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Communicating the pause

Ed Hawkins, Tamsin Edwards and Doug McNeall have an article in Nature Climate Change about the way the pause/hiatus/standstill has been communicated by climate scientists. It's paywalled here, but Tamsin has blogged about the contents here, calling for communication to be a conversation rather than a lesson. This is a step forward from the way early attempts to point out the inconvenient truth were dealt with.

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Reader Comments (87)

I wish people would stop calling it the "Pause" which presupposes the temperature is bound to start increasing soon. There is no evidence that this is so. We could well be at the end of the recovery from the little Iceage and be about to commence another.

Feb 26, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

I can fully recommend this at WUWT.

It is in line with what I have stated above.

Feb 26, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Hi all,

Haven't had time to read all these but I can quickly say why we published in Nature. Ed was invited to write the comment and he invited me and Doug to contribute. I much prefer open access - one reason I support PLOS - but I did reproduce as much of the comment and its ideas as I felt I could get away with :)

Email me if you want the actual article....


Feb 26, 2014 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards


You have your work cut out if the other two are leaving you as the go to scientist for comments on the article! Good luck.

Feb 26, 2014 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook


Quite agree, I left a comment over at Tamsins but so have 50 others.

Feb 26, 2014 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

This is the best way to communicate the CAGW pause in only 16 seconds

Feb 26, 2014 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Unfortunately, as is well documented, the usual temperature records are subject to so many confounding factors as well as potential anthropogenic interference in terms of attempts to 'make things equal'. The nearest neighbour techniques have obvious flaws as do corrections assuming some sort of UHI effect, even if they do that. Roy Spencer's record is the only one that offers a like for like (assuming algorithms and calibrations are not introducing systematic bias), as far as I can tell. How on earth we make any sense of it all is anyone's guess, best not to is my suggestion. Seems to me, I spy a cyclical trend superimposed on a slight warming over the last 140 years, once urbanisation went out of control and mans attempts to 'fix' the problems became apparent all bets were off. Look at the cycles from the late 1800's up until 1960, then something went wrong and as far as I can tell it's the trickery Mickery of the pseudo statisticians trying to fix something, maybe in their favourite direction or otherwise. The bottom line is we cannot gleam anything from the historical records. We can't even measure the temperature and compare to anything anymore. Apart from Roy's work that is.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Shaw

I'm glad I made a career as an explorationist. When your geological model and prospect play turns to rat shit by the remorseless test well drill bit, its accepted as the unwelcome but statistically most probable outcome. And if it actually comes in, champagne flows.

In climate science, there's only one play, and when that turns into the statistically most probable outcome, by the remorseless passage of time, you're toast.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I commented on her blog and I'll summarise here what the reality is:

The Pause is undefined. There is no Pause; there is a Pause...who cares? - What is real is that the errors in temperature the measurement are going to be at least ± 0.5° C and that is systematic error. No amount of repeated measurements are going to reduce that error. And it could be bigger.

Anomalies are going to have an error of at least ± 0.7°C. I think it's time people who claim to either do science or appreciate it actually put their money where their mouth is and stop perpetrating this anomaly myth.
The only reason it is talked about is that AGW theory defines changes of 0.2°C/decade. But that cannot be measured.
The anomaly is based on ideal measurements that exist in LaLa land. And importantly every time that graph goes up it needs

Every paragraph, every sentence and every word is discussing THEORY. Not reality. Reality gives us absolute temperatures and that's it. Same as every other climate variable. Large errors relative to theory which means we don't know anything.

If this blog is to properly take the sceptic side, stop with this anomaly nonsense. The temperature could have been falling since 1940 for all we know.

Don't be sucked into the argument just so people can spend more money on computer programs rather than being out in the field taking measurements.

And just to finish: this is not science. It is not science it is theory. If they want to make it science then they put a big disclaimer on the graph and say "This is an ideal representation not borne out my measurement"

See how the public like it then.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

One still gets the impression that AGW is a belief system. We know CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gasses cause warming. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing. There will be warming. And our computers tell us what we already believe. It is inconceivable for the true believers to accept that the effect of increased CO2 in the atmosphere could be so small that it cannot be detected. That is the difference between science and what is practiced by true believers.

