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Is the warming in the 20´ieth century extraordinary?

Posted by Frank Lansner (frank) on 7th December, 2010
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By Frank Lansner, Civil engeneer, Biochemistry

In a recent article
I estimated the raw total raw CO2 warming to be around 9,25 times the warming effect of one CO2-doubling:
Fig 1

Heat from one CO2-doubling (the “CO2-sensitivity”) has been estimated by IPCC and J. Hansen to be 3K or even 6K, including feedbacks. The 9,25 CO2 “doublings” cannot all have such a huge effect incl feedbacks, so present day conditions on Earth must be extraordinarily heat sensitive (at least according to the IPCC).

Claim: Just a tiny temperature increase under present day conditions (like raw effect of one single CO2 doubling) should result in temperature jumps of up to 3 – 6 K.

Is this claim supported by evidence?

Fig 2

I have examined high quality Vostok temperature ice core data from the interglacial periods of the last half million years. These warm periods are the best evidence we have from Earth to examine the dynamics of present day climate on Earth.

We are looking for other huge temperature rises of 3K – 6 K that should result from just minor temperature rises.

Below I have identified all temperature rises of the Vostok data fulfilling the following criterion: “Temperature at the beginning of temperature rise must be at most 1 K below today’s temperatures indicated by -1K anomaly in the Vostok data. Next, the examined periods must be at most 300 years in length (we want to focus on the warming effect of one century time intervals) and finally, the initial temperature increase from glacial to interglacial is not included”:

Fig 3

96% of all temperature increases are between approx 0 and 1,4 K, only in one situation (approx 1 %) we find an interglacial temperature increase of almost 3 K.
That is: Under present day like conditions, temperature rises of 3K are very rare indeed, while smaller temperature rises of around 1 K are abundant and normal.

The interglacial periods shows no temperature peaks of the size interval larger than 3K. If in theory a minor warming of 0,5 – 1 K should lead to a 4-5-6 K warming including feedbacks, why are there no such peaks in the previous interglacial periods? There are plenty of 1K warming peaks (resulting of from all kinds of natural mechanisms) to induce the massive positive feedbacks that IPCC and Hansen expects.

Fig 4
The average interglacial temperature rise (from these data criteria) shows a warming of 0,65 K and lasts 113 years. In average they begin at –0,17K and end at +0,48K. (These averages are only to some degree dependant of my definition of interglacial periods - unless my definition of interglacial periods are totally wrong.) 

The average temperature increase for these data of 0,65 K over 113 years – does not exactly make the modern temperature increase 1900 – 2010 of around 0,6-0,7K appear that special, does it? 


Fig 5

The data tell us more: When the time intervals exceed around 100 years, the average magnitude of the recorded temperature increase does not increase. This is interesting and surprising because a longer interval should give time for a larger temperature increase. But on average the timeintervals in data longer than around 100 years shows smaller net temperature rises indicating - unless this is a coincidence - that temperature peaks of the interglacial periods in average lasts around roughly 100 years.

Via Joanne Nova, I got a feedback to this result from George White:

“The analysis is consistent with long term averages changing more slowly than short term averages.  The correlation drop at 100 years is because of a periodic effect of about 180 years.  After 90-100 years, the direction of the temperature change reverses and the deltaT drops.  If the analysis is continued, a second peak should appear between 250 and 300 years as a result of the second cycle of this period showing up with a minimum centered between the peaks. ”

Interesting, and thanks to George White.

When nature has warmed the planet over 100 years, this warming seems to END rather systematically. If positive feedbacks where strong why do temperature rises end so systematically? At least this warming-turn-off suggest that:

Natural forces or perhaps negative feedbacks are stronger than positive feedbacks after just a limited warming over 100 years

In addition, we see very few small temperature increases (of the order of 0 – 0,15K) for time intervals less than 150 years. On the other hand, the longer time intervals shows several of these tiny temperature increases. This indicates – unless it’s a coincidence – that if at first, temperature is on the rise, it often continues to rise until a significant temperature rise is reached. In other words:  Temperature variability is the norm and constant temperature seems unusual.


Nature has provided us with data telling a simple story: For periods on earth comparable with today, we see many examples of temperature increases in the magnitude of 1 K for all kinds of natural reasons. Very rarely does any temperature rise (via supposed positive feedbacks) reach 3 K within 100 years.

