Michael Lemonick at TIME points out that despite all the “wow, it really is getting hotter” headlines about this new report titled “State of the Climate in 2009” (just released by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)), this report is not actually telling us anything that climate science hasn’t already been saying for the last 20 years: it’s just giving us a lot more detail of exactly how the planet is warming. This latest USA report is not the only recent comprehensive report on the data, either.
It’s all about the actual measurements, from, as the NCDC’s Tom Karl said at the press conference, “weather stations, satellites, buoys, ships at sea, observatories, field expeditions, submersibles. Every bit of monitoring capability we can get our hands on.”
The result is a portrait of a warming planet, from the stratosphere to the oceans. The latter, it turns out, is where 93.4% of the extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases has been stored—an ominous sign, because that much of that heat will eventually be released back into the atmosphere. “There’s a substantial amount of energy running around in there,” Karl said.
“State of the Climate” identifies a list of some 30 specific indicators that show how the warming is playing out, and focuses most sharply on ten: air temperature over the land, air temperature over the sea, sea-surface temperature sea level, temperature in the troposphere, ocean heat content (where that whopping 93.4% comes from) and something called “specific humidity”, which has to do with the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. You can explore these interactively on the report website.
The reason it all matters is that, while this particular report doesn’t go into what caused global warming and where it’s headed, the data laid out here in exhaustive detail is crucial to nailing down these crucial questions. And, acknowledged Meier, “part of the driver for this report is the tendency of people to get into arguments over smaller and smaller details of climate science.” When you step back and look at the big picture, he said, taking data and analyses from more than 300 different scientists operating independently, it becomes clear that it would be very difficult for one small group to skew the results, as some skeptics insist is happening. The data, he says, “are screaming that the world is warming.”
Read more: TIME | This Just In: The Earth is Warming!
Climate so-called skeptics need to properly engage with just how huge these mountains of data are. It simply is not possible for all these measurements to have been fudged by a cabal of scientists with some nebulous agenda. To purport otherwise is to buy into an utterly ludicrous conspiracy theory worldview.