Scientists would have started out by trying to understand natural variability not prosecuting a trace gas.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

Apologies for the disconnect in the previous post. And for the misspelling. Hopefully you get what I mean

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

"The Met Office currently plans that a replacement supercomputer be commissioned and accepted autumn / winter 2015 to allow continued model and product enhancements".

Enhancement:- to raise to a higher degree; intensify; magnify. Sounds about right.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

There are model runs which simulate the "pause", there are model runs which match other historical observations and there are model runs which match SFA. Problem is, unless the first two are the same model run, which they aren't, the modellers have got nothing of use.

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Martin A

Are computer models reliable?

"Computer models are the only reliable
way to predict changes in climate. Their
reliability is tested by seeing if they are able
to reproduce the past climate, which gives
scientists confidence that they can also
predict the future."

May have already been commented on, but I thought they keep saying that computer models don't make predictions?

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

Phil R
I've often thought of Climate Models are predicting the future in much the same way as the model used by a Mr H Batchelor of Keynsham, Bristol for football pools forecasting.

Climate Modeling seems a much better way of making a living though.

Feb 26, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Feb 26, 2014 at 5:42 PM | A C Osborn

Which included the appalling, infantile and profoundly ignorant Ed Miliband throwing accusations of 'deniers' in the government. How have we ended up with so much dross in Parliament?

Feb 26, 2014 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

May have already been commented on, but I thought they keep saying that computer models don't make predictions?
Feb 26, 2014 at 8:56 PM Phil R

They make it up as they go along.

Feb 26, 2014 at 10:37 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Ross Lea +1

Feb 26, 2014 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

The thought occurs to me that the Met Office are trawling for their new computer now, before any more of their forecasts become so discredited that it becomes transparent that the money would be far better spent elsewhere, or not at all. After all, when the politicians are invoking false gods, why not take advantage?

Feb 26, 2014 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

from the link -

"Man-made climate change has been in the news for many years. Previously the message presented to the public was clear: climate change is global warming and that means the temperatures are going to rise unless we do something. This claim seemed to be supported by measurements of continuous increases of atmospheric CO2 — at a rate not seen before in the historical record — and associated temperature increases. Additionally, projections from climate models seemed to confirm that this was the new normal.

But does the public understand how climate models work?..... "

anybody know who wrote this ?
no wonder the public (me) are confused, just tell us in plain language what you mean.

is it man made CC, or a mixture of man made & natural CC or something else ? (like made up guff)

Feb 27, 2014 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

What I find amusing is that they are coming at this from two sides, on the one hand they are claiming that the models do project pauses of this length, on the other they are trying to find explanations for the pause. Tamsin states:

Our piece is not about whether it is a pause or slowdown, or the various reasons this may have happened (one of them being a temporary increase in heat being transferred from the atmosphere to oceans).

Which suggests an unknown, unmodelled explanation. This is followed almost immediately by:

Climate model projections have shown periods of cooling of about this length, embedded within longer-term warming, since before this pause happened.

If the models are a fair "representation of the Earth's climate system based on knowledge of its various components — physical, biological and chemical processes — and their interactions and feedbacks" then no other explanation should be necessary. For the models to project long pauses, the reasons for the pauses must be programmed into the model (i.e. be part of the algorithm) and hence the modellers should be able to tell us what is dampening the anthropogenic signal to the point of cancelling it out, e.g. if a model projects a pause and it is due to a heat transfer between the atmosphere and the oceans, that would have to be visible in the output.

What a model most definitely cannot do is project a pause due to an unknown or unprogrammed cause.

Feb 27, 2014 at 2:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Registered Commenter Pharos

I'm in the exploration game too. I always say that dry wells help to keep us in a job. If every well was a discovery oil would be a few cents a barrel.

Feb 27, 2014 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

+1000 for DocBud.

