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UK weather: February temperature jump was incredible, says climate expert (theguardian.com)
55 points by vanilla-almond 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

I had lunch in the garden on 21st feb. Sitting there in the sun without a coat. It was like June. It was really nice, and also really unsettling.

I took the day off to go on a long hike it was great but all the invisible dust on the air gave me an odd pain in my chest when I went to bed then it gave me a sore throat and asthmatic conditions which has only just cleared! Turns out the dust raised the pollution level to high with people being advised not to exercise! I suppose my ten mile hike up the hills was a bad idea.

I think in order to be fair we shouldn't use local weather as an indicator of general climate: for every "we had trees blossom in January" story they're will be a "we had ice on the lake in June, you, hoaxers" answer"

To quote Scott Adams, why are people seeing a single data point as evidence for climate change, when those same people deride the alt-right for seeing cold weather in April in their town as evidence against climate change?

It's behavior like this, reeking of bias in which singular data points count and which don't that gets the other side to think climate change is just a base/faith political belief instead of something derived from evidence.

Even the article itself is editorially-suggestive. The question is posted throughout the article "what fraction is due to climate change? we don't know!". A single record-breaking 20C day above a trend of say 5C is 15C warmer, whereas the best guesses for the magnitude of human-caused sub portion of global warming is about 1C. The quote in the article say says the warm record is largely due to global warming is totally misleading in the R^2 technical sense, and even needs to be couched in the technical language of "well the trend of warmer temperatures..."

For full disclosure, I believe climate change, but also that these singular data points have very little information value.

> the best guesses for the magnitude of human-caused sub portion of global warming is about 1°C

As far as I know the global average temperature increase caused by humans is about 1C. You can't simply compare that to single days and say that we couldn't have cause this.

More records days per year seem to indicate more extreme weather, which is expected by climate change. The average global temperature doesn't have to rise much for this.

The thing is that small changes in the mean affect the long tail of the distribution in a very visible way. How is it biased to point out extreme weather events like this which are happening more frequently now than in the past? The NYT has a great graphic illustrating this point. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/07/28/climate/more-...

I think that climate change absolutely is faith based and political. And we shouldn't be afraid of that. Lots of changes in human behaviour have a faith and moral component. Just think about hand washing. People don't need to understand microbiology to wash their hands. They need social pressure and a sense of morals.

Climate change deniers see environmentalism as a faith based political movement. Well it is. Even if you believe in climate change, there is nothing that says we have to do anything about it! It is perfectly reasonable to just shrug your shoulders and not do anything. The drive to protect the planet is a matter of conscience. And that is how people need to be pursuaded. Science is just not very convincing in everyday life, even among educated rational people.

I think it's dangerous to turn a complex and global issue into a binary social signaling device. We do terrible things to the planet. We should stop. Combining "should", goals, and politics only turns the majority of the planet against you. The global economy, global politics, national politics, and climate are all extremely complex systems. Ban plastic straws and cows and you may think you're helping, but end up being an example of failure to others. Make an electric car that is cheaper, more efficient, and outperforms gasoline, and you've taken a solid step towards saving the planet. When it's a binary issue, you lose the nuance of having choices. You burn witches before even figuring out if they were helping or hurting with their heresy. Is nuclear worth the risk and waste to offset carbon? Is the wind farm worth it if it destroys a bird's only habitat? Those are cost benefit questions. Believer or denier is a witch trial.

There is no scientific formula that tells you if a coal miner should loose their job, or if a wind farm should be allowed to kill birds. As you say it is complicated. We are balancing a huge range of issues that feel like a false dichotomy. Just telling people "because science" is not the answer. That is actually what makes it a binary choice because you are leaving no room for argument. By talking about morality you broaden the argument. The democratic political system is our algorithm to decide these questions and is driven by more than just fact and science. You may not like this but it is the reality. You can't answer a load of massive false dichotomy's with science. You need other avenues.

