James Taylor has no idea what he's talking about

A couple days ago, James Taylor of the Heartland Institute published what is one of the most disingenuous, misleading, and ignorant articles I have ever had the misfortune of reading.  It's a wonder Forbes even saw fit to publish such obvious claptrap.
Taylor's theme centers around the mistaken premise that global warming somehow means it's not supposed to get cold or snow in the winter.  More specifically, that it's not supposed to get cold or snow in the eastern US in the winter.  He completely ignores the record warmth in the western US and Alaska, the record warmth in northern Europe, etc.  Nope.  The only part of the world that matters to Mr. Taylor is the eastern US.  Too bad for him that the eastern US is not the entire planet.

Once we look at the entire planet, we see the reason Taylor is fixated with the eastern US: It's pretty much the ONLY part of the northern hemisphere that is really cold compared to the 1979-2000 average.  If Taylor took his head out of the snowbanks in Chicago and looked at the entire planet, he'd see that far more of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing a record WARM winter, with an hemisphere-wide average nearly 1ºC above the 1979-2000 average.    The Arctic is averaging over 3ºC above normal temperatures.  The world as a whole is 0.6ºC above the baseline.  But none of that fits his narrative.  No.  He'll cling to the eastern US, thank you very much, and ignore the rest of the world.

Don't even get me started on the fact that the 1979-2000 average includes quite a bit of global warming already.  The temperature anomaly map would look quite different if we used a 1951-1980 baseline or a 1911-1940 baseline or even a 1881-1910 baseline.

Taylor's piece is designed for a very specific audience: Those Americans who deny science and refuse to acknowledge the existence of any place outside their own backyard.  In other words, the worst type of American: Ignorant and proud of it.


  1. The post you discuss links to another entitled 20 Years of Winter Cooling Defy Global Warming Claims. This post too ignores the rest of the world, and claims that the U.S. has experienced a 20 year winter cooling trend. In support of this claim, Taylor presents a graph that appears to be based on data from NOAA, “presented” by the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, an organization that supports denialism. I would also note that the graph is limited to the contiguous U.S., and leaves out Alaska, which I believe has seen more warming than any other state. I wonder if you could look at the graph and give an easy to understand explanation as to why it looks the way it does. If a statistically ignorant layman (such as myself) is confronted with a fishy looking graph like this, how could he/she check it?

  2. There's not much to say. That graph is of the December-February temperatures for the contiguous US since 1995. Taylor didn't do anything except cherry-pick a) the area covered by the data (only ~3% of the globe's surface area) and b) the time period. He should have used the entire Northern Hemisphere and a longer period of time. The norm for discerning climate trends is usually 30 or more years. As for his specific claims, I wrote a post last July that debunked his nonsense:


  3. Jim –

    The article i was referring to was in an embedded link, so I should have been more precise. It begins:

    “Winter temperatures throughout the United States are in a 20-year cooling trend, defying alarmist global warming predictions and debunking claims that warmer winters are causing environmental catastrophe...

    The trend line for the past 20 years shows more than two degrees Fahrenheit of cooling in U.S. winter temperatures since 1995.”

    Taylor also claims that “the cooling trend extends back even further, all the way to 1930.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2014/04/30/twenty-years-of-winter-cooling-defy-global-warming-claims/ ,

    We agree that Taylor misrepresents global warming, not only by replacing global data with data that only covers the U.S., but also by limiting the U.S. to the contiguous 48 states. But, even if we accept Taylor's limitations, is the information he provides regarding a contiguous U.S.winter cooling trend correct?

    NCA3 states:

    Key Message 3: Recent U.S. Temperature Trends
    U.S. average temperature has increased by 1.3°F to 1.9°F since record keeping began in 1895; most of this increase has occurred since about 1970. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. (My italics.)

    (In the report itself, p.20.)

    I find it very difficult to reconcile this with Taylor's claim of a fall in contiguous U.S. winter temperature since 1930. The only way this would be possible would be for the rise in other seasons not only to have increased 1.3 to 1.9°F, but in addition to have compensated for the postulated winter cooling trend. So again, I think that more is at work here than simple geographical cherry picking.

    1. Ah, I get your question now. Taylor's claim is easy to check. You can even use the same widget he used:


      Use the following settings:

      Parameter: Average Temperature
      Time Scale: 3 months
      Month: February
      Start Year: 1930
      End Year: 2015
      State/Region: Contiguous US
      Climate Division/City: All 48 states

      Over on the right, check the box to display the trend with a start of 1930, check the "per century" option, then click "Plot." That will graph the 3-month winter (Dec. - Feb.) average temperature for each year and calculate the linear trend of +1.7ºF/century, very close to the +1.9ºF/century trend of the 1895-2015 time period.

      What Taylor did was David Rose's old trick: Eyeball a temperature graph until you find a start point that is the same or higher as the data point at the end, draw a straight line connecting the two dots, and then claim there is either no trend or cooling. It's utterly bogus.

