Until June 2015, most scientists agreed that there had been no warming of the Earth since 1990. They believed that if there is a global warming trend over the last 100 years, it had taken a pause. This conclusion was radically altered by a U.S. governmental organization that decided to change how it documents climate data.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) changed how it collects and documents climate data. From the late 1970s up to the summer of 2015, the NOAA used satellite sea-surface temperatures to measure the climate. In the summer of 2015, the NOAA decided to throw out the satellite readings and use instead, among other sources, cooling-water-intake tubes of oceangoing vessels.
Taking temperature readings from cooling-water-intake tubes has many problems. A ship conducts heat, absorbs energy from the sun, and vessels have intake tubes at different ocean depths. For more information, read this scientific article. NOAA’s new measurement standard resulted in a finding that showed the Earth had had its warmest year on record. In the various climate reports that appeared in newspapers, on television networks, an in President Obama’s messages, no report of NOAA’s changes were made.
Not taken into account of the temperature readings was the “El Nino” effect. El Nino refers to the periodic change of Pacific trade winds and deep-ocean currents. During an El Nino year, water in the Pacific Ocean is warmer. This happened in 1998, as well. Once the El Nino effect ends, ocean temperatures will most likely come back down, as they did after the 1998 El Nino.
How do we know what the climate on Earth is? This is a very challenging task for those of us who are not scientists. But as historians, we can continue to try to read from various sources, and slowly and patiently form our opinions.
1. What was announced in January 2016 about climate change?
2. Until June 2015, how did the U.S.A. take climate records?
3. From the summer of 2015, what change did the U.S. government make in how it keeps climate records?
4. What are some problems associated with keeping climate records based on cooling-water-intake tubes of ocean-going vessels?
5. What is El Nino?