"We know our village has been beset with wolves. We have hundreds of attacks in recent months."

"This morning I found a sheep dead with bite marks."

"Your singular data point doesn't mean anything!"

To be more clear, the scientific offense of cherry-picking only applies when one intentionally picks a data point against the body of evidence. You can't look at each individual raindrop in a downpour and argue that each one is only a singular data point and therefore it ain't raining.

You also misunderstand that a small increase in global temperature can, and is predicted to, cause very large, local, increases and decreases in local temperature, largely through disrupting the world's prevalent wind and water patterns.

Climate change people. Key word is change. We will need to get used to adapting.


How so? What do you think they're incorrect about in this article?

I am curious too. Please elaborate.

I'll elaborate. As many others have pointed out below, a single data point says nothing about a trend. It's statistics 101.

I agree that man made climate change is a big problem, but I'm not willing to use every sensational event as confirmation of this.

A sensational data point like that actually is a series of points. If you set a record, it depends on all the data that came before. One data point doesn't make it an exceptional measure, all those before do that.

I understand denial is in play, as people worldwide come to terms with the mess we're in. Its a normal process. There's other stages as well - bargaining, anger, grief. Unfortunately we don't seem to have time for all that to play out.

You seem to be confusing trends and data points. In my original comment I was pointing out that a trend tells us a lot, while an isolated data point tells us almost nothing.

My issue with the article is that the author uses a data point and frames it like a trend. It's sensational, sure, but it will only be statistically significant when we can observe a trend.


Here is the main BBC article, scroll down to "Does climate change have a role?" to see what they say about the climate change link, which is very measured:


As the submission article says, in the UK a lot of the media coverage of temperatures 15C over what you might expect has actually been celebratory, 'cheery headlines such as “Fabruary” and reports about ice-cream sales.'

I mean, you are certainly correct that a lot of media outlet are unreliable in reporting of science. I don't see why that would change your opinion either way. If an unqualified journalists writes an incorrect article in support of some position which you know to be true, you are hardly going to change your opinion on that account. And the incompetence of CNN does nothing to the overwhelming weight of evidence, and the overwhelming consensus of expert opinion on the topic.

The GP conflates two things, facts being reported, and poor media coverage of partial facts or falsehoods. So therefore because the media report facts as well as non facts that means facts === non facts. Brilliant deduction isn’t it.

I didn't conflate them but specifically pointed out that my opinion on media coverage does not imply denial of science, and my complaint is specifically about media coverage of "global warming", not necessarily the science itself.

However, replace "facts" with "The outputs of our climate models," because the two are very different things. There are some tangible facts about global temperature and such which are measurable and reproducible. The models which link human carbon emissions to the temperature are not "facts", they are estimations based on the extent of our climate knowledge, and they are under constant revision.

There's the claim that "the science is settled", but it absolutely is not. There are politicians hiding behind media coverage which keeps telling us it is settled, which resorts to ad hominem attacks on scientists who challenge the idea, and of course, all of the funding in climate science only goes to parties who are interested in continuing the scaremongering trend.

I personally couldn't care much about whether the science is accurate or not anyway. The climate is going to change whether we do anything or not. I put more weight on dealing with real problems that exist right now than hypothetical problems that might exist next century. More money will be wasted trying to prevent a problem which probably can't be prevented, than spent on actual solutions which deal with the problem at hand.

> The models which link human carbon emissions to the temperature are not "facts", they are estimations based on the extent of our climate knowledge, and they are under constant revision.

Yes, the models are under constant revision, to be able to make temporal or regional predictions, or to narrow predicted ranges for temperature, rainfall and so on, which are more or less dubious depending on how precise your attempted resolution is, but the direction of movement for the whole system is clear. The basic science of the greenhouse effect is well understood, and doubling the concentration of a major gas has a clear impact on global radiative forcing (that is, the energy balance). Actually you can only deduce no connection between CO2 concentration and temperature using complicated models and tortuous mechanisms to produce something which will act as a sufficiently large negative feedback effect. The very few scientists who propose such mechanisms are not seen as credible because their mechanisms are not credible.