    2. So Taylor has plucked a Rose. If this is the case, Taylor is trying to divert attention from what he's done by accusing NOAA of doing the same thing:

      “As the NOAA and USHCN data show, almost any way you slice and dice the data, the United States is in a long-term winter cooling trend. The period 1930-2014 shows cooling. The period 1995-2014 shows cooling. The long-term trend line from just about any other year to the present shows cooling. Nevertheless, a very few data points can be cherry-picked to give the illusion of winter warming, so that’s just what The Weather Channel and Climate Central did.”

      This is no surprise, for climate septics are constantly accusing others of doing what they do themselves. His problem then, as I suggested before, is accounting for how the registered warming trend can be limited to the three other seasons, and at the same time compensate for the postulated long-term cooling. If he maintains that the other seasons have not been warming, then his position would have to be that the U.S. has been cooling. He could only do that by rejecting the data found in every temperature data set, and he'd then have to explain where he gets his data from.

      (I've followed your instructions, and I got a list of Dates, Values, and Ranks, but no graph. Should there be a graph? If so, what am I missing. If not, could I use Wood for Trees – or another data source – to get the winter temperature graphs, and which steps would I have to follow? This is one area where I'm almost totally ignorant, so a step by step guide would be greatly appreciated.)

    3. Re. Rose's M.O: I can understand how that could work over a shorter time frame, but it seems to me that the more data you have – i.e. the more years of temperature records – the less likely its chances of showing a cooling trend. I may be wrong, but I don't think Taylor could show a winter cooling trend from 1930 to 2015 unless he ignored the trend and simply drew a line from a high point to a low one. And 2015 as a low one wouldn't work very well, because as you've pointed out, the cold temperatures have been limited to the east.
      According to NOAA, January was the 24th warmest since 1895:

      January was warm and dry overall for the contiguous U.S. despite coolness across parts of the South and Northeast
      During January, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 33.0°F, 2.9°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the 24th warmest January in the 1895-2015 record and marked the warmest January since 2012.”

    4. cosmicomics, I wrote a post showing what Taylor did to come up with his cooling "trends." I also threw in a brief video showing what the NOAA widget should look like. Enjoy!


  4. everyone will ever make mistakes and wrong . but if the mistake is bad for others, we hope that he must convey his apologies

  5. Well, many climate deniers have appeared lately, especially now when President Obama or President Hollande are calling for rapid measures that can stop climate change and global warming.
    In the U.S., President Obama tries to make the Republicans understand that climate change is a real issue of our society and he does the same job everywhere he goes because almost everywhere he talks about climate issues.

    1. Please explain why climate change is a realer issue than nuclear physics or Fermat's Last Theorem.

  6. My complements to Mr. Miks, his work actually furthers my understanding of the classical arguments, however there are several issues he leaves out, particularly the isotopic arguments. It is a known fact that the isotopic composition of carbon in the atmosphere indicates an "older" carbon source is playing a significant role in the atmospheric carbon fraction. That source is invariably attributed to release of ancient carbon by fossil fuel combustion. Much is made of that observation. It is considered by many to be the strongest indicator of human actions being responsible for affecting the climate. I believe there are other possible sources. The USGS has looked into it and made a case that volcanoes are not a likely source because the volcanic contribution is considered insignificant using what is called an equilibrium dissolution model of carbon in various silicate hosts. Here is where the difference between geology and the "hard sciences" of chemistry and physics plays out: There is no good reason to argue that equilibrium mechanics is more important than disequilibrium mechanics. Fact...most volcanoes intercept significant amounts of wallrock and destroy the material. If a volcano intercepts a limestone bed, the carbon contribution of that volcano is highly biased by the limestone's contributions. The limestone is generally the same age as coal or oil. It's carbon will have the same isotopic signature. So, how many cubic miles of limestone destruction equals the amount of fossil fuel destruction?

    Secondly, it is a known fact that most alpine glaciers are in retreat. This is a problem in Chile, where I work. Loss of alpine glaciers is a good and simple indicator that there is a world wide warming trend. Why bother with fighting over trend-line statistics when you can use a geographical indicator such as area and distribution of ice.

    It is nonsense to fight over one dimensional representations when a 2 dimensional representation is statistically robust and geologically appropriate when dealing with the whole world.

    Third...it is not difficult to argue that the change in thermal gradient between the equator and the north pole controls the path of the jet stream. The flatter the gradient, the wider the meander. If it works in fluvial hydrodynamics, it works in all fluid dynamic systems.

    Fourth...I complement you in what you are trying to do but despair at the pitiful nature of most geo-analysis.

    Fifth...I have read parts of the various IPCC reports. It is impressive. I apologize if the IPCC has already covered some of my issues. Thousands of pages of heavy duty science is daunting even to me...a retired professional Geologist with 35 years experience and considerable time at my disposal. You may find me at Linked IN. I am Steve Johnson. You are an honest seeker.


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