Key dates during his 55 years on Earth — and the image of a leashed dog zipping after a squirrel or ‘sniffing here and there’ — help a prominent climatologist make his point in debunking an all-too-common climate myth.
His tongue planted “somewhat in cheek,” Penn State climatologist Richard Alley gets real in pointing to “a few personal milestones” to address why the global-warming-stopped-in-1998 yarn is just so much malarkey.
He points to his birth in 1957 when “I had more hair but less gray” and when Earth’s temperature was “at the start of a cooling period.” Ditto that in 1980, when he got married: “During the first years of our life together the temperature did drop a little,” he writes. And “a very slight downward trend” after first moving to State College, Pa., in 1988. And “it was still getting cooler” nine years later, when the family visited national parks in the Western U.S.
“In 2002, they actually named a glacier [Alley Glacier] in Antarctica (brrrrr!) after me and the cooling was really accelerating.” With each of these examples, Alley uses a short snip of a chart showing global mean temperatures.
You get the drift — and still more cooling in 2005 when his daughter started as a Penn State student.
“So from 1957 through 2005, if you stop and look at these small fragments of my life, you see cooling trends,” Alley wrote in a blog. Notice that term “small fragments,” an important qualifier.
“Suppose you actually connect all the dots, from 1957 through 2010,” Alley teases. “What do you see?”
At this point, he comes clean, saying “none of those shorter trends is significant, but the longer trend is. And I cherry-picked dates on shorter trends.”
Alley, widely recognized for his outstanding communications skills, says the broader perspective is “like a photomosaic, the big picture is rather different from the little ones.”
He points to a person walking a dog: “If you watch the dog, darting about, sniffing here and there, you might initially be fooled about which way they’re going around the block …. But if you watch the person … you can see there’s a clear direction to the walk through time.”
“Weather bounces around from year to year, and the extra El Niño warmth in 1988 was just the dog zipping after a squirrel,” Alley says. He cautions that “some people still seem to fool themselves, or others, by jumping to conclusions without watching long enough, whether in casinos, or on Wall Street, or even on the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal.”
“Has it actually been getting warmer?” he asks rhetorically. “Yes. Is there any serious doubt about this? No, there really isn’t.”
“We can get the story straight if we connect the dots, and let the data — not ideology or delusion — tell us what’s really going on.” Alley’s post is online here.