To be more accurate, swap "global warming" with "climate change" and see if your original argument about the double standard holds up.


> In 1970 it was global cooling.

Citation very badly needed. 1970 was less global cooling than it was Erich von Däniken's Chariot of the Gods.

Global cooling was a niche theory that got a brief spike of publicity. It was NOT the scientific consensus, or the majority of the news reporting on the topic, or even widely known.

Chariot of the Gods was, on the other hand, quite well known at the time.

I think the genesis of a lot of the cooling arguments goes back to just one article in National Geographic:


Something tells me the mainstream scientific citation will never come from these hit and run climate skeptics.

Do me a favor and Stop talking about temperature for a second. Do you agree that carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are shooting up? 10 years ago they were 390, now they are 411. At a certain ppm, human cognition begins to suffer. Try staying in a stuffy room. Acidification of the oceans and other things - animals cannot evolve to adapt that quickly.

When you talk about pollution on such a massive scale, why get stuck in an argument only about temperature? I can think of a reason: insane political partisanship.


A simple search of "1970s global cooling" will bring up a plethora of modern stories trying to make it into a far bigger deal than it ever was at the time. It's a worthless search now, as it's been plugged to death thanks to those pushing disinformation.

You want papers from the 1970s? Well this study of climate studies from 1965 to 1979 finds just 7, with 12% of the citations, that predict global cooling. In the same period they find 42 that predict warming. They list all of them if you'd like to read any of them.


Here's the problem though:

We are many who remember far more talk about the next ice age than about global warning in the eitghties.

Blame it on media and schools, but for each scientific article you refer to we'll tell you about two instances of media and schools and what not who said otherwise.

And while I and you might agree it doesn't help when average Joe (with good reasons in his opinion, as well as support from certain politicians) feels like media and "the left" and "scientists" and what not are out to make hiss life more miserable.

And I must say: if anybody wants to argue against AGW, proponents are serving golden arguments on plates of silver everytime they:

- refuse to discuss the matter in terms of percentages and tons of CO2 (because people are supposedly to dumb)

- fly around to climate conferences in private jets (yes, I know the amount of CO2 released from these hardly matters, but they are rubbing it in on poor people everywhere: we can live a life in luxury, it is you who'll have to lower your expectations.)

I'm not saying you are wrong - and personally I'm living more than carefully when it comes to climate (I repair stuff, I buy used, I travel by train, last time I took a plane is years ago. It actually like that lifestyle and it makes sense in a number of ways. I've also worked significant parts of my career in greentech.)

I'm just so fed up with people here and elsewhere not bothering to even try to understand what it looks like from the other side.

You should. Because if you want a chance at all then you need to win the hearts and minds of those people.

I upvoted you but I have to say:

1) the argument “you use X in reasonable amounts so how can you say that X in huge amounts is bad” is a terrible argument

2) I agree that we should stop talking about temperature and simply call it what it is: AIR POLLUTION, and the solution is to tax it and redistribute the money to everyone... end government subsidies to fossil fuels including the military industrial complex... do reparations for all the wars and subsidies we did for oil... watch how quickly we get CHOICE of how to fuel our cars, and fossil fuels will go the way of the dodo BEFORE we hit peak oil

We absolutely need to do #2 because that’s what is incontrovertible - the raw data about carbon concentrations, carbon emissions, ocean acidity and so on. There are plenty of other things besides temperature that are a side effect of desertification, deforestation, killing off tons of species, insects and so on. The problem is far worse than temperature so we need to stop giving non-scientist talking heads on the right like Ben Shapiro ammunition to say idiotic things like “well so what we’ll just sell our beachfront homes when Miami goes underwater, meanwhile let’s make money wheeeee”.