If all models are based on the laws of physics and one of the models predicted the pause then it should be simple enough to look at said model and see which of the laws of physics has caused the pause. Simples.

I'm putting a fiver on the heat going to somewhere with no thermometers. No make that a tenner.

Feb 27, 2014 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

"+1000 for DocBud."


Not sure our modelers realise what is happening around them at present. We now have politicians claiming in relation to specific events "real and happening NOW!", with that comes responsibility, not on the teflon politicians but upon those who are providing them with the "certainty".

No longer is this a theoretical hypothetical academic exercise. From now on there will be increasing pressure upon the modelers to state, what is going to happen and when. Failure to do so will hang the teflon brigade out to dry, they don't like that and they are far from "understanding".

Feb 27, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

- I am impressed by the scientists at top UK climate institutions rushing to correct Milliband & Cameron on the certainty of CO2 to Extreme weather link. Yeh in the same way that top Islamic organisations traditionally rushed to condemn terrorism. #CredibilityFail #MySarcasm

- (Only recently have we seen a change in many islamic organisations as they have come to understand it is better to condemn violence instead not just to have a kneejerk reaction to defend the "tribe". Good on them for that)

Feb 27, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Sorry for not having read the Nature paper or the earlier comments above. Hopefully this will already have been discussed.

How long are the pauses which have been seen and how often have they occurred? It would be a very simple matter to compute some statistics from the computations and present them openly for general discussion. They may well be available already from the routine post-processing.

In every simulation of N years into the future, there are N-n samples of n adjacent years and each sample defines a trend s, that is, the slope of the linear least squares fit of global average temperature with time.

Define a cut-off r, for example as the rms of all the resulting s values. Count the three possibilities for every n:

(1) cooling s < -r
(2) nothing -r <= s <= r
(3) warming r < s

We need to look at some frequency data. This will characterise the simulations as they have been done to date but of course says nothing about the value of the existing computational schemes as such.

Feb 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

Touched a real nerve there, stewgreen!!!

Feb 27, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mark Well
Perhaps we should look at some relative frequencies. After taking an exam of considerable length, you may say that you answered some items correctly. That's nice but if you would tell me that you answered 2% correctly, I would say that you failed miserably.

Feb 27, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMindert Eiting

@Micky H Corbett, I started a new thread on Discussions :
Suspicious Low Margin of Error on 100 year temperature comparisons

Feb 27, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Ah, it's settled then; there is no terrorism. Or pause, either.

Feb 27, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Yes, good, DocBud. The problem is they know wot dunnit, the pause, and it's the other phase of wot dunnit during last century's late rise.

To invoke Kubler-Ross, and not the Holocaust, they are in denial. It's the 'know it but can't say it sort' of denial. May God have mercy.

Feb 27, 2014 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Kim, I would rather say negotiation, of which the subject of this post is an example. We also see more signs of anger suggesting that Kubler's process just runs fine.

Feb 27, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMindert Eiting

There are many near to the dear departed, strung out along the bedside, each grieving in individual fashion.

Feb 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


Thanks. Saw that. I'll need to register then!

Feb 27, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

Regarding probability of pauses of a given length, von Storch & Zorita in their short paper analysing this state:

10 year pause in models passes 5% confidence level
13 year pause in models only occurs 2% of the time
16 year pause in models only occurs 1% of the time
20 year pause in models DOES NOT OCCUR

In the APS transcript Dr Collins also confirms that a hiatus of 20 years does not occur at all in the model runs. And we are at at least 17 - 18 years now, so only two to three years to go to the next excuse, while they fudge all the unknown forcing inputs (again!).

Good summary graph reproduced at Joanne Nova's site

Feb 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

@Mickey.. i don't think you do need to register .. Just click Discussion on the menubar at the top of any BH page

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Just to be clear on the currently accepted position of climate science. The current pause is a pause in global warming to some or a slow down in rising temperatures for others. There is no mention by any scientists or projection from any models of cooling temperatures to date.

Can we propose then that IF temperatures decline and there becomes a period of 10 to 15 years of negative trend then the theory and backing models can be defined as broken.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

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