BAN #289: 2020 was worse than you thought, See me talk about other planets

18 January 2021   Issue #289

[The planetary nebula M 2-9, winds from a dying star. Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble Legacy Archive / Judy Schmidt]

Subscribers are on the rise, but unlike temperatures that’s a good thing.

Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is real, y’all

Welp. No need to sugar-coat it: 2020 was tied for the hottest year on record.

There are different ways to measure this, but one of the standards is GISTEMP, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Temperature Analysis, which shows that 2020 was slightly hotter than 2016, but within statistical uncertainty, so technically it’s a — haha — dead heat.

I’ll note that the NOAA analysis using a different dataset show 2020 slightly behind 2016, but it hardly maters. The point is that the last seven years have been the hottest on record, and slight statistical fluctuations don’t matter. Global warming is very, very real, and to deny it is tantamount to weaponized ignorance.

Assuming such claims are in good faith. Not all are.

Twitter avatar for @theresphysicsKen Rice @theresphysics
They still don't get the joke!
andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/the…

GWPF @thegwpfcom

Global temperature check: There has been no warming trend in the last 5 years https://t.co/ZnldcC2TXJ https://t.co/t1j3C77hY4

Here is the incredibly misleading graph Ken is mocking in that tweet:

[Credit: GWPF]

The Global Warming Policy Foundation — which somehow managed to replace the word “denial” with “policy” — shows a graph that makes it look like there’s been no warming over the past five years. But it’s very, very, very hard for me to believe someone saying this is trying to make an honest point since trends take longer than five years, and it’s common to see very slight ups and downs in temperatures from year to year.

After all, when you extend the graph back more than five years — which you should do to make the honest point — you see this:

[Credit: GISS]

That shows global temperature deviations (what climate scientists call the temperature anomaly) versus an average. They took the average of temperatures between 1951 and 1980, then plotted the temperature in a given year minus that average, to show how much the temperature for that year deviates from average.

Seriously, anyone trying the push the idea of a “pause” deserves nothing but derision, especially since many of us have been debunking the idea of a pause for many, many years.

The trend is obvious and quite real: The planet’s getting hotter.

Mind you, 2016 had a temperature boost from El Niño, a climate effect causes by oscillating temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. When 2020 started that effect was dying off, and may have given a wee boost to temperatures, but it was much stronger in 2016. This means without constant warming 2016 should have been warmer than 2020, but the fact that they tied shows global warming is real.

There is some good news though. For example:

In Texas — Texas — wind provided more power than coal in 2020! Coal is on its way out, which is great. What’s not so great is that natural gas, another fossil fuel that contributes mightily to global warming, is on the rise. It’s much cheaper than coal, which is a big reason coal is dying. Still, solar power and wind are gaining a lot of ground in energy production, which is reason to hope.

Even more: With Trump on his way out, I’m hopeful the Biden Administration will do what it can to promote greener energy. I’m sure the GOP in Congress will do what they can to hamper it (I predict that GWPF graph will show up in arguments on the floor), but they are in the minority now, and I very much hope Democrats take the opportunity to push through legislation that will turn this planet around when it comes to warming.

It is getting hot in here. But it doesn’t have to be.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[A tantalizing signal from gravitational waves may be due to a background hum of black holes colliding all over the Universe. From Wednesday’s article. Credit: LIGO/Caltech/MIT/Sonoma State (Aurore Simonnet)]

Monday 11 January, 2021: So how many supermassive black holes *are* there in Holmberg 15A anyway?

Tuesday 12 January, 2021: Tasting neutrinos: Flavor changing in the cores of exploding stars

Wednesday 13 January, 2021: Astronomers may be hearing the whisper of billions of black holes merging across the Universe

Thursday 14 January, 2021: A brain-curdling magnetar superflare seen in a neighboring galaxy

Friday 15 January, 2021: Another record-breaking quasar with a black hole that’s too supermassive

Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

On Wednesday, 13 January, I gave my “Strange New Worlds” talk about exoplanets for the Central Florida Astronomical Society, virtually of course. It’s a little different giving talks while sitting in my office. I don’t get audience feedback, which is odd; I can’t see them or hear them laughing at my jokes (so that last part is pretty much par for the course wither way). But it’s still fun, and I can still do Q&A after.

The folks at CFAS put it up on YouTube if you’d like to watch.

I know, look at me wearing an actual shirt and tie! But don’t get too impressed.

My thanks to Frank Kane for inviting me to give the talk and to the folks who clicked in. And hey, if you’re interested in having me give this or any of my other talks to your group, drop me a line! I’m working on a couple of new talks which I’ll have ready by mid-summer (I have a deadline then to premier them at the next Science Getaway which we postponed from last year).

Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!