It is thus surprising that IPCC and others with big confidence can claim large temperature rises of up to 3 – 6 K as most likely result from just a minor temperature increase, for example induced by CO2 warming.

More, it appears (fig 4.) that the temperature rise of 0,7K from 1900 to 2010 is as normal as can be when comparing with other temperature rises during other warm periods.




1) I have defined “interglacial temperature rises beginning at -1K  compared to modern temperatures, no lower. On this definition I found that the temperature increase 1900-2010 was normal. If I had defined interglacial periods as starting at -2K, then there would have been a few more temperature increases in the area 1-2K which would make the present temperature rise appear smaller in comparison. However, the limit -1K for interglacial periods mostly is in compliance with the nature of the interglacial periods. When first we have interglacial period its not often we find temperature in the area under – 1K. Therefore I found -1K to be the best choice to limit interglacial tendencies. Also, temperatures should resemble today’s temperature range as close as possible.

2) I have used 0,7K for the temperature increase 1900-2010. This is obviously highly questionable due to significant UHI measuring problems and adjustment issue that is likely to have exaggerated the temperature increase 1900-2010. On the other hand, temperature variations at Vostok are likely to be larger than global temperature changes, so perhaps a qualitative compare is somewhat fair afterall. At least, if you claim that the present temperature increase is extraordinarily large, I think one should show data that supports it. And, as I showed, Vostok data does not really support the claim.

3) By Joanne Nova: "In the past natural temperature rises we should also see the positive feedbacks at work. But it is very difficult to isolate the exact amount of warming due to the natural forces vs that due to the natural feedbacks. Where does one stop and the other start? In any 3 degree rise, how much was due to the forcing, and how much to the feedback? If positive feedback was strong we would expect to see examples of it occurring in the past ice cores."

Frank: This is very true and makes this topic a little fluffy to deal with. However, the absence of 3K - 6K temperature rises in the interglacial periods means that there should not have been any natural warming excl feedbacks of just 0,5 K or so (macthing the raw CO2-sensitivity warming). And we still can see that the temperature rise 1900 - 2010 is just a normal interglacial variation.

4) Hereafter it could be interesting to do analysis using Dome C core temperature data that has twice a many data points for temperatures which may refine the results to some degree.

Source used for Vostok data:

See also:

Last changed: 8th December, 2010 at 11:06:11



Ice core peaks By Unknown on 21st February, 2011 at 20:35:49
I doubt if ice core temp. excursions are meaningful. Vostok takes more than a century for the ice to close, then there is diffusion in the ice, and then depressurization when the ice is cored, and then fairly long intervals between samples. Any temp. peaks would be smeared over at least a couple of centuries, and for the older interglacials, over several centuries. Real peaks in the order of 100 years or less cannot be determined at all.
Hi unknown :-) By Unknown on 10th February, 2011 at 10:24:58
Can this help:

K.R. Frank
Peer veview of UHI By Unknown on 10th February, 2011 at 03:53:21
Hi Frank, I travelled here from Ms Nova's site. I am not a scientist but have been following the AGW debate for about about 5 years now. In relation to UHI you have obviously done some solid research which has certainly helped my understanding. My question is, what peer reviewed work has been done on UHI and does this work address the matters you raise here and in Ms Nova's site? In debating AGW proponents, the first response from them is usually, 'but your claims are not peer reviewed or would be rejected by peer review'. Could you share your thoughts?
Hi Humbug! By Unknown on 14th December, 2010 at 10:21:28
Im very happy to hear this, i think i found just one interesting gold nugget after the other.
There has been an initial mentioning of this writing at Jo Novas:
however this was with focus on chp 9, not the bulk on the Writing.

My "plan" was to rather soon make a separate UHI-article from this for WUWT and also an article with focus on the missing decline in the IPCC grapic. This is part 1 fig 2.

And there are more points from the article that could be used for a WUWT articles.

However, I certainly would be thrilled if E.M. Schmidt would use the material! You can both use my email : to coordinate and discuss.

Will a separate UHI article for WUWT be in the way for your plans?

K.R. Frank
Baa Humbug By Unknown on 14th December, 2010 at 01:24:35
Hi Frank

E M Smith from Musings from the Chiefio has found your work from back in July and is very impressed.

I think he is going to do a substantial post on it. If you'd like him to do it would you mind giving him permission to use your graphs etc?

p.s You're doing some great work Frank, my best wishes to you, let me know via Jo Nova if I can be of any help.

Baa Humbug

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