Seals gather on a small ice-floe in an otherwise open water Arctic sea. The new study fills in gaps in the temperature data for the polar regions which has resulted in slightly cooler estimates for warming than is the case.,
Photo Credit: CBC

Revised global warming models needed as data gaps filled


A recent study using new techniques has filled in some of the information gaps in global temperatures and predictions of warming, and counters claims that warming has levelled off.

The interdisciplinary team of computational scientist Kevin Cowtan of the University of York in England, and cryosphere specialist and PhD candidate Robert Way of Canada, say that using satellites they have filled in large areas of the earth not covered by observational monitoring.

This previous “gap” in data has always resulted in skewed and underestimated reports and projections of what is really happening.

Robert Way is at the University of Ottawa Department of Geography.

Temperature data from the Met Office (thin lines) compared to the optimal Cowtan and Way (2013) global reconstruction (thick lines). The straight red lines indicate the trend over the past 16 years in the respective data. The background image illustrates the coverage of the Met Office data, with colours indicating geographical temperature trends. The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.

Temperature data from the Met Office (thin lines) compared to the optimal Cowtan and Way (2013) global reconstruction (thick lines). The straight red lines indicate the trend over the past 16 years in the respective data. The background image illustrates the coverage of the Met Office data, with colours indicating geographical temperature trends. The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.

Observational data, on which climate records are based, covers only 84% of the planet and largely excludes the polar regions and parts of Africa

Two of the world’s major climate recording agencies, are the Hadley Centre for the UK Meteorological Office and the Climate Research Unit, (HadCRUT) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA.

In collecting data, and making modelling predictions, these and other agencies calculate figures from collected data, but simply leave out those areas which where there are no meteorological stations.

This means there has been no data included in climate studies from large areas of the polar regions and in Africa, which is either left out of the math calculations for current and projected scenarios.

As Robert Way points out, a primary data source for the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the Hadley UK Met office which readily acknowledges the existence of these gaps and has long said their method may underestimate warming in the Polar Regions.

Robert Way taking measurements northeastern Quebec 2012 © Maxime Dugauy

Reaearchers Cowtan and Way say their method was the first to use satellite data to fill in the large gaps in monitoring stations where there is no observational data available.

They verified their methodology by comparison to actual data from the Arctic buoys monitoring posts.

What they found was warming greater than previous estimates and that the additional data significantly reduced uncertainties. It also contradicts the oft-repeated claims that global warming has ceased in the last approximately 15 years.

Robert Way in Iceland 2009 © Maxime Duguay

Climate experts point out that 15 years is too short a time to draw firm conclusions but is often cited by skeptics as showing that warming has stopped.

Way said the initial goal of the team’s research was not to counter skeptic’s claims, but that the research ended up doing just that.

Way says their hope now is that others examine their data and follow up to create even more accurate estimates of temperature change, and use their methodology to develop further improved techniques in climate research.”

Climate Research Abstract

Website on HadCRUT coverage bias


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5 comments on “Revised global warming models needed as data gaps filled
  1. Avatar Andy Skuce says:

    If you follow Mo New’s link you will see that this study was not ridiculed by Judith Curry, but questioned. Also, the authors of the study answered her points in a constructive exchange on that blog.

    For an appraisal by other climate scientists, see this article on Real Climate:

  2. Avatar Albatross says:

    Readers, please ignore attempts by those in denial to obfuscate the issue and make ad hom attacks. The data and code used in the paper all all freely available, but some critics like Curry have seemingly not even made the effort to read beyond the abstract or to substantiate their opinions with their own data analyses.

    This novel paper by Cowtan and Way addresses an outstanding and important scientific issue and was published in the highly respected peer-reviewed Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society.

    The fake skeptics have invested a lot in the supposed “pause” and now they are scrambling to obfuscate the issue and to dismiss this scientific paper because the findings are inconvenient and challenge their beliefs.

  3. Avatar Robert Way says:

    If you will note in the comments below the article by Judith Curry you will find myself and Kevin’s rebuttal to her statements. Some of which were factually inaccurate descriptions of what was done in the paper.

  4. Avatar Mo New says:

    This study by Cowtan and Way has been ridiculed by many for shoddy science. I would suggest readers have a look at Dr Judith Curry’s