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Just what are falling temperatures evidence of? December 11, 2008

Posted by honestclimate in Temperature.
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Just what are falling temperatures evidence of?

By William M Briggs, December 8, 2008

If increasing temperatures are consistent with or are evidence of global warming, what theory is consistent with or evidence of falling temperatures? Global warming, too?

We have to ask this complicated question because it was just reported that this year’s global average temperature is on track to be the coldest in the last eight years. In other words, the temperature has dropped, and has been dropping for a couple of years.

So, do these falling temperatures mean that global warming has stopped or is false?

“Absolutely not,” said Dr Peter Stott, the manager of understanding and attributing climate change at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre.

We also hear from “a team of climate scientists at Kiel University” who

predicted that natural variation would mask the 0.3C warming predicted by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change over the next decade. They said that global temperatures would remain constant until 2015 but would then begin to accelerate.

This is going to be complicated, and there are not many ways to make this topic easy to understand, so hold on.

We have to explore what it means for evidence to be “consistent with” of “inconsistent with” a theory, what it means for a theory to be wrong or right, and what it means to be probably right or probably wrong.

Consistency

Suppose, then, that the theory of anthropogenic global warming claims, among other things, that the temperature will certainly rise year by year. The temperature did not rise and in fact fell. This evidence is inconsistent with the theory and so the theory is false because it made a prediction that said that falling temperatures were impossible. If you like, we can say that this theory has been falsified (Popper’s term of very little utility; a topic to explore in full another day).

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