at particular wavelengths that prevents the Earth receiving the radiation, then surely a laser would saturate the Earth far better than atmospheric CO2 induced radiation. Yet the laser still heats the Earth despite a seemingly speedy saturation. What's the difference between a single photon of a particular wavelength generated by a laser and a photon of the same wavelength generated by re-radiation?

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    33. markus fitzhenry

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      "What's the difference between a single photon of a particular wavelength generated by a laser and a photon of the same wavelength generated by re-radiation?"

      The relative heat of the transport molecules.

      "I've still yet to see you show *evidence* for the saturation."

      Matthew, I cannot write a thesis in this forum. You need to consider thermodynamic gas laws.

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    34. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      "I cannot write a thesis in this forum." I think this sums it up. That you need to invent your own thesis to explain yourself instead of providing a link to a paper should tell you something. Why haven't you published yet?

      "transport molecules for lasers" wtf. I've never seen any literature describing how a laser works by indicating that it needs other molecules to transport radiation. I need evidence for this one as well thanks, or is this another thesis.

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    35. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      LOL. And LOL again.

      The source of that document, is, unsurprisingly not peer revied. Second, the source declares itself to be an organisation devoted to the promotion onpf science, but publishes exclusively documents That have been "peer revied in the open media" that is published on blogs.

      Again, unsurprisingly, all of the publications appear drafted in an attempt to refute the greenhouse effect.

      Hardly a quality source.

      Earns an E6.

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    36. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Hahahahahahahaaa.

      I'd wondered what Doug Cotton was up to. Did you realise that there is *no empirical evidence* in that either? There's just a bunch of unsubstantiated assertions in section 7 where he tries to disprove current understandings.No wonder it's not in a actual scientific journal.

      Another complete botching of the second law of thermodynamics.

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  3. John Coochey

    Mr

    . We have had a statement on national media that the $250 billion being spent in Europe each year will result in an inhibition of one twentieth of a degree by the end of the century, I am asking people to confirm or deny this before the owner of this article removes the question as he does every time I put it up. Don't address arguments you don't like,tick! The relevance of course is that you can cherry pick as much as you like but if the disease is incurable what is the point?

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    1. Leslie Graham

      none

      In reply to John Coochey

      " We have had a statement on national media"

      And that's quite good enough for you I take it?

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    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Leslie Graham

      Leslie, ignore John, he's only responding to the little voices in his head and doesn't have the ability to reason for himself. He is a recidivist denialist because the little voices say so. Pity him but don't feed him.

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    3. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Leslie Graham

      It is interesting how many of these comments and articles break the "rules" of the "ticker' who tried to attack skeptics by alleging logical and intellectual fallacies in their arguments without actually giving any arguments himself. Yours falls into that category. Can you rebut or confirm this figure? Because if it is correct we are surely wasting our time reading articles such as this unless it is out of purely academic interest. Pun intended.

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    4. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      And how do you rate your comment V the criteria put out by Cook a few articles ago? If you can answer the question please do so. If you know someone who is capable of doing so please inform them the question has not been answered.

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  4. Tim Scanlon

    Debunker

    Driving around the Western Australian wheatbelt this year, you can see just how much of an impact the change to our early season rainfall climate change has had. It also doesn't help that we are experiencing our second Decile 1 year in the past 3 years. Any late crops are not exactly looking that great, so we are likely to see a big impact in the market as a result of this season.

    Who'd have thought that extra gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, could change the way heat and moisture is moved around the planet. Oh wait.....

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  5. Lennert Veerman
    Lennert Veerman is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Senior Research Fellow, School of Population Health at University of Queensland

    Prompted by Grendelus' caution I thought a bit about what I believe and why that goes beyond what most climate scientists admit to believing.

    To start with the latter, scientists are trained to be cautious. And if they are climate scientists, they know deniers will jump at every prediction that failed to come true to dismiss their entire scientific field. Besides, no single climate scientist is an expert in the whole of the science, so it takes committees to summarise the evidence, and committees…

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Lennert Veerman

      Mr Veerman

      You do seem rather agitated about the future. I note your call for action, 'And we haven't even begun to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.'

      Are you reducing your greenhouse gas emissions Mr Veerman by choosing not to burn JetA1 fuel to fly overseas for holidays and academic conferences?

      You know you can choose not to fly. You can choose to stay home. But do you?

      Well?

      Gerard Dean

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  6. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    Doesn't anyone recognise that the abundance of evidence that is (i) fairly rubbery for methodological reasons, and (ii) could be read in a number of ways depending on where one is coming from, means that tossing graphs, sources and data at one another is unlikely to get us anywhere?

    More generally, my post this morning on one aspect of this debate is available at www.donaitkin.com: 'Environmentalism as religion'.

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    1. Peter Hewson

      Citizen

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      It's true that evidence can be read in a number of ways. There was some bloke back in the 70's with 'evidence' from voting patterns that the Country Party would disappear within a few years (of that time).

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    2. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      i) Which methodology and why? ii) So, let's not use data or evidence, let's just go with our gut?

      It appears more likely that the evidence is inconvenient to some, rather than i) rubbery or ii) why it does not persuade some.

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  7. Spiro Vlachos

    AL

    For all of those that firmly believe that a few outliers make one of the hottest years on record, then I challenge you all to put your money where your mouth is. Intrade runs a market:

    Average Global Temperature for 2012 to be among five warmest years on record

    via the link:

    http://www.intrade.com/v4/markets/contract/?contractId=706205

    The market gives it a 1.2% chance. You can buy shares/contracts for US$0.35 that pay US$10 if the event actually occurs. A sure shot for all you all climate changers. Bet $100 or bet $1000. Or since you are all so sure, bet your house!

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