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I did warn you

Andrew Neil | 18:21 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

plane.jpgWell, I did warn you! My last blog (December 30th) reported that several US weather forecasters were predicting that most of the Northern Hemisphere was in for a punishing January, casting doubt on our Met's forecast of a mild winter.

Since then we've had record snowfalls and low temperatures from North America to Scotland to China (where Beijing has just had its heaviest snow for 60 years) to South Korea (whose capital has had the worst snow since records began in 1937). So I think we can say the cold weather is global (for those parts of the globe where it is winter).

On Wednesday's show I hope to interview the head of the Met, who's just had a big rise. It will be interesting to discover why the rise -- he's now paid more than the PM -- is merited. (I say "hope" because I'm flying in from France very early in the morning -- so keep your fingers crossed the airport is open!).

Of course one very bad December/January is not proof that global warming isn't happening. The planet could still be warming as part of a long-term trend. But if it is the long-term must be seen as more than a decade -- and even then the evidence is mixed. I recently referred to the satellite temperature measurements of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH). It started logging temperatures in the lower troposphere (where warming should be most marked) in 1979 and it does show a rise over the past three decades -- but only of about 0.2 degrees C.

Its figures for December are now in and they show that over the past decade (1999 to 2009) average global temperatures have not changed, even though CO2 emissions have continued to rise unchecked (Kyoto making no discernible difference). I've used 1999 as the starting point because 1998 temperatures were boosted by the non-global warming El Nino effect -- otherwise we'd be talking about a drop over 11 years).

Now it is true, as the Met points out, that the past decade has still been a pretty warm one by recent historic standards. But it is clear that over the past 10 years temperatures have not risen in line with increased CO2 emissions. That fact is not necessarily a clincher in itself but it does suggest that when President Obama and others (including our own Prime Minister) say the "science is settled" they might not be right -- and that the scope for continued controversy and debate is vast.



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