Friday, I was doing some browsing and encountered co2sceptics. The graphs on that main page (at least on March 6th, 2009) were plots of the Hadley temperature record, from 1978 to 2008, and the atmospheric CO2 concentrations as measured at Mauna Loa from 1958 to 2008. That struck me as odd. Hadley goes back much farther than 1978, to 1850 in fact -- and co2sceptics link to this longer record so they must know that. Why show only 30 years data when you have almost 160? If nothing else, one of the How to Lie with Statistics methods is to show different time lines when comparing different information sources, and here we've got 30 years being shown against 50 years.
One thing to do, then, to try to avoid misleading yourself, is to plot 50 years for both. Here are the two plotted over the same time interval:
Let's see, the CO2 is rising steadily, and there's weather happening on top of temperature rising. Rather different from their conclusion (the quote is below).
But let's not make the same error of using too little data. Plus, with only 50 years of data, and temperatures having a climate period of 20-30 years, we might only be looking at a minor anomaly. Hadley goes back to 1850. Can we find CO2 information back that far? Yes, using the CO2 trapped in ice core bubbles, say at Siple. Here are the plots for 1850 to most recent, where I use Siple for CO2 until the start of Mauna Loa:
Now here's the text they introduce their graphs with the different time spans with:
If you look at the Global Temperature Anomaly graph below you will notice that temperatures peaked in 1998, and have been in general decline ever since, unlike the temperature figures you will see that CO2 output is still increasing.
Now ask yourself a simple question. Is CO2 driving the world's temperature changes?
It would appear not!
Actually, given the data types and sources they chose and method of comparison they chose, it looks like CO2 does indeed drive climate on longer periods than individual years. All we had to do was show data for temperature over the full period of the CO2 record they showed. Extending the CO2 record with ice cores only makes that connection look stronger.
Now, since I think you need 20-30 years of global mean temperature data to be talking about climate rather than weather, I wouldn't trust that method of analysis very far at all, whether by eyeball or doing a regression.
Since I'm an optimist, I've sent a note to them about this post. If it's just a matter of a mistake, well, honest people can make mistakes. They can then correct their figures and update their comments to reflect a significant role for CO2 according to their already-shown methods of analysis. And if they're not concerned with honest discussion of science, they wouldn't be the first.
Mauna Loa CO2 data
Siple CO2 data
Hadley Temperature data