1996 versus 2016 in a Facebook meme

Recently, a right-wing cousin of mine shared a meme claiming that global temperatures were unchanged between 1996 and 2016, specifically that global temperatures were 14.83ºC (58.7ºF) in both 1996 and 2016.

I call BS and here's why.

First and most obviously, 2016 isn't even half over.  Stating that the mean temperature in 2016 was 14.83ºC (58.7ºF) is a bit premature.

Second, whoever came up with that meme has extreme difficulty with basic statistical terms. Here's a hint: "Average mean temperature" is nonsense.  As used in everyday speech, it's essentially the same as saying "average average temperature" or "mean mean temperature." Now, for those who understand statistics, I know that the mean is technically a specific method for calculating the average but in general usage, mean and average are interchangeable—and whoever came up with that meme was abjectly ignorant of that fact.

Third, the meme author had even more difficulty with facts and mathematics.  For one, the mean global temperature in 1996 was not 14.83ºC (58.7ºF). According to NASA GISS, the average global temperature was 14.34ºC (57.8ºF).  For another, the year-to-date mean global temperature for 2016 is not 14.83ºC—it's 15.25ºC (59.45ºF).  So the anonymous author has both their start point and their end point wrong.  Really wrong.

It's not just NASA that shows that 1996 is cooler than 2016. The satellite temperature records show the same.

So, if both surface and satellite temperature records agree that 2016 is far warmer than 1996, where is that meme author getting the lie that 1996 and 2016 have the same mean temperature?

Fourth, that meme displays a gross ignorance in what makes up a trend by implying that if the start and end points are the same, there cannot be a trend.  In reality, it wouldn't matter even if 1996 and 2016 did, in fact, have the same mean temperature.  A trend is far more than just its start and end points.  Even if you altered the end point, there would still be a warming trend.  It may not be as large but the trend would still exist.  Here's an example using the NASA GISS data I displayed above.  I just altered the end point of the second graph so that it would have the same value as 1996 before I calculated the trend.

As you can see, the warming trend still exists in the lower graph despite altering the end point.  It's not as large ("only" 0.102ºC/decade versus 0.221ºC for the original data) but it is still statistically significant (p = 0.0257).

So in summary, whoever made up that meme 1) lied about their numbers, 2) is ignorant of the actual temperature data, and 3) abjectly ignorant of basic statistical concepts.  And then they had the balls to call Al Gore and progressives liars.  How quaint.


  1. Your post is very useful and good to see the post have the details about the environmental temperature. It is great to see the post that contain the details about this.

  2. It's funny how you speak of understandings statistics and you believe in man made global warming. ��

    1. It's funny that you ignore the data. Why? Because it's the data that convinced me. What about man-made global warming do you disagree with? Is it:

      –The greenhouse effect (discovered in AD 1828)?

      –Carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere (discovered in AD 1861)?

      –A change in carbon dioxide would change Earth's temperature (discovered in AD 1896)?

      Or do you merely disagree with the political implications of man-made climate change and find it easier to simply deny an entire body of physics than re-examine your political tendencies?

  3. Does anyone have a link to the Mann's data source?

    This one from Real Climate no longer works

    "NB. All the data that were used in MBH98 are freely available for download at ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/sdr/temp/nature/MANNETAL98/ (and also as supplementary data at Nature) along with a thorough description of the algorithm."



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