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Proposition 02: The warmest ten years

Friday, December 4th, 2009

I was reading the Evening Standard on my way home tonight, and saw the Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP’s op-ed – “Climate change sceptics are today’s flat-earth brigade”. In it he mentions a line I’ve heard numerous times before.


The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997


It seems to me that this statement is either true or false, and can be checked using temperature records from weather stations – the sort of data I’m collecting already. For any particular station, the statement is either true or false. For the planet as a whole, a clear majority of stations should ‘vote’ for the statement being true.

  • Collect daily station records from the NOAA here
  • Exclude stations which don’t include the years 1985 – 2008 (12 years either side of 1997 – it’s no use using the station if the test is necessarily true because it’s only post-1997 or necessarily false because there aren’t ten years after 1997 to be the warmest)
  • Exclude stations without records for at least 90% of days
  • Calculate the annual mean temperature for each station in each year
  • Sort station data by annual mean temperature to find the ten warmest years, see if they’re all after 1997 or not

I expect there’ll be some stations for which it’s true and some for which it’s false – there will always be random weather effects – but if recent years are the warmest this should be clear from the measurements. It would be strange to imagine a warm year which left most places colder!

Proposition 01: Thermometer drift

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

E.M. “Chiefio” Smith raised an interesting point in an article here and, as it seems to be fairly straightforward, I’d like to follow it up.


It would be very interesting to do a map of “distance to ocean over time” for Africa (and for Europe, too…) since I suspect that is the key driver for thermometer changes in both those continents. Europe moving toward the water to gain warmth from the Gulf Stream and inland seas, while Africa moves away from the oceans to avoid moderating winds.


  • Use DTED level 0 terrain data, some of which I already have, to determine which parts of the world are land and which sea.
  • Obtain a list of weather stations on a continent, their lat/long coordinates, and years active.
  • Calculate the distance from each station to the ocean
  • Graph the mean, median and upper/lower quartiles for the stations over time

Sounds like fun!