Where I wish I didn’t upvote you is:

3) you know better, you’re smart, you realize #2 has grave consequences and Climate Justice is a CO2 and methane tax and redistributing to everyone as a dividend. So stop muddying the waters yourself and help us clarify the issue on YOUR side. The side that is driving us off a cliff!!!

4) stop throwing our red herrings such as #1 where you don’t do similar things when Trump blames China and illegal immigrants while his companies use labor from China and illegal immigrants. Notice how when you agree with an idea, the hypocrisy of the speaker doesn’t matter and you say hate the game not the player. Total double standard — but this left vs right is just that — a game — that you’re playing on your computer while our house is on fire. And we all share this house, there is no other one!

Climate change is a much better term. More CO2 means the atmosphere traps more energy. Truth is we don't know exactly what that will do. Some areas may become warmer, some cooler, some drier or wetter, etc. Its also possible that entropy goes up and weather becomes more extreme and less predictable.

As far as just warming goes polar warming is probably the most concerning as it could melt massive amounts of ice and lead to damaging sea level rise.

If I roll a d6 and get a 6 twice in a row, is it loaded? What about if I get a 6 10 times in a row or a 100?

You can't definitively state any one extreme weather event is the result of climate change. What you can say is that extreme weather will become more common.

Also the UK experiences relatively mild winters compared to the US because Atlantic currents bring warm water up from the tropics. Global warming may well lead to colder British winters by breaking down that system. So yes global warming can lead to cooler temperatures locally.

It's the about the "extremeness" and out of balance weather patterns compared to before, not whether it's warm or cold. The ocean currents are out of whack, creating these highly irregular waether patterns.

The difficult part is telling if they are that extreme. The UK only has full, reliable temperature records since around 1910, so when articles like talk about the highest or lowest X they really mean since 1910. If you think about the number of months, the number of different kinds of weather measurements, etc, you quickly realise that we should expect a reasonable number of record-breaking events like this.

(You can find a full set of the monthly temperature records the Met Office tracks here, by the way: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate-extremes... )

One outlier is to be expected now and then.

A consistent pattern of breaking high temperature records, in the current decade or two, on the other hand. Or as the Met Office put it "extremes of heat are now being recorded 10 times more often than extremes of cold".

"Extremes" need putting into perspective. Around the dawn of human civilization (12,000BC), Britain was connected by land to Europe via Doggerland and the Nile was completely dried out. By around 6000 BTC, the Nile was flowing and Doggerland was completely submerged under 120m of water. A quick math suggests that if the sea level rose by 120m over 6000 years, it must've rose by 2cm/year on average.

When you put the scaremongering into this perspective, and we're worried about sea level rises of a few centimeters over the course of a century, it just makes us look like idiots. The earth has had far worse extremes that we can't even comprehend.

There's the idea that we're adding to the natural change of the climate, and so those effects will be compounded, or accelerated, or delayed. Putting again in to perspective, this will have an effect on humans in centuries (or millennia) to come. Imagine if the humans who initiated civilization had decided they weren't going to burn wood fires because "it might have an effect on the climate for other humans in 12,000 years." Yes, it is that absurd. We are dumb cavemen compared to the humans that will be around in a thousands of years to deal with any problems we think we're creating for them.

> When you put the scaremongering into this perspective, and we're worried about sea level rises of a few centimeters over the course of a century

We’re not, particularly. Oh, sure, that sea level rise is one of the predicted effects of the thing we are worried about, and it will itself have fairly expensive consequences and kill lots of people, but we're really concerned about getting to the point of an unstoppable feedback loop that, among other things, ends the current ice age (and not in the loose sense of a glacial period, which we aren't in but there have been several of while humans have been on Earth, but in the stricter sense of a period when Earth has permanent polar ice; all of human existence has been during the current ice age.)

> The earth has had far worse extremes that we can't even comprehend.

Sure, the Earth has, and the lump of rock will still be around whatever we do to the climate.

