Wratt’s prediction falsified already — by his own graph

A funny thing happened last week involving Parliament but almost nobody noticed. Without my observant scientist friend, I wouldn’t know about it. We’re all pretty lucky that he put two and two together, but that’s what scientists are good at. He tells me they practise putting them together three or four times a week and some of them are so good at it they have trouble getting them apart.

So what happened? First, our study appeared, with a copy of the official NZ graph showing strong warming over the last hundred years. Second, Nick Smith said NIWA tells him New Zealand’s global warming will be much milder than elsewhere. Can both statements be true? Only if our steep temperature rise suddenly slows right down! It’s another mystery.

It started on Thursday November 26th, when the Hon Nick Smith, Minister for Climate Change Issues, told the House (this is from Hansard, the official Parliamentary record): “Only as recently as last Friday, I think, I and Kevin Hague attended a Cawthron Institute lecture by David Wratt about climate change science.” (His little grammatical slip, putting “I” before his friend Kevin, is not part of my story. I won’t mention it. Please disregard it.)

Global warming less for NZ

Why Nick was moved to inform the House of this important engagement we can only speculate. Perhaps he wanted to show that he does get out occasionally, but who knows? Socially, it was surely a blunder to admit attending such a dreary event. Interesting people will avoid him in plagues; I mean droves.

But he went on to tell the House a significant thing: “What Dr Wratt has consistently said is that, because New Zealand is surrounded by oceans, all the modelling indicates that the temperature impacts of climate change are most likely to be less for New Zealand than for other parts of the globe.”

That’s a consoling thought and I hope it’s true. With all the yelling about dire consequences from global warming—or “climate change” as we call it now—with millions of people threatened by rising sea levels, increased droughts and floods and spreading diseases, even ferocious, starving wolves, for all we know, isn’t it a small comfort to know that it won’t be quite so bad for us here in our dear little God’s own?

If I’ve said it once…

Because the Minister said it in the House (where they don’t tell porkies or they get their hand slapped), we can be sure of this: Dr Wratt has not made that statement once or twice only, but he has made it many times, because that is what “consistently” implies. One is therefore confident that he believes it strongly enough to keep repeating it even if it becomes tedious for his friends.

The previous day, we, the Climate Conversation Group (CCG), in association with the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC), had published our study of New Zealand temperature trends over the last 150 years. Funnily enough, a copy of our report was, at that very moment in the Parliament, on the Thursday, just as Nick was confessing where he’d been on the previous Friday evening, in the hands of Rodney Hide. No, Nick hadn’t been in Rodney’s hands. Why do you say that? Stop these wild speculations. Let’s get back to the story.

Our report, a copy of which had reached Rodney and was actually tabled by him shortly afterwards in the House, used raw temperature data from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Dr Wratt is the Chief Scientist (Climate) at NIWA and supervises the scientific work they do.

Our study, titled Are we feeling warmer yet?, includes a graph that we found, funnily enough, on NIWA’s web site. Here is that very graph:

NIWA average NZ temperature 1853 - 2008

Briefly, it claims that the temperature in New Zealand has been rising for 100 years. But the important part of the graph is in the caption that NIWA wrote:

From NIWA’s web site — Figure 7: Mean annual temperature over New Zealand, from 1853 to 2008 inclusive, based on between 2 (from 1853) and 7 (from 1908) long-term station records. The blue and red bars show annual differences from the 1971 – 2000 average, the solid black line is a smoothed time series, and the dotted [straight] line is the linear trend over 1909 to 2008 (0.92°C/100 years).

The significant part of the caption is right at the end and gives the amount of warming. You will see, if you look carefully, that it says in cryptic scientific symbols: (0.92°C/100 years). What does that mean? It claims that our temperature has been rising, funnily enough, at the rate of nearly one degree Celsius per hundred years. Simple, you say, but so what?

So what DO you mean, Dr Wratt?

The key to understanding that Dr Wratt has made what appears to be a monumental blunder is what we did not hear in the Parliament and what we cannot see in the graph from NIWA, because it was said several years ago and many thousands of miles away by a committee of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). What those wise men and women stated was that, over the last hundred years, the world’s average temperature rose by about 0.6°C.

The funny thing is, Dr Wratt says (consistently, remember?) that, because we’re in the middle of a bloody great ocean, the temperature rise from global warming is likely to be less than elsewhere—but his own graph says it is ALREADY MORE than elsewhere! His graph shows our temperature has already gone up, in fact, a whole 50% faster than the rest of the world.

So is our rate of warming about to slow down dramatically? That would mean that global warming for New Zealand would be a non-event. Is that what the models predict? Is that what NIWA predicts, or have they made a mistake? We need to know the answer to this riddle, and which one is wrong: is it Dr Wratt’s prediction or his graph? One or the other must be wrong, or we’re in for some serious non-warming.

My scientist friend thinks we should ask Dr Wratt about this. Why is he contradicting himself? What does he mean to say?

For once, I agree with my friend. Now that’s funny!

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3 Thoughts on “Wratt’s prediction falsified already — by his own graph

  1. Barry Brill on 06/12/2009 at 7:59 pm said:

    STOP PRESS : Dr J Salinger, late of NIWA, is now quoted on the NIWA website as contending that New Zealand temperatures have increased by 1.0C during 1931-2008. That’s not 50% more than the IPCC findings for that period – it’s over A HUNDRED PERCENT.

    So throughout the entire lifetimes of most of us, Godzone has been sizzling away at more than twice the warming rate of the rest of the world! We must’ve experienced twice the rise in coastal sea levels, malaria and other diseases, famine, pestilence, etc than any average country.

    But we can take it! I think we’ve done okay out of all this warming, and I’d like to see it continue. So why does Dr Wratt want us to drop below average in future? Sudden changes like this can disrupt a very successful pattern of adaptation. And won’t the ETS make the pattern change/disruption even worse?

  2. Pingback: Climate Conversation Group » Salinger & NIWA all at sea over temperature trends

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