Humans, OTOH, have not been through anything like what the current warming trend will do if not arrested, and may well not be around if it isn't.

The concern isn't about the Earth, it's about conditions of human life on Earth.

The UK has some of the better weather records. Eg

"The oldest ongoing instrumental record of temperature in the world is the Central England Temperature record, started in 1659." [1]

So while they may not be very good, they're some of the best we've got.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/climatechange/2009/03/since_recor...

We have enough measurements to do reasonable estimates of the monthly average temperature in one region of the UK (with a bit of finagling), but that doesn't help here. This record high is effectively the maximum temperature at any location in the UK, which is something that can only be determined with a widespread network of temperature stations taking multiple measurements a day, and we didn't have that until relatively recently.

Whilst having data for the whole country is obviously good, having data for one fixed location stretching back 350 years is good too. You can for example compare the recent heat wave to past years at the same location.

I'm also not sure what utility measuring the highest temperature serves, except for making good headlines. Does it make any difference whether the highest temperature was recorded in Cornwall or Devon? Especially as the UK is an arbitrary human construct. I'd be much more interested to know that the Shetlands had recorded temperatures 25% above normal, compared to Cornwall's 20% for example.

The politics of our day is as dysfunctional as it’s ever been. Tons of people in the USA ALONE believe climate change isn’t even happening, let alone man-made. They have bought into the weird myth that moving to sustainable energy will harm the economy, and therefore are motivated to deny climate change (set aside the ridiculous mental gymnastics that entails, even if true).

Our only hope for short term sustainability is a Carbon Tax and Dividend, which has been introduced as a bipartisan bill a few months ago[1]. I wish there would be more media coverage of it. It is much more realistic than the Green New Deal but the only person running for President I know that even mentions it on his campaign website is Andrew Yang.

A carbon tax redistibuted to the people would avoid the yellow vest-like protests about disproportionately falling on the poor and middle class. Instead, it would be “Climate Justice” that even anarcho capitalists could support — corporations having to compensate people for polluting the common atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Such a dividend would incentivize voters to say “more carbon tax, please!” and cause electric vehicles to be produced, which represents CHOICE of energy generation instead of the fuel lock-in we have been subjected to by te fossil fuel industry since Edison designed electric cars 100 years ago (they are in the Edison museum).

Unless you think the fossil fuel industry should enjoy free externalities and lack of competition in fuel generation for cars, you have no leg to stand on to oppose this even from an economic standpoint.


> They have bought into the weird myth that moving to sustainable energy will harm the economy

It's actually a bit more complex, and thus less weird, than that.

On the one hand, you have blue-collar workers in the US. A significant segment of those has always been coal miners (and those in their orbit). It's not just that the shift away from fossil fuels has caused them to lose their jobs—it's that, for many such communities, coal mining was the central part of their identity. They were proud of it, and had been for several generations.

Then, on the other side, you have the oil & natural gas industry, which makes massive amounts of money, and spends huge chunks of it on propaganda, aimed both at regular people and at legislators.

The end result is a large proportion of the population that believes that renewable energy is The Enemy, an existential threat to their entire way of life—whether it's because they're coal miners themselves, because they, as working-class people, coidentify themselves with the coal miners, or because they're simply on the political right, and have been indoctrinated by the aforementioned propaganda to believe anything that tries to help the environment is Evil by first principle.

“pauses the EPA authority to regulate the CO2 and equivalent emissions covered by the fee, for the first 10 years after the policy is enacted. “ seems like a giveaway if the carbon fee is too low for the bill you referenced.

Also I found this to be a better explanation of the carbon fee bill in the US: https://energyinnovationact.org/how-it-works/

Whatever we can do is minor in comparison to the overall trend that the earth has for climate change, irrespective of humanity.

To think we can effect a real change and avoid a natural change is to give yourself too much credit.

We should still aim to live in a clean environment, but not with the goal of reversing